Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by Kevin DiOssi
Drag racing is inherently punk rock. There’s something rebellious about strapping oneself to a machine making several thousand horsepower and flying down a strip of concrete with the only concern being how quick the car can go. Nothing matters except beating the guy in the other lane, being the first to the stripe, the first to the record books. Conventional thinking says it is dangerous; performance thinking says it’s as critical to life as breathing. Arthur Camp Stanley III, known simply as “Camp,” embodies the badassery of drag racing and has been a loud, proud pioneer of the sport.
Camp’s life reads like a roadmap for success, although the legendary racer/tuner/philosopher is quite humble about his achievements. He helped shape the door slammer drag racing scene into what it is today, and is continuing to help the sport grow and evolve with his current Pro Mod operation.
In the early 1960s, Camp was stationed in Germany while serving in the Army.
“Americans would bring cars over, but not take them back home, so they got sold to the next guy, and the next guy, and I wound up being a next guy,” laughed Camp, now 74, of how he first got his hands on a ’55 Ford that he started tinkering with. Always interested in mechanical things and whatnot, Camp got out of the service in ’65 and “bummed around the United States for a year” before settling down and marrying his bride, Janet, in ’68.
From there, it was all onward and upward for Camp, who learned to make the most of what little he had using creative thinking and innovative solutions. He started with a ’62 Chevrolet II street car and eventually graduated to a Camaro.
“I thought I’d like to have a blown motor, so I built my first blown door car in ’78,” he recalled. Camp was a member of the legendary “Wild Bunch”—an aptly named group of performance junkies who worshipped alcohol-burning, supercharged combinations and had a reputation for embracing the unconventional.
The group garnered a cult following, and fans from around the world watched as the Wild Bunch became the unlikely heroes and super stars of drag racing.
“We match-raced each other all over the country, and it was great fun. We even got paid to race in Australia in ’89 and ’91,” Camp reminisced of the good ol’ days spent bracket racing. Blown door cars were all the rage, and the Wild Bunch definitely (and defiantly) lived up to their moniker.
As his reputation grew, so did opportunity. Camp found himself driving, tuning, and consulting for names big and small all around the world from Europe to New Zealand to South Africa (where his Wild Boys Thunderbird currently resides in Johannesburg and holds an African-continent ET record) and beyond. As things progressed, Camp found that it was mentoring that he truly enjoyed the most. Spanning a successful career several decades strong, Camp has worked with countless drivers and always gets a thrill from seeing others succeed.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re a competitor or not, I really just love seeing my pupils do well,” he added.
Perhaps his most important protégé, though, is his own son. John Stanley, 46, grew up following in his father’s footsteps, but transitioned into the driver’s seat himself when he was in his 30s. By then, Camp had formed the Stanley & Weiss Racing partnership with his longtime and loyal friend, William C. Weiss, better known as “Axle.”
At the time, the father and son from Maryland were campaigning a Tim McAmis-built ’69 Camaro in the now-defunct National Street Car Association. Named NSCA Rookie of the Year in 2003, John was the NSCA Outlaw Pro Street points runner-up in 2004, and earned the championship in 2005.
After the series’ swan song, the gentlemen turned to the American Drag Racing League’s Pro Extreme class.
“We decided to jump in with the sharks,” laughed Camp, “So we put a screw blower on the Camaro and it had a clutch and a three-speed Lenco and all the cool stuff. When we showed up to our first race in Valdosta, nobody knew us on Thursday, but everyone knew us by Saturday!” Ultimately, the guys went out in the semi-finals, but had made their presence known.
Soon after, while racing at the 2013 PSCA Street Car Super Nationals event in Las Vegas, John claimed his first legitimate 5-second quarter-mile run and set a world record in the process. A planned early shutoff initial run yielded a 5.77-second time slip, and was soon followed up by an incredible 5.644 at 253.04mph trip in the first round of qualifying. Wanting to disprove any potential naysayers and solidify the doorslammer record, the guys produced a follow-up run of 5.648-seconds in the second qualifying session.
The runs couldn’t have come at a better time, as Stanley & Weiss Racing had recently partnered with Steel Dynamics Inc. for sponsorship of the Camaro, and some higher-ups had made the trip to Vegas to see the car for the first time. Needless to say, the record solidified the deal with SDI, and the two entities began a relationship that has endured ever since.
Similarly, after the record, Camp was approached by chassis builder Larry Jeffers about collaborating on a new project. Initial plans called for a Barracuda body, but Jeffers acquired the molds for a ’14 Cadillac CTS-V and Camp jumped at the chance to get started on Daddy’s Caddy. The build officially began in late 2013 and, thanks to the hard work of Garret Livingston along with the rest of the Larry Jeffers Race Cars crew, was wrapped up less than one year later when it rolled out the doors in July of 2014.
