After being diagnosed with inoperable cancer three months ago, Austin Cameron will return to Winston West racing Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway after undergoing extensive treatments of chemotherapy.
"Some days I feel like I'm 80, like today," Cameron, 26, said Tuesday by cell phone from San Diego while undergoing procedures that involved withdrawing blood and replacing it with transfusions.
"Other days I feel great, like when I get in my race car," he added quickly. "I drove about 70 laps testing Friday night at Irwindale and felt really good. I wasn't too fatigued. In fact, they just about had to pry me out of the car to get me to stop."
The 200-pound El Cajon driver was diagnosed in April with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after crashing during practice for a race in Las Vegas and then driving strangely in the race. Rachelle Brown, his girlfriend, noted the unusual way he was acting and made him see a doctor.
"It was tough getting me there, but it was a good thing she did," he said. "Then a chest X-ray showed a large mass in the left lung and the doctors said it was inoperable. It was a rare type of cancer and they treated it with chemo and a bunch of other stuff."
He lost his hair and about 30 pounds. He has regained most of the weight, but he still looks like Mr. Clean.
"After three months, they put me on a maintenance cycle," Cameron said. "On the day I'm taking medication, I feel [bad]. Some days I can't even get out of bed, but usually in a couple of days, I feel fine.
"I won't have another treatment until Monday, so I should be at my best for Saturday's race."
The King Taco 200, with a $109,114 payout, will be 200 laps around Irwindale's half-mile paved oval and it is the only race of the year where there will be planned pit stops. All other Irwindale events are scheduled nonstop.
Cameron, won five of 10 Winston West races last year, including Irwindale. He finished third in points behind Eric Norris and Kevin Richards.
"I'll be back in the same No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet that won last year," Cameron said. "We want to keep [car owner] Bill McAnally's streak going."
McAnally Racing team cars have won four consecutive Winston West races at Irwindale with Brendan Gaughan winning three times in 2001 and Cameron last year.
"We're thrilled to have Austin back for this race," McAnally said. "His first career win came at Irwindale and he won again there last year.
"He has a lot of fans in the area [so] it's great that they will get to see him back behind the wheel."