Aaron Stanfield, driver of the Janac Brothers Pro Stock Chevrolet Camaro, was back in form this past weekend as he claimed victory at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals and moved back into the No. 2 position in the championship standings. Stanfield had been a threat all season long, leading the points for three races and then nipping at the heels of the top spot at every other race, but as the six-race Countdown to the Championship approached, he hit a very untimely rough spot and was mid-pack with an uncertain future.
"I [hadn't] cut the lights that I was cutting last year, and our car slowed down a little bit, but that's part of racing – and somebody took advantage of that at Indy," said the driver, who was upset in the first round at the U.S. Nationals by Camrie Caruso. A round-two exit at Maple Grove Raceway last week was a blow, and leading into the event at zMAX Dragway, Stanfield was sitting No. 5 in the points to match the number on the window of his Chevy Camaro.
Ahead of the race, Stanfield knew what had to be done.
"We've got to make some better runs," he said before Charlotte qualifying. "We've got to get back in the groove of things; if we can do that, and if I can stay a little more consistent on the Tree, I think we're going to do some damage."
Stanfield and his team stuck to the plan like glue, and Sunday at the second race of the six-race Countdown came together sweetly. With consistent starting-line reaction times of .029, .027, and .028 in the first three rounds, Stanfield did his part – and his Janac Brothers Chevy was right there with round-wins over Deric Kramer, reigning champion Greg Anderson, and Elite teammate and fellow championship hopeful Troy Coughlin Jr. Ultimately, Stanfield claimed the seventh Pro Stock trophy of his career and third of the season.
He's shown he can race with Pro Stock's best – especially this season, when he has emerged as a true contender for the title – but his rise in the naturally aspirated factory hot rod ranks didn't come quickly. Stanfield debuted in Indianapolis in 2014 and entered four events that first season, then raced just once in 2015 before stepping back from the class. The racer and engine builder stayed well occupied in the Sportsman categories and rejoined Pro Stock in 2019 for a limited schedule that increased in intensity each season after. In a career year, Stanfield has been on target for an incredible finish with a car and the talent that the hyper-competitive field demands.
Pro Stock hasn't had all of his attention, though. In each of the last two events, Stanfield has reached the final round in the Constant Aviation NHRA Factory Stock Showdown category driving the Janac Brothers COPO Camaro.
"I really enjoy it," said Stanfield, who claimed the Factory Stock championship in both 2020 and 2021. "It's the first heads-up class I got to work hands-on with, it was one of my first projects in racing, and it's just really enjoyable for me. It's really cool to see it grow. What we've done over there has been a whole lot of hard work from our entire team, and we've had a lot of great people around us. It's been really fun."
As one part of Stanfield Racing Engines – the business he operates alongside his father, multitime NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series champion and 2010 U.S. Nationals Pro Stock winner Greg Stanfield – the ambitious but mild-tempered young man has his hands in many things, from helping customers to chasing championships from behind the wheel, and he doesn't intend to slow down anytime soon.
"I think I'll for sure be racing Pro Stock in 2023, and we've got some other things we're working on in our whole entire racing program. We're just trying to get all the details worked out," he said.
The statement may raise a question for some – as an engine builder and driver with success in Factory Stock, could Stanfield Racing Engines be preparing to transfer that energy and join the ranks of Pro Stock engine builders?
"We have no interest in building Pro Stock engines," said Stanfield, shaking his head. "It's really hard to beat what Elite has done for us. There's no reason to compete against them; nor do we want to. But [Stanfield Racing Engines] is something we're going to continue to grow. I love driving a race car, but I also enjoy the engine-building side of things and the business of helping other people accomplish their goals. That's something I see continuing to grow."
For now, Stanfield will continue his quest for the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Pro Stock championship at this weekend's NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway, near St. Louis.
"We're not going to give up," he said. "It's still anyone's shot."