Nate Sayler may not be household name in drag racing yet, but his tireless efforts to claw his way onto the “Street Outlaws No Prep Kings” invitational stage could eventually make him so.
The automobile wholesaler and automotive performance shop owner from Billings, Montana has assembled a world-class racing operation with top-flight tuning know-how to run with the biggest players in the series, going undefeated in a brief stint last season, with sights on a full campaign in 2023. His venture was aided this week by a phone call from Team Cali leader and street racing legend Jay Boddie, who asked Sayler to join his group. Committed to the grueling 15-race season in the “Future Street Outlaws” category, Sayler hopes that his enthusiasm for and devotion to the series will pay off with an opportunity to race his way into the 32-driver program at some point in the near future.
Sayler tasked Larry Jeffers Race Cars with building a 1967 Chevy II, and partnered with Pro Line Racing to put one of its ProCharger-boosted Hemi engines between the pipes. Well-respected tuner Lee White turns the dials, giving Sayler a car he believes could run with Ryan Martin, Kye Kelley, and the rest of the top-dogs in the reality-TV racing series. Sayler has been racing since his teenage years, transitioning from bracket racing and Top Sportsman, to Outlaw 10.5 and Pro Modified on his climb through the ranks. But his newest — and most significant — endeavor in the sport has been with “Street Outlaws,” in a venue that offers him no guarantee of a raceday invite or television time.
“The reason I wanted to race ‘Street Outlaws’ in general is because I watched the 405 and the way they came together as a group when they raced teams from out of town — that’s the kind of racing I’m used to. I’ve been a street racer for a really long time, since I was 15 or 16, and I wanted to be part of that camaraderie…to be part of as group of guys that have a love for drag racing, that go out and help each other get to the top, and kick everyone’s ass that they can, together. And these guys are the baddest SOB’s behind the wheel of a car…they’ve got talent, and I wanted to see if I could hang with these guys. I could’ve come out here and gotten my teeth kicked in, and I still might. But I think we’ve got enough car to compete with them. I’m not out here chasing TV, and honestly, if the TV thing went away but these guys were all still out here racing hard like this in front of big crowds, I’d still be here.”
I’m that guy that will stick my money where my mouth is. I can’t stand guys talking shit and nobody saying, ‘okay, let’s go.’
Sayler got into racing when he was 15 years old, and has been at it in some fashion ever since. “My dad had built a 1973 Dart with a little small-block in it and we shared it. I was so nervous my leg was shaking and I think I still have a picture of me throwing up in the staging lanes,” he tells. “But I’ve been racing ever since. My family is definitely a racing family, from my father that is almost 71 to my daughter who will be debuting her junior dragster at just five years old this year.”
Sayler is a self-admitted Dodge and Mopar aficionado, with such cars as a numbers-matching ’71 Roadrunner, both a Dodge Viper and a Plymouth Barracuda Pro Modified car, a 1970 AAR Barracuda bracket car, 1972 Duster Top Sportsman machine, a 1968 Dart that’s soon to be converted to a small-tire race car, and the ’73 Dart Swinger with a Hellcat engine that he first learned to drag race with.
“My first race car that was just mine was a 1977 Aspen R/T and I ran the sportsman class with it. I slowly started upgrading the car until someone wanted it more than me and bought it. I took that money and bought a new style GTO and put a supercharger on it. We ran the Pro class with that car until my need for old muscle cars overpowered my need for air conditioning and I bought a 1968 Dart. That car went through a bunch of changes, from a basic small-block for bracket racing to a blown 440. But eventually I found the car of my dreams and sold the Dart for a tube chassis 1970 AAR Barracuda, which I’ve owned the longest of any car that I’ve ever had. That car is my baby and will get handed down to my daughter when she’s big enough to reach the pedals. That car has been so good to me. We went back-to-back as Super Pro champion and track champion with this car, and it’s one car that will never be for sale.”
So how did a dyed-in-the-wool Chrysler guy end up with a classic Chevrolet?
“I have a ton of Mopars, and I am hardcore Mopar. The problem is, there isn’t a steel roof and quarter car that would fit a 36-inch tall tire underneath it. My whole thing is, I come with both barrels loaded when I race, and I needed to have a car that was purpose-built for ‘No Prep Kings,’ sitting the way it’s supposed to sit, on the ground, instead of all jacked up in the air. So if you cover the front end and back end of this car, it looks like a Dodge Dart, except it’s a Chevy Nova. It’s the only car like that I could get that people make carbon-fiber front ends and doors for, so that’s how we ended up with a Nova. It’s my favorite Chevy — everyone and their dog loves Camaros, but this is the nicest looking Chevy in my opinion.”
