Greg Stanfield is in a somewhat unusual scenario heading into the 2014 season. Ordinarily, the veteran driver is scrambling a little when the calendar turns, trying to put his racing program together. This year, however, Stanfield already knew what he would be doing before the calendar even switched from 2013 to 2014. Stanfield will be joining forces with Jeff Isbell, a former national event winner in Top Alcohol Dragster who is forming his own Pro Stock team beginning in 2014. Stanfield will pilot Isbell’s new Jerry Haas-built Chevy Camaro in the team’s initial outing in the ultra-competitive factory hot rod class.
“It’s too early for me. My deal’s usually not done until Feb. 1,” said Stanfield with a chuckle. “We’ve actually got some plans, and I’m excited. I’m excited for him, knowing his goal and what he wants to do. He’s not about just going out and leasing motors. He wants to build his own motors. I can get him a good foundation, get him set up on his cars and get him going, and who knows, we might have two cars someday. I think the ultimate goal knowing the situation he’s in is I get to drive and help him get set up, and maybe by then we can find sponsor dollars to have two.”
Like Stanfield, Isbell is also excited to get going in the Pro Stock ranks. He has always had an interest in the class, but it peaked and turned into something he wanted to pursue last season while spending time with Matt Hartford.
“When I decided to go back [racing], I was hanging out with Matt, and that’s really where it came from,” said Isbell, who initially thought about running a Mopar like Hartford but later went with a Camaro. “I’m a car guy. When I was in high school and stuff, I had a Camaro. I’ve always had Camaros. I’ve always raced Camaros. I love Camaros. I thought about going to a Mopar, but I have a fascination with Camaros and Pro Stock, and that’s where my heart’s at.”
After putting the order in with Haas for the Camaro, Isbell then set out to buy other parts for the car, and that’s when he connected with Stanfield, who sold Isbell engines, transmissions, gears, and other such components. The duo became fast friends and continued to talk and make plans for Stanfield to assist with building up Isbell’s program. Those discussions changed in December when Isbell’s 20-year-old daughter, Alexis, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and Isbell decided he needed to put his driving on hold.
“I just need to focus on family right now, but I’m not giving up on racing,” said Isbell. “Greg was just going to help us get the program going. I bought parts off Greg, and then it was like, ‘Hey, this thing is going to get put on the backburner,’ and then Greg and I were able to come up with a deal, and it worked for him and for me. He’s going to basically get the car up and going and drive it this year, and then when I’m ready, I’ll step into the seat.”
Stanfield has been busy during the off-season working with Haas to get the car ready in anticipation of a test in Las Vegas before the Circle K NHRA Winternationals and a team debut at that prestigious event in Pomona. At this point, the team’s plan is to run 10 to 16 events, but depending on its performance and/or sponsorship, that could change to a full 24 races and possibly a second car.
“We’re going to start out running and just see how things go and see if we can get in the top 10 and get the bonus dollars,” said Stanfield, who is brining longtime crew chief Mike Stryker with him to the team. “Who knows? You never know. There’s a lot of things in the works, and we could run the whole season if some things happen.”
In addition to Stanfield and Stryker, Isbell has hired Cody Perkins, Rod Haarbrink, and Mike Lane to work on the car, which will carry the colors and logo of Isbell’s printing company, Sun Litho, on the side. The team will also receive support from The Hose Connection owned by Larry Webb, whom Isbell met while racing Jr. Dragsters with his daughters, and longtime Stanfield supporters JD and Teresa Coffman.
“Every time I think I’m done, something else opens up,” said Stanfield. “I think it will be a good deal. Jeff, obviously, is getting into Pro Stock, and I think my deal here is to get him acclimated with Pro Stock and get him set up. I think ultimately he wants to do his own engines in-house, so basically, I’m here to help him speed the process up on his run in Pro Stock. In the meantime, I get to drive a little bit. I’m not going to turn it down, just sitting in front of me. He seems like a really nice guy, and I think it’s cool that he’s trying to get his program set up to do the motors and basically control it.”
Candida Benson is an associate editor for National Dragster.