Three Generations of Stanfills Have a Passion for Racing
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Amy Payne
Craig Stanfill started drag racing in 1965 in Southern California, racing everything from street cars to front-engine and rear-engine dragsters. Once he had children, his son Bryan caught the racing bug too. In 1992, around the time Craig retired from the sport, 12-year-old Bryan took it up. Through the past three decades Bryan has raced open wheels, sprint cars, midgets, Silver Crown cars and stock cars. He even tested an IndyCar vehicle once.
In 2003 Bryan Stanfill moved to Indianapolis to race full time. He slowed down from the racing scene between 2010 and 2012. Bryan’s son Cruz’s first taste of the race happened when he was 4 years old. Father and son were at a “Ride-n-Drive” at Mini Indy Speedway.
“A friend of mine was racing there with his kids, and I asked Cruz if he wanted to go out and drive a car,” Bryan says. “He liked it, and a week later we had cars for him.”
Once Cruz took an interest in racing, Bryan found he had an itch to scratch and got back into the game. Today father and son both race. Bryan typically runs with the United States Auto Club (USAC) and the World of Outlaws, which will have a new midget series this year. Cruz, now 10 years old and going into fifth grade, is running a 600 Micro Sprint. Bryan races roughly 30 times per year, and Cruz about 20. Cruz began racing quarter midgets when he was 5 years old, before moving up into junior sprint cars.
“He started even earlier than I did,” Bryan says. For that, there is one simple reason.
“I like going fast,” says Cruz, who participates in local races at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indianapolis Raceway Park, the Bloomington Speedway, the Kokomo Speedway, US 24 Speedway in Logansport, Circus City Speedway in Peru, and the new Circle City Raceway on the southside of Indy.
Thankfully, Cruz has never been injured while racing. Bryan has sustained a few concussions from crashes, and in one wreck he broke his shoulder, banged his head and broke a bunch of ribs.
“That put me out for a few months, but other than that, nothing much,” says Bryan, now 44. “As I get older, I’m a little smarter. Bones don’t heal quite as quickly anymore.”
Cruz is learning life lessons early on, like the logistics of choosing where to race based on the rising price of gas.
“You have to calculate everything to a tee, so as we figure out diesel prices, he learns his math there,” Bryan says. “He gets to understand why we’re racing here but not there.”
One of the perks of racing is all of the traveling that comes along with it. Cruz typically races in Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. This year, however, they plan to spread out more. Despite their extensive traveling, they haven’t necessarily seen much of any given town beyond its racetrack. This is partly because they often drive at night. They get to the track by 3 or 4 p.m. and leave the track between 10 and 11 p.m. If they’re racing the next day, they find an all-night car wash at 1 a.m.
“Then it’s the hotel or motor home for sleep for a few hours, then on to the next one,” Bryan says. This schedule, however, is something he’s working to change.
“I’ve been everywhere two or three times and have never seen anything,” Bryan says. “Now, when we go places I make sure we do something, see something.”
For instance, when they were in Oklahoma, they explored local caverns.
There was a time when racing season used to pause in the winter. Now, however, it goes year-round because there are indoor races in the winter. In February, Bryan and Cruz went to Tulsa so Bryan could participate in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, which is the biggest midget race in the world with nearly 400 entries.
“It attracts IndyCar racers, NASCAR racers, any kind of racing you can think of,” Bryan says.
At this race there is a flag ceremony, and drivers from every country are represented by carrying their state or country flag. Cruz was invited to carry the Indiana flag in front of more than 20,000 people, live on TV.
Despite being retired, Bryan’s dad is still very involved in his family’s racing.
“He’s 72 but he acts like he’s 40,” Bryan says.
The three generations of Stanfills spend a lot of time in the shop working on their cars.
“Because we race on the dirt, the cars take a bit of a beating,” Bryan says.
There’s motor maintenance, plus they are constantly building spare parts, checking tires and keeping the trailer organized.
“There’s just a lot to do,” Bryan says. “It’s never-ending. I think a lot of people don’t understand how much work goes into racing. We may work 50 hours a week in the shop to race one night, but it teaches you a good work ethic.”
Cruz has a total of eight junior sprint class wins, six of which he secured last year.
“I’ve lost track of how many he has in the quarter midget,” Bryan says. “He’s got seven wins that are nationally ranked.”
Bryan, the 1998 USAC Rookie of the Year, won the USAC championship in 2020, was a regional championship winner, and has 35 midget wins and five sprint car wins. In February of 2022, the USAC announced that Bryan is one of only 14 drivers who have won a USAC-sanctioned race in four different decades.
“There are people like A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti on that list, so it was really cool to be in that kind of company,” Bryan says.
In July of 2021, the father-son racing duo experienced a highlight in their careers when they raced on the same night. Bryan ran the midget and Cruz ran the junior sprint.
“We both won that night,” Bryan says. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Cruz’s future aspirations include running in NASCAR or IndyCar someday. The Stanfills are just happy to ride the wave for as long as they can.
“Racing – there’s nothing better,” Bryan says.