Craig Stanton Never Stands Still
© Andrew S. Hartwell
it has a handlebar or a steering wheel, chances are Craig Stanton
has operated it. Correction: DRIVEN it! From motorcycles to Sport
Renault to Formula Mazda to Formula 2000 to Porsche, Ferrari, BMW
and even Nissan, Stanton has heated the tires on them all. And that
heat many times burned off the competition, putting him in his favorite
place - on the podium.
A brief rundown
of his racing resume by marque / series:
Porsche: Petersen - White Lightning in ALMS
Reiser-Callas Racing in ALMS
Keyser Racing in ALMS
BMW: Marcus Motorsports in Grand Am
Bell Motorsports in Grand AM
Aasco Boduck Racing in Grand Am
Ferrari: XL Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello in ALMS
Trucks: Pierce Racing (SCORE Baja 2000)
NASCAR: GT1 Racing – Late Models
Southwest Tour team
Nissan: GT1 Racing 240SX Factory Speedvision Cup Team
Chevrolet: Fizmaun.c~Smith Enterprises Camaro in Trans Am
Shifter Karts: California Sports Car Club
Midgets: USAC on the West Coast.
In addition to all the
seat time he gets during races, Stanton spends a lot of his off
hours instructing others in how to get a car from start to finish
faster than the competition. He has provided instruction at the
Willow Springs International Driving Schools, and worked with many
drivers in various sports car series as a personal coach and trainer.
He has also served as a test driver for a magazine, and conducted
numerous test drives for manufacturers including Lexus, Nissan,
Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, GM, Acura and Ford.
Craig Stanton will never
be called “the man who stood still”. He likes to keep
moving and when he isn’t racing as fast as he can in a car,
he is driving himself as hard as he can on foot. Stanton is a firm
believer in the importance of staying fit. He spends countless hours
riding a bike – the pedal yourself kind – and running,
keeping himself as fit as humanly possible. The man is a machine.
We talked with Craig
recently to try and learn a bit about his background, find out why
he is so into fitness, and just talk about his life in the game
“Fitness has always
been very important to me. It started back in high school when I
used to race bicycles for Montrose Cycle Team. They have a bike
shop not far from where I lived in Southern California. It started
one day when I was riding to school. The ride soon turned into a
race and I wound up racing with other guys every day on the way
“It was funny because,
back then, I soon realized that if I trained harder, or ate the
right foods, I could win races. I also learned about strategy and
how to draft like (world cyclist) Lance Armstrong does! I just grew
up a really active kid.
“What I learned
early on is that if I ate right I could go two miles an hour quicker
on the bike or one mile an hour quicker up a hill. The right food
is just like running a higher-octane fuel in your car. I had some
really good people to hang out with and learn from. Some of my dad’s
friends were Olympic athletes and professionals in sports, who helped
me a great deal in learning about the importance of fitness and
“When I was just
10 years old my dad taught me how to surf. I wasn’t compelled
to compete but I did surf a lot and learned how to respect the ocean.”
And when he wasn’t
riding on top of the waves, he was riding downhill on snow.
“My dad was a high
school teacher and an excellent skier. He used to ski between 30
and 60 days a year. I loved to go skiing with my dad because he
and his friends went really, really fast. If he went skiing, I went
“Back then I was
really just scraping the surface of what to do to stay in shape.
Now it is a whole new realm of thinking, in terms of food and supplements
and so on. But I learned early on about the importance of getting
a good night's sleep and living a clean life.”
Stanton has perched his
posterior in many a ride. What really got him going?
“Right out of high
school I started racing off-road cars and motocross and super cross.
My life in racing really developed through my involvement in one
form of racing leading to rides in other series. I would meet somebody
and they would give me a new avenue to go down. I would meet somebody
and they would give me a ¾ midget to drive, and then there
was an avenue where I would run a stock car or an avenue where I
did a bunch of road racing. It was often a case of people I met
wanting me to drive for them.
“And it was a great
time for learning but it always seemed that just as I got real good
at something the avenue would go away and it would be time to look
for a new ride. I never really had a bunch of funding to work with.
What I did have was a desire to work hard, a lot skills and dedication,
and a desire to learn as much as I could, while carrying myself
as a good team player.
“I raced for eight
years in motocross / supercross. My goal was to learn and win as
much as possible. It was tough as I wasn’t riding a factory-backed
bike and I was a bit older than most other riders. Guys had been
riding for years by the time I joined them. A lot of the guys I
ran with were younger and had five and six years in. But it was
great because I raced five days a week! That was a way of life for
“For a short time
I did have some support from Yamaha and I had a one year deal with
Husqvarna to test their automatic model. It was a really good time
in my life. I learned a lot about how to set up for a race, how
to pit, how to talk to people on the team, how to set up the bike,
how to prep for the long haul, how to talk to sponsors…I just
learned a ton about racing.