“We had a lot of great sponsors who stepped up to help us build the car and supplied a lot of the parts for it,” explained Camp, who sold his Camaro and used the proceeds to help his new partnership program.
Thanks to the relationship between Camp and the Australian-based company that stemmed back to his Wild Bunch days, Noonan Racing Engineering was brought on board to build the Cadillac’s 521ci Hemi engine. Fed a supply of VP Racing Fuels M1 methanol, the bullet is based around a Bryant crankshaft, MGP connecting rods, and Diamond pistons rotational assembly, while the Noonan heads are filled with Manton valvetrain components.
A standard PSI screw-type supercharger puts the “forced” in forced induction, as the unit stuffs ample air into the combustion chambers.
“I was always a roots-style blower guy, but these make god-awful horsepower, so we decided to try it and see how it worked,” shared Camp candidly.
For the transmission, Camp turned to B&J to put together a gearbox to work with his Neal Chance Racing torque converter and QuickDrive unit.
Both Strange Engineering and Penske Racing have supported Stanley & Weiss Racing for years, so it’s no surprise to find a Strange Engineering rearend under the car along with a set of Penske/Strange front and Penske rear shocks. Additionally, Strange Engineering stoppers are found at all four corners of the LRJC-built Cadillac, and bring it back down to speed in a jiffy.
Sticking his son back in the driver’s seat was not a concern for Camp, who knew he had surrounded John with a good, solid car.
“He’s had a few wall-bouncers and whatnot, but never a bad crash. He’s a good driver and a talented wheelman, and I know he can handle it,” said the proud father, who trusts nothing but DJ Safety equipment to keep his pride and joy safe and sound.
The CTS-V made its debut on the PDRA circuit in Pro Extreme trim and was a staple for seasons. Full fields and high car counts eventually dwindled down, though, and the class was abandoned in mid-2018.
“We had been racing with mega-millionaires who had spares under the bench and the ability to blow up parts all day long. I couldn’t–and wouldn’t–do that,” explained Camp, who looked to the NMCA more for a more level playing field. “The rules looked good, and we knew they were a great bunch of people to race with, so we got going.”
Camp started his 2018 NMCA VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod season in sunny Florida with high hopes and eyes wide open. Having never run this particular combination before, and being a conservative tuner by nature, Camp and his team plodded through qualifying. John piloted the Stanley & Weiss Racing Cadillac to a 3.867 at 195.18mph time to rank eleventh going into eliminations, and got the win over the previous season’s champion, Steve Summers, in the first round of eliminations.
“I learned a lot at that race,” confessed Camp, “because after they run the radial cars, the track changes. Kurt [Johnson] does a great job, but I realized you can’t hop this thing up second round because the track will be different.” Well, Camp had in fact hopped it up, and the car went all of 25 feet before the attempt was ended in round two.
The group struggled uncharacteristically for the next three races, failing to qualify in Georgia, Kentucky, and Illinois. Rather than lament his luck, Camp was more determined than ever to figure out what his car liked, and what it didn’t.
In Georgia, the conditions were completely different and he simply underestimated the track. In Kentucky, a river of fuel running down the windshield kept John from seeing where he was going on the racing surface.
“A simple parts failure behind the injector lines meant fuel was spraying toward the blower belt, and all the air that the belt kicks out was blowing it straight back—and that was why we couldn’t see it in the pits,” Camp shared. Finally, in Illinois, a broken crankshaft meant the race got unexpectedly expensive.
“We put the spare motor in, but with no runs on this different overdrive setup and with different heads, we didn’t have any data to make it work.”
Fortunately, the tables turned in Ohio and the group was able to qualify. Coming in at number 12 for VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod on a 3.854 at 196.07 mph was still a reason to celebrate, but there was more work to be done as John was out run in round one.
With one more race slated for the season, Camp and crew gave it all they had in Indiana. With a much improved qualifying position, the CTS-V’s 3.789 at 202.82mph blast landed it in fifth. A round-one win over Billy Harper also came with a busted windshield, courtesy of a rouge planetary gear.
Fortunately, Camp was able to cobble together a repair patch using a spare piece of Lexan and the MacGyver of drag racing had the Cadillac ready to run for round two. There, Craig Sullivan had the holeshot advantage, but John powered past to get the win once more.
“We finally got the thing turned around!” said Camp excitedly. “But we lost in the semi-finals to Jason Hamstra. He put me in the left lane, knowing I’d get beat like a red-headed stepchild. In his defense, I would have done the same, but we sure had a hot rod!”
