BEING A STANFIELD MEANS BEING A DRAG RACER
Aaron Stanfield is one of the NHRA’s young rising stars. The sportsman driver caught the drag racing bug from his father Greg and his late grandfather Howard.
“When I was younger as a kid, my dad wanted to do normal kid things and play sports,” Stanfield said. “He wanted me to enjoy the regular life. Things obviously changed a lot when we started racing and traveling a lot. As I got older, my dad never pushed me to get into drag racing. It was something that I was persistent about -- and I kept coming up to the shop -- and wanted to learn. Eventually, I wanted to get in a car. Obviously, following in my family’s footsteps played a big part in it; it’s something I love. I’ve always loved it and always watched my dad racing on Sunday’s. I always wanted to be in his footsteps. Now, we are where we are.”
Stanfield had the traditional kid life as he grew up and attended high school. His first race was a foot brake race in a ’98 Camaro. Once he turned 16, he said, he raced more.
“It was a big learning curve,” he said. “I have always watched my dad race professionally, but I hadn’t been around bracket racing, too much, when I started racing. It was a learning curve trying to figure out how to drive. But it was fun, and I was hooked from the first burnout. I actually was the runner-up in my very first race that I competed in. From there, I just kept begging my dad to take me racing.”
Despite racing bracket cars, Stanfield admitted it wasn’t until he got in a Pro Stock that he became comfortable in a race car.
“Really to be honest with you, after I had driven a Pro Stock car, I had become comfortable in a race car,” Stanfield said. “Learning how to do that -- not saying I did it great -- but I feel like learning how to drive that made me a better driver and being more comfortable in the seat. Hopefully, one day, I’ll get another chance to do it, because I think I’ll be better now than I was.”
Stanfield’s first opportunity to drive a Pro Stock car was at the biggest event of the year. The Louisiana native debuted at the 2014 U.S. Nationals.
He won his very first elimination round, as he defeated Jeg Coughlin Jr. at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana. The rookie went 6.653 at 207.65 mph for the win, while Coughlin Jr. went red with a -0.003 reaction time.
He then lost in the second round to Jason Line, who went 6.615 at 208.91 mph. Stanfield went 6.662 at 207.34 mph.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure on me, because although I had watched my dad do it countless times -- and doing it in my head countless times -- it was definitely a lot of pressure,” he said. “It was a good experience, though. It made me a better driver. It set me in a place where I want to be back at.”
Today, Stanfield is driving Super Stock and Top Dragster at select NHRA national events. He last competed at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Elwood, Illinois, as part of the JEGS All-Stars.
Presently, Stanfield is fourth in the Super Stock standings with 393 points. He trails Marion Stephenson (503) by 110 points.
In Top Dragster, Stanfield is second with 388 points. He trails Ross Laris by 40 points (428).
“I’ve had the opportunity to drive so many different cars,” Stanfield said. “It has really helped me to adapt quickly. I think that’s made it so when I get in one or the other; it doesn’t affect the other. If that makes sense, it’s definitely different, and the speeds are obviously different -- and the whole entire process is different. But at the same time, each one has their own process and controlling the adrenaline and emotions. Once I’m in each one, I focus on the job I have to do. My dad has always told me that a real racer can get into anything and win at any time. He’s been adamant about putting me in a lot of different things to get experience.”
Stanfield says he likes Top Dragster more.
“I’m a speed freak,” he said. “They go a little bit over 220 [mph] -- and I’ve told everyone that I will race anything except for a Top Fuel Harley. I’m thankful that I get to race anything. You can stick me in any car and I’m going to have the same amount of fun. Those Top Fuel Harley people are insane. You won’t catch me doing that. I would drive a Pro Stock bike, but never a Top Fuel Harley. They have lost their mind in my opinion.”
One of Stanfield’s personal goals is to win a Sportsman Championship in his Super Stock car.
In 2018, the young Stanfield also competed in the SamTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown. He competed in the entire season.
He finished fourth with 305 points. Leah Pritchett -- the Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel Dragster pilot and Factory Stock Showdown driver -- won the championship with 412 points. “It’s very competitive,” Stanfield said. “It’s only getting more competitive. I really enjoyed competing in that series and driving in that series. We picked up a few customers at Stanfield Racing Engines that we started a couple of years ago. It’s hard to compete against customers -- and it’s hard to focus on tuning one when you’re driving, so I took a step back, as I focus on the Factory Stock Showdown for our customers. I want to focus on other people achieving their goals, which I enjoy a lot.”
When Stanfield is not racing, he is working at Stanfield Racing Engines in Bossier City, Louisiana. He works there with his father, his uncle, and two SamTech graduates.
“My dad built engines for the public before he went professional racing,” he said. “When he went Pro Stock racing, he did away with it and stopped. As I got into racing -- and was about halfway through college -- that’s what I wanted to do. We picked it up and then started to pick up customers. The SamTech Factory Stock Showdown -- we’re heavily involved in -- but we’re not on the track. I’m heavily involved in the Stanfield Racing Engines. My dad sold a lot of his equipment before I told him this is what I wanted to do. Now, we’re building the business back up, as we buy equipment here and there.
“It’s not a normal life I will tell you. That’s the best way for me to describe it. It’s not an 8-4, 9-5 job, but it’s something I love. You can’t put a price on a job that you love. I enjoy racing with my dad, and I enjoy racing to achieve my goals. It’s all worth it.”
Despite competing in Super Stock and Top Dragster now, Stanfield envisions a day, where he can be a professional racer once again. He would like another shot at the Pro Stock category but is willing to drive anything except for the Top Fuel Harley’s.
“I would love to go back, but I wouldn’t limit it to just Pro Stock. That’s where my roots are -- and that’s where I grew up and my first love -- but I would love to drive a Pro Mod car; I would love to drive a Top Fuel Dragster; I would love to drive a Funny Car. It’s my dreams of a young drag racer.
“I like it [Pro Stock]. I wish I was competing in it. Minus the car count, it is extremely competitive. There are very, very close racing. I think they (the NHRA) did right by the fuel injection. I think the teams are learning and figuring that out. I think that’s made it the best category. It’s definitely not up to horsepower or money. That’s always a good thing for teams who do not have all the money in the world. I think competing at the highest level is something that I want to do. I have a couple of personal goals that I want to achieve first before I really pursue a professional ride. I want to achieve those goals; then we’ll go from there. If the opportunity came, I won’t turn it down.”