“When I went to
cars I was pretty beat up with injuries from the bikes. I met a
guy who wanted me to race a car for him. It is funny how that came
about too. I was racing off-road cars at that time and I saw a phone
number on the side of a truck for a repair place. I went to the
shop to get some work done on my truck and the guys who worked in
the back of the shop knew who I was! They told the owner, “That’s
Craig Stanton. He is really fast on the motocross bikes.”
“The shop owners
asked me to drive their spec racer – a Sport Renault. They
said ‘it’s pretty much yours if you want it, and we
got 10 races for you in one month!’ I said, “I could
“The first full
year for me was 49 races and the next was 41. We went all over the
US and won a bunch of races and two championships. I wasn’t
really a pro at that time; I was just running in the regional and
national races. I wanted to be in a vehicle that I could get my
license with, and then maybe do a regional and a national program
with. From there I wanted to get into professional racing with the
same racer. In the first year, 1986, we wore the car out. It was
actually cheaper to buy a new car for the 1987 season.
“During my racing
days in the Renault, I continued to develop my approach to fitness.
I had always been running – I was on the track team in High
School – and riding bikes. I had always kept up with it because
I always felt better. And with injuries and what not, I was in training
a lot. There was probably several times when I slacked off on my
routine and each time parts of my body would start to seize up.
My neck and back would ache! It was hard just to keep ahead of that
“Endurance is important
in car racing - being in a good cardio zone. I just came back from
a three-hour bike ride today with some of the guys I train with.
I probably do between 10 and 16 hours of cardio a week. And that
really makes me over-fit for the cars. I can sit in the cars for
a long time.”
Contrary to what this
writer had heard, the buffed and lean Stanton does break a sweat
when he drives.
“I do break a sweat
because it is hot in the car and sweating is your body’s way
of reducing your body temperature. The body acts like a radiator.
What I believe is, the first thing that goes when you are overheated
is your focus. Your body is saying, “Umm, we are going to
try to eliminate this whole experience by making you think that
it is not a good thing or making you lose your concentration. It
is something of a pop-off valve your body uses to tell you it is
under stress. I believe that the first thing that goes when you
are exerting yourself is your mind telling you that you are done.
If I can be in a car, and focus longer, then I don’t get that
loss of concentration or loss of focus. My fitness allows me to
stay in the car for hours and hours.
“There was a race
last year where I raced at Road America with Stefano Buttiero in
the XL Racing Ferrari. It was hot! I think the guys put a pyrometer
in the car during a pit stop and got a temperature reading of 172!
It was just about as hot at the Petit Le Mans last year too. My
conditioning allowed me to drive longer and harder than the other
At Sebring this year,
Audi pilot Emanuele Pirro had to pit early because of cramping muscles.
There is no doubt that he too practices a regimen for keeping in
shape. So the question becomes how was he so afflicted at that race?
“Cramps tell me
his body was low on calcium, magnesium, potassium, food and / or
water. When somebody cramps on a hill run or during one of our workouts,
it usually means the person is not hydrated and is losing some minerals.
I don’t know what Pirro was doing for replacement.”
Stanton puts his commitment
to fitness to the test outside the driver’s seat by competing
in a grueling series of competitions known as Adventure Racing.
The series put teams of athletes against one another on mountain
bikes, kayaking and trail running events, with the team scores used
to determine the winners.
“You know, I am
blessed to be surrounded by so many athletes. That is the case certainly
in racing and it is especially true with the group of people I compete
with in the Adventure Race competition. I’m blessed with a
team of unbelievable athletes. Our workload is amazing throughout
a two-day adventure race. One guy is a pro duathelete (riding bikes
and running marathons) and another is a pro water skier who does
marathon events – sometimes spending an hour behind a 43-foot
boat that is moving between 50 to 100 miles per hour on the open
“We also have a
female on the team who is a cross country coach who was on the pro
women’s mountain bike circuit for about six years. Our team
has been in the midst of some very extreme workouts with no breakdown
in emotions. When you are suffering like that throughout the day
you really find out who you are. There is no candy coating time
to act like somebody else. That time is when you are your true self.
I mean you are so tired and putting out so much workload that it
is just amazing. And it is so exciting to me that we all work so
to sportscars, we asked if Stanton had a preference for the kind
of cars or series that he wanted to compete in. His answer was as
honest as his workouts.
is a good question, but the answer is really that I like all forms
“I do like stock
cars, and I did think the midgets were really fun. But I do think
sportscar endurance racing is probably the one I like the best.
