After winning a track championship at Illiana Motor Speedway and spending time with CRA, Paul Shafer Jr has become a mainstay with the ARCA Midwest Tour while traveling to the upper Midwest from Portage, Indiana for each event. He starts his fifth full-time season with the Tour Saturday night at Grundy County Speedway for the Wayne Carter Classic.
The Shafer Motorsports stable underwent some changes since last year’s Midwest Tour finale at Oktoberfest, with an addition of a new Super Late Model. Saturday’s event will be the first time his new car will hit the track.
“We’ve got a new Fury car that we’re going to try out, it’s going to be our first time out with that. We’ll see how it goes, it should be pretty good,” Shafer told Speed51. “We tested and it was real good. It’s nice that the Midwest Tour has finally started.”
Shafer got a head start on getting behind the wheel at the Illinois 1/3-mile, having competed in the local Late Model division at Grundy County last Saturday. He set fast time and led throughout the 50-lap feature before finishing second to an area legend.
“We were running our white car and they are on eight-inch tires. We led for a little while there at the end but Eddie Hoffman got us with two to go. He was just a little better and he’s been doing it for so long. This Fury car we’ve got should be a little bit better than the white one we’ve got.”
He competed in select Midwest Tour races for a few years before making the jump to full-time in 2016. In his four years with the series, he has inserted himself as one of the top challengers for the championship. Shafer’s best points result came in his first full-time season when he finished second to current NASCAR Truck Series driver Ty Majeski.
Competing with the Midwest Tour is something he looks forward to every season, noting the competition the series provides week in and week out.
“There’s a lot of good racers in the Midwest Tour. I say it all the time, it’s the best touring series in the country. There’s so many good drivers, so many good crew chiefs,” he said. “A lot of the guys actually work on their own stuff, so when they’re racing they try to take care of their equipment more.
“They race people more the way they want to be raced. It’s nice to be able to race against guys knowing they don’t want to tear their stuff up, and that typically makes for less yellows. It makes it a lot more fun to go out there and race against them.”
Grundy County has become Shafer’s home track away from home after Illiana’s closure in 2015. He was perhaps the driver to beat in the Tour’s most recent stop in 2018, finishing fourth after suffering a setback during the preliminary races.
The two-time defending winner of the Bettenhausen 100, Shafer goes into this weekend’s Midwest Tour opener with added confidence.
“Last time the Midwest Tour was there, we had fast time and run a 14.88. The car was killer. I don’t want to say we should’ve won it because that’s what every guy says. We rolled a one on the invert and we were two laps late getting out there for our heat race, we were changing a transmission and a driveshaft and all those things. We had to start 16th behind all the guys that were locked into the show instead of starting seventh. That made it kind of tough on us.”
Shafer is coming off a sixth-place finish in points last year with one top-five finish. The 2020 season brings another opportunity for him to add more trophies to his Jefferson triumph in 2018 and chase after the ARCA Midwest Tour championship. With uncertainty surrounding what the season will look like, he knows what he has to do if he wants to go into Oktoberfest with a shot at the title.
“This year it’s going to be a little bit different, I don’t know how their season’s going to go or if they’re going to shorten it or run more races or how it’s going to work. In the past, what we’ve always lacked is consistency, just running good at all the tracks and not just half the season, and trying not to get wrecked. When you get wrecked two or three times it really puts a damper on the whole year. It makes it really tough to come back from.”
Saturday’s ARCA Midwest Tour Wayne Carter Classic at Grundy County Speedway will be broadcast live on Speed51, free for premium subscribers. Click here to subscribe today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo