California Dreaming: Nathan Casillas Moonlighting In Street Stock At Stafford Speedway

Rent-A-Racecar owner Gary Spinnato (left) and Nathan Casillas this past weekend at Stafford Motor Speedway (Photo: Courtesy Nathan Casillas)

STAFFORD – It’s fair to say the short track racing scene in Nathan Casillas’ hometown of Santa Cruz, California is pretty non-existent. 

With the closest short track being about 100 miles away, it’s not exactly a region where it’s easy to nurture short track racing dreams.

For Casillas, finding his niche in short track racing has been an interesting journey, and one that has lead him just over 3,000 miles from Santa Cruz to Stafford Motor Speedway. 

Last Saturday the 33-year old Casillas drove in his second Street Stock feature at Stafford as part of Gary Spinnato’s Rent-A-Racecar stable. 

The experience at Stafford has been part of a hodgepodge of opportunities Casillas has found in short track racing since 2017. 

Racing has long been an interest for Cassillas, but growing up in Santa Cruz the closest short track was Stockton 99 Speedway, about 100 miles away in Stockton, Calif. 

“That’s why it’s been so difficult for me,” Casillas said. “I’ve been trying to do this since I was 16 years old.” 

Through his work as a finance manager at a car dealership, Casillas met NASCAR K&N Pro Series driver Jessie Iwuji, who invited him to an event at Sonoma Raceway. Casillas ended up working with the team that weekend and the connection led to Casillas getting the chance to run an Outlaw Modified at Meridian Speedway in Meridian, Idaho in April 2017.  

Since then he’s also run in a dirt car at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, California and in a Street Stock at Stockton 99 Speedway. 

Last year he connected with Spinnato and ran the final Street Stock event of the season at Stafford for Rent-A-Racecar.

“I Googled renting a race car and Gary’s name popped up,” Casillas said of his initial connection to Spinnato and Rent-A-Racecar. “I messaged him that same exact day and he called me that evening.”

Nathan Casillas in his Rent-A-Racecar ride at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Courtesy if Nathan Casillas)

His first feature at Stafford didn’t end up the way he hoped. Casillas was black flagged and parked during the event after it was deemed he was getting in the way of the leaders on the track. 

“My first experience was a little bit of a shocker,” Casillas said. “I was new to the track, new to the area, a long way from home, nobody knows me and I’m in a rent-a-car. … Ended up getting black flagged in the feature for getting in the way of the race leaders. … It was a bummer.” 

Last Saturday, in his second event at Stafford, Casillas ended up fifth in his heat race. 

“George Bessette Jr. was in that heat race,” Casillas said. “So was Johnny Walker, so was Meghan Fuller. There was quite a few fast cars in that heat race.” 

In the feature Casillas had to retire seven laps into the scheduled 30-lap event because of an ignition module failure. 

“I was working my way up through the field and I blew an ignition module,” Casillas said. “Nothing we can do about that.” 

Saturday at Madera (Calif.) Speedway Casillas will make his first Late Model division start. It’s one of three starts he has scheduled for team owner Howard Holden this year at the track. 

Casillas is hoping to return to Stafford for another Street Stock race for Spinnato on May 17. His hope is to be able to put together a package to run full-time in the Street Stock division at Stafford in 2020. 

“I had the time of my life [in Stafford],” Casillas said. “The people in Stafford, I can’t thank everybody enough. … I’m just very thankful.” 

— For More Info On Nathan Casillas: Nathan Casillas Racing

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  1. Liz Cherokee says

    It is definitely time for me to look into this Rent-A-Racecar thing…

  2. I’m going to assume he graduated to the top level Rent-a-Racecar capable of competing.
    Terrific article. One you don’t need to know racing to enjoy.
    Mainstream publications should be picking that feel good deal up.

  3. Liz, if you drive, that would preclude parking lot sangrias, etc. Think this through.

  4. nathan casillas says

    Rent a racecar is 100% worth it. There is nothing that tops the fun and excitement more then this! If its your passion, GO AFTER IT!

  5. nathan casillas says

    I feel I could put rent a racecar in victory lane soon!

  6. Bill Realist says

    I remember a couple years ago when that kid from the USAC dma that runs in Vermont put one of those cars pretty close to the front. Matt champagne I think his name was.

  7. Ah the Mamas and Papas and California Dreaming. Brings we oldies back doesn’t it. Thinking one of these cars could win may be California Dreaming as well.
    With all due respect I doubt you will be seeing a Rent-a-Racecar in the winners circle. Even a visit to the podium would be a momentous. The top car is competitive with first line equipment as has been documented in these pages. But all the front runners who put so much into their cars are singularly focused in doing everything they can to get the most speed they can. Rent-a-Racecar cannot match that effort nor should they be expected too unless it’s contracted for in a special season long deal. Winning is not remotely in their business model for any of the per race cars. Safety, education and entertainment is.
    Is it worth it? Darned tootin it is for anyone contemplating putting together a car of their own. Test the waters first to see if it’s for you. Could be you’re not cut out for it and the lesson could save you tens of thousands of dollars while giving you the same once in a lifetime thrill. And you can’t beat that wreck fee that has a cap on it when things go haywire.

  8. Liz Cherokee says

    The more I think about this, the more fun it sounds! What is the wreck fee? I should probably know since I’m going to drive with some chutzpah!

  9. “Liz, if you drive, that would preclude parking lot sangrias, etc. Think this through.”

    No worries! I’m sure cupholders could be installed for a small upcharge.

  10. nathan casillas says

    Liz reach out to me. I will give you all the info needed! send me a message!

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