Incredibly, despite the three DNQs, Camp’s perseverance and “never say die” attitude paid off and the group finished out the year ninth in points for the NMCA VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod standings. It was most certainly a team effort and the results of many long days and late nights, but the Stanley & Weiss Racing team is one that’s known for always making the best of any situation.
Camp’s crew consists of Ridgeley Distributors Inc co-owners Eric and Krista Champ, who are on board for the critical duties of wrenching and alcohol-supply… for the team, not the car!
“They’ve been a sponsor for a while and keep the booze flowing,” joked Camp, whose cocktails are legendary on the drag racing circuit. “Annette Dvorak is also in our crew and has been a valuable asset to our team for quite a while, and same goes for Bill Hacker who is a great help.” It’s a fairly small operation, especially compared to many other Pro Mod teams, but the motley bunch has more heart than most.
While he doesn’t consider himself a big deal and easily keeps his ego in check, the drag racing community has embraced the larger-than-life, yet honestly humble character of Camp. Although he’s certainly got a stubborn side and he’s been compared to “a dog laying under the tree, but that you definitely don’t want to poke,” Camp’s “little team that could” has made its mark mostly due to his compassionate and intuitive nature. Camp loves people, period, and genuinely cares for those around him. His loyalty has not gone unnoticed, and has strong alliances of folks who want to see him succeed.
Now, as the Stanley & Weiss Racing team plans their upcoming 2019 season, they’re confident that the Cadillac is going to be a contender. Thanks to the unwavering support of Steel Dyanamics Inc. senior vice president, Glenn Pushis (who also races with the NMCA), SDI will be back on board to continue sponsorship of the group.
“We really couldn’t do this without Steel Dynamics, and are incredibly grateful to have their support,” said Camp appreciatively.
After reviewing the new rule changes for the class, Camp plans to run the full NMCA calendar. With a 50-pound addition mandated for the use of a lock-up, Camp planned to ditch his unit and put the car on a diet instead.
“This year you can run either at 2,550 pounds and 92 overdrive, or at 2,425 pounds at 70 over instead. I know they put that out there as a carrot knowing few screw-blown cars can get that light, but I had to add 70 pounds to get to 2,450, which is what we raced at in 2018!” laughed Camp, who is coolly confident he would be able to get down to the light weight without any hiccups.
As the 2019 season got underway in Bradenton, the team failed to get past the first round of eliminations. Things looked better at the second race in Atlanta, where a winning 3.79-second run got John into the second round of eliminations. There, he faced Don Walsh Jr., who would go on to win that match up. However, it was John and Camp that got the better of Walsh at the third race of the season in Memphis, as the Stanley & Weiss Cadillac beat Walsh’s turbocharged Corvette, 3.79 to 3.81, thereby winning their first race since joining the NMCA!
With a solid plan, a capable car, and great friends by his side, Camp’s looking forward to living life and doing what he loves. He’ll spend the year driving the team’s rig up and down the highways and byways of the United States dreaming up new things to try, and only time will tell what works and what doesn’t, as Camp continues to embody the Wild Bunch spirit.
Owner: Stanley & Weiss Racing
Driver: John Stanley
Hometown: Hagerstown, Maryland
Occupation: Truck mechanic
Class: Pro Mod
Car Make/Model/Year: 2014 Cadillac CTS-V
Engine: Noonan Race Engineering Hemi
Engine builder: Camp Stanley, John Stanley
Block: Noonan Race Engineering
Heads: Noonan Race Engineering
Cam type: Jackson Engine Tech-Militia Racing Products
Carburetor or EFI system: n/a
Power-adder: PSI screw supercharger
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing fuels M1 methanol
Headers and exhaust: John Stanley
Transmission Builder: B&J
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Neal Chance Racing Converters
Rearend: Strange Engineering
Body and/or chassis builder: Larry Jeffers Race Cars
Suspension (Front): Penske/Strange Engineering
Suspension (Rear): Penske
Brakes (Front): Strange Engineering
Brakes (Rear): Strange Engineering
Wheels (front): Mickey Thompson
Wheels (Rear): Weld Racing
Tires (Front): Mickey Thompson
Tires (Rear): Hoosier
Aftermarket body modifications: Larry Jeffers Race Cars
Safety equipment: DJ Safety
Vehicle weight: 2425
Quickest ET: 3.57-second eighth mile, 5.57-second quarter mile
Best 60-foot: .904
Fastest mph: 211.34 eighth mile, 266.74 quarter mile
Sponsors: Steel Dynamics Inc, Noonan Race Engineering, Aeromotive, D&D Truck Repair and Towing, Hussey gaskets, D&G Liquors, Ridgeley Distributors, JanCen, Jegs, Motorsports Unlimited, Wicked Graphics