The official “Dean of Dirt”, Cameron Steele fought his way to his very first, first place finish in the stacked Pro-Lite class on Sunday night under the lights at Glen Helen. After winning a championship in the pro-buggy class, Cameron stepped up to Pro-Lite as part of the Stronghold Super Team. We got a chance to catch up with Cameron and ask him a few questions after his big win on Sunday night.
How does it feel to finally get that first place finish?
I am stoked it’s been frustrating that we have not been on the podium before this. The team is awesome and I’m glad I finally got my part done on the track.
How is Pro-Lite different than racing in the Buggy Class?
Buggy has a little more etiquette probably because they are open wheel cars. In trucks there’s a lot more contact.
There’s no turning brake in truck, which allows buggies to turn and stop on a dime. Trucks are less forgiving buggies are more nimble, so you really have to focus on carrying your momentum in the trucks.
How was the racing this weekend?
I love racing Glen Helen. It’s my home track. I have been racing there since I was a kid on bikes, buggies, and trucks. I am just glad I don’t have to race those notoriously hard ruts on a bike any more. The bike track is gnarly.
This is your first year in this class and the field is stacked, how do you think you will do?
I knew it would be tough. The competition is stiff. Brandt and Deegan are both really good racers. I expected to be a top three guy and win races. I go out to win and the team is just as committed. I knew there would be little bit of a learning curve, but we are top three in points. It vindicates what we do.
Tell us about your truck? Who prep’s it?
I run in the Pro-Lite class, which is limited to 12 inches of travel and we use the 4cyl engine. It basically feels like a racecar on rails. My entire Pro-Lite was Re-engineered by Dave Clark. He is a legend. My crew is lead by mechanic Ruben Duarte, and prepped by Kyle Lucenti, and Curt Finn.
Tell us about your team?
The Stronghold Team is awesome! I get to race with Motocross legend Jeremy McGrath. The team is owned by the Bailey family and their partner Chuck Gossage. The cool thing is it’s really a family based team, you don’t feel like you’re going to work. The team really has created an environment that fosters racing. You can’t be afraid to make mistakes. As long as you are learning from them, that’s part of racing. They are fully committed to making better racers.
Do you think it helps coming from bikes?
Yes. Bike racers are really good at processing a lot of information really fast. Being elbow-to-elbow with 20 guys wide out of a gate teaches you to think and react quickly or the consequence is pain. It’s that simple. Kind of like all those Kung-Fu movies where they are doing the training while getting hit with a stick.
What skills do you think transfer from racing a trophy truck in the desert?
As an owner of a trophy truck team I understand that there’s a big effort with a lot of moving parts just getting to the track. So I understand logistics, prep, and vehicle dynamics. Overall seat time helps as well, but the trucks are pretty different. A trophy truck has 850-horsepower with 3 feet of travel and a Pro-Lite has 300 horsepower with 12 inches of travel, so they are very different.
Who do you think is our biggest competition?
Really myself. Just being mentally prepared and not making mistakes. Other than myself: Brandt and Deegan are consistently the fastest guys in qualifying and racing. Rodrigo as well, you can’t count him out.
Why do you race off-road?
Out of all the things I have done off-road racing is what I love the most. Short course off-road is unlike any other form of motorsports. You have contact, variable dirt surfaces, rivalries, heated battles, it’s awesome!
What’s next for you?
I just tested my new trophy truck. We are trying to decide what races we will do next. If it were up to me I would do them all! Vegas to Reno, San Felipe, and the Baja 1000 are all on our radar. We just got our new 40-inch trophy truck tires from Yokohama, we are really stoked! Looking forward to the next round of Lucas Oil Off-Road at Surprise, AZ as well.
What’s your game plan for the next race?
You have to race clean in this type of racing. I just want to be consistent and get good finishes. I am really proud of the fact that we won a few races last year and still managed to finish every race. That’s why we won the championship.
What is your goal as an off-road racer?
I want to be Champion in everything I do. Short course, desert racing, it doesn’t matter. I want to be the best. I have had a life goal of winning the Baja 1000 overall. Once I accomplish that, I am going to do it again. Baja is in my DNA, that’s what I do. I also love sharing off-road racing with people. It’s really cool to see people smile once the get a taste of what we love to do.
Interview by Matt Martelli
Photos by Jason Zindroski