I think it is the most demanding and challenging. It demands the
most of teamwork and I am a big advocate of teamwork. It seems the
teams that get the best results are the teams that work the best
“The more rewarding
weekends are usually the ones I spent with teams who have a common
goal and work towards that goal as a team. I have been with teams
that work horribly together and it shows on the track. You can’t
mask that stuff. And that can be frustrating.
a closet perfectionist really. I have to be careful when I am on
a team because I want to come across as low maintenance, easy to
get along with, and very approachable by everyone on the team. Inside
my mind’s eye I can often see clearly how a team should be
run and orchestrated throughout a race weekend and when it all comes
together for real it is just the best feeling you can have.”
This season, Stanton
is teamed with Johnny Mowlem in the Petersen Racing / White Lightning
Porsche running in the ALMS. The team is running most, but not all,
of the events in that series this season. Schedule changes and Le
Mans preparations and participation cut out some dates. But Stanton
sees this ride as his best shot at getting his name out there.
would have liked to run the full ALMS season and chased a championship
but it wasn’t to be. I believe we are going to do Laguna,
Sonoma, Road America, Miami and the Petit Le Mans. Johnny Mowlem
and I were teammates once before, with Reiser-Callas Racing. Some
of the races Johnny missed and I would drive as David Murry’s
teammate and at other races David would miss and I would race with
with the Petersen / White Lightning team represents the best shot
at winning races and making a name for myself yet. This is the best
stop to date for me to show my wares with a good co-driver, a good
team, a good car, and a lot of good sponsors.”
With the divergent paths
taken by the ALMS and Grand Am, the choices are distinct. Price
controlled racing in new cars that may or may not further evolve
aerodynamically and in available horsepower, or essentially wide-open
parameters that invite uniqueness? Which would Stanton choose?
“Since I have driven
a ton of different cars, I feel I have the ability to adapt extremely
quickly. I don’t really have a preference either way. What
I like most is to be in a good car, on a good team with a good teammate
and everybody working towards the same goals as a team.
I want to be
out there racing every weekend! That’s my goal for next year
actually. I am looking to close a deal for the full season in all
three series. I am going after the Grand Am Cup, Rolex Championship
and the ALMS Championship, plus Le Mans, plus the BAJA 1000 and
500 (off road racing) and do about three or four different stock
hoping I can get a ride at Sonoma or Watkins Glen for the Winston
/ Nextel Cup races. That may or may not happen. I want to be sure
I have the right ride. I just don’t want to be running around
in the back of the pack. It is so important to have the right package
for those road races.
“I do a lot of
coaching for other drivers and teams. I have ten to fifteen clients
who hire me throughout the year. Many of the drivers who call are
semi-professionals or bona fide enthusiasts who have had a few years
experience. They usually call me when they truly want to take next
step up, to maybe Grand Am Cup or the Rolex Series. There are presently
three people and teams that I am working with and, I am happy to
say, that two of the teams will be running next year in Grand Am
Cup and Rolex.
“We have had workshops
and I have even called in other drivers to give the teams their
perspective as well. The same goes for crewmembers from other teams
who come in to help. It is a great process. We have been visiting
some of the tracks the teams will be racing on next year, collecting
data and getting to know where to pit, how to get around the track
and all the other things that seasoned teams take for granted.
“It gives me a
lot of personal satisfaction to coach others, especially when they
succeed. One of the guys I have been working with had his first
pro race at Fontana. I was like the proud father! I was almost ready
to tear up! And it just felt so good to realize that the team was
able to be there because of the things that I had done to help them
get there. It was awesome!”
Does Stanton feel he
can coach his wife too?
“Hah! She is awesome
too! And I would probably be homeless if it wasn’t for her!
Her name is Joy. We met back in 1985 and were dating for many years
and we have been married for five years now. She is a personal trainer.
She races competitively in US Rowing events representing Long Beach
Rowing Association. She has two nationals and a regional event coming
up soon. She rides bikes. She is very fit and she is really good
at the track. That is, people love to be around her in the paddock
and so on.
“Someday we would
like to have kids. I am a big kid! In fact, we have a big climbing
wall in our backyard and I just had to chase several kids away because
we have a house rule that if I am not back there with them they
can’t be climbing the wall.”
By now it should be clear
that Craig Stanton puts his all into his life, keeping himself ever
prepared for the next adventure. And he has some ideas about what
those adventures might be.
want to win Le Mans. I want to win Daytona, and wear that Rolex
around! And I want to win Sebring really bad. And I want to win
some championships. The last few years of my career has been running
with a gentleman driver as a teammate, acting as a coach. Those
rides have been really rewarding, but my strategy has changed. Teaming
with Johnny Mowlem is exactly what I mean. He is a hard charger!
Given the man’s
penchant for endurance, let’s hope that Johnny and the rest
of the Petersen / White Lightning team can charge hard enough and
long enough to keep up with the man who never stands still! Beginning
at Infineon Raceway this weekend.