“A friend of mine here ran Pro Modified and introduced me to Pro Line Racing. This is how my 1971 Larry Jeffers-built Barracuda came into play.…so we could go race with the big boys. Eric Dillard [from Pro Line] helped me design a package that would be at the top for what I wanted to do with it. He hooked me up with a Procharger-boosted 481X and introduced me to Lee White, who tuned it all for me. We had some great success with that car, won the Street Car Super Nationals in Las Vegas, won some Outlaw 10.5 and Big-Tire No-Time races with it, but I really wanted to see if I could hang with the guys in “No Prep Kings. So, I got a hold of Eric again and we made a plan, and Larry Jeffers started building us the Chevy II.”
…if you cover the front end and back end of that car, it looks like a Dodge Dart, except it’s a Chevy Nova.
Sayler debuted the gorgeous new car at the Norwalk, Ohio “No Prep Kings” race in late September and won the Futures class in his first start. He returned at Steele, Alabama and won again; at that race came perhaps his proudest moment to date, when he defeated Jim Howe in a much-talked-about grudge race for $3,000 that had lit social media ablaze in the days prior.
“Larry and Eric [Dillard] put together what we all thought would be the perfect package,” Sayler says. “Pro Line is where it’s at, let me tell you. For me, this was the only option. Eric told me what to do and I did it. He put together a new ProCharger Hemi with all the fixin’s. A FuelTech FT600 manages the race car, which features an FTSpark ignition system and FuelTech injectors. An M&M Turbo 400 transmission and converter transfer the power through a PST carbon-fiber driveshaft to a custom-built LJRC 11-inch full floater housing, and Strange Engineering center section, axles, and gears. We use Kinetic Engineering shocks and struts from Chris Bell all the way around, along with Weld Racing wheels. And if you have ever seen the wiring in this car, you would agree it is a work of art. Jonathon Homier outdid himself on this one, and not only is it gorgeous to look at, but the functionality is outstanding. It’s got sensors everywhere that help Lee do what he does best.”
“I didn’t want to race a car of this caliber on the street…I wanted to race on a track, be it prepped or not. You hit the walls, and you stay inside of it,” Sayler says of his desire to focus on the track-only “No Prep Kings” series with the Chevy II [he notes some things are also in the works to possibly appear in another of the franchises’ spinoffs].
In addition to White (who has tuned or assisted Pro Mod racers Stan Shelton and Mike Bowman, Pro 275’s Marcus Birt, and Justin Swanstrom’s “No Prep Kings” entry in recent months) Sayler will also have Kyle Pettis helping with the program in 2023.
Sayler is quick to thank his father and other family and close supporters for the opportunity to go racing at this level. “I’ve been racing with my dad since I was 15, and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be car poor, “ he says with a laugh. “My sister, she goes to every race, follows me around the country, buckles me in and makes sure I’m safe. My fiancé, Mandy, and my daughter Hayden FaceTime me every night and support this habit of mine. And my assistant Michelle at the office does anything and everything to keep my business running smooth while I’m gone.”
Sayler is confident yet humble, reserved and calculated, saying he prefers to let his car do the talking, and even admittedly a bit shy of the camera and the lights. But what he’s not is shy to creating opportunities to show what his car is made of.
“I’m that guy that will stick my money where my mouth is. I can’t stand guys talking sh-t and nobody saying, ‘okay, let’s go.’ And that’s why I raced Jim in Alabama — he talked sh-t all week, saying nobody would call him out, that he was the fastest ‘No Prep Kings’ racer out there. ‘Well, you got your ass drug by a nobody,” he says with that air of confidence and pride.
“We’ve got a pretty good following from fans, we had a bunch of fans that came and saw us at both races,” he adds. “That’s the thing with me, I don’t pretend to be something I’m not…you won’t see a different person on TV than you do in person. I’m the same dude, be it boring or whatever it may be, I’m the same guy either way. But we want to be a contender in ‘No Prep Kings’ and show them we can run with them.”
“It’s going to cost me a lot of money, but the end of the day, I want to put in every effort that I can to do this, and if I fail, then I failed knowing I did all that I could. But if I don’t do all that I could, then I’m just doing what everybody else is doing,” he says.
It was that commitment to success that caught the eye of Boddie. “He told me they want team members who are going to chase the whole series and help everyone grow, and he said we’d like to have you join our team this year,” Sayler says of the call from the Team Cali captain.
Sayler joins a potent roster of West coast racers that includes Boddie and his son, Jay Jr., Eric Kvilhaug, Brandon James, Mike Bowman, Giuseppe Gentile, James Strang, Jerry Jahnsen, Tony Aneian, Emmanuel Mayorga, and Danny Topol.