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Lake Central senior enjoys opportunity to race at Illiana

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Updated: September 19, 2013 10:54PM



Sometimes all a person needs is an opportunity to try — and fall in love with — something new.

That’s exactly what happened to 18-year-old Cameron Salach, a senior at Lake Central High School.

Salach had just turned 18 on June 22. He’s had a driver’s license since he was 16. But one afternoon in late July, his first auto racing opportunity came calling.

Russ Frank, an old family friend and former neighbor of Salach’s grandparents, Charice and Randy Salach of St. John, stopped by to see them. It wasn’t just a social call.

“Russ started asking about Cameron, how old he was and did he drive,” Charice Salach said. “He couldn’t believe that Cameron was already 18. And then he asked if he thought Cameron might be interested in driving a race car at Illiana Speedway.

“I was shocked, but I called Cameron and asked him if he remembered Russ, and told him that Russ was wondering if he would be interested in driving a race car at Illiana, and there was dead silence on the phone. When he finally snapped out of it I told him we would have to run it by his mom (Rachel Parks) first, and Cam asked if we could please talk to Dave (Parks, Cameron’s stepfather) first so he could help pave the way.”

Although his mom at first had some apprehension about her son racing, she finally agreed.

Frank and his son-in-law, Collin Robinson, have a race team at Illiana called Piglet Racing. Robinson drives the car the team currently has, but the two are building another car for next season and they will need another driver. But in the interim, another friend (Tom Crawford) had a car that wasn’t being used and he said it was OK for Cameron to drive it.

So on Aug. 2, Cameron made his racing debut, running in the pure stocks division. Though he got spun out in his first race, he fell in love with auto racing right away.

“I had been to the track before but I never dreamed about driving there,” he said. “I always thought racecar driving would be fun, but I never thought it would happen.”

After seeing him race, his mother and family were more comfortable that Cameron would be safe on the race track.

“Everyone has been real supportive, especially my grandfather,” Cameron said. “My mom is OK with me racing now and my grandfather has been to every race, taking pictures and sending them to me.”

At Illiana Speedway, it’s not uncommon for younger drivers to get an opportunity. Currently there is a 16-year-old driving in the late models division and a 12-year-old in the legends series.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Cameron said. “I learned how to start and drive a car with a clutch and I learned what to do on the track — to go high on the straightaway and low into the turns. I loved it. I wanted to do it more, but the night was over.”

Cameron’s best finish so far is fourth place in a heat race. Although the Honda CRX he’s driving is a secondary car for the Crawford team.

“I’ve got a slower car but I know my inexperience has got a lot to do with it too,” he said. “But I’ve learned a lot already and I really want to race more.”

He’s likely going to get that chance. Frank, who came looking for him with an opportunity, is already thinking about next year.

“My son-in-law and I put together a race car, and I love it,” Frank said. “It’s an addiction. We want to have a car on the track every Saturday night and we’re working on one and we’ve got another one waiting. And I think we have a driver for the future in Cameron, too.

“He seems to love it, he’s got the desire and he’s having fun. Everybody needs a break and as he develops and moves up, he’s going to get better. He’s a good kid and he deserves a chance. He’s gonna be OK.”

Cameron takes auto shop class at Lake Central, so he gets the opportunity to do something he loves — working on cars — at school.

“I hope I can race again this year,” he said. “But if I can’t, I’ll remember what I can and I’ll start working with Russ on the car until next year. All my buddies think it’s cool that I got a chance to race so I’m going to make the most of it.”



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