One of the best annual battlegrounds for Super Late Model drivers is the Pro All Stars Series Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. The annual event held on Easter weekend matches up PASS South drivers against their PASS North counterparts, who traditionally use the race as a final real-world tune-up before chasing championship points in the Northeast.
After a runner-up finish in November’s Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown, DJ Shaw is one of the invaders making the march to North Carolina this week with hopes of bringing another Easter Bunny trophy back to his home state of New Hampshire.
Though he is considered a pre-race favorite for Saturday’s race, Shaw is keeping his cards close to his chest of just how good the No. 60 team is.
“I think we are pretty prepared. We’re trying some new things on the old car we’re running, we’ll see how they go,” Shaw told Speed51.com. “We have a good notebook to go back to from last fall and previous years. Hopefully it’ll work out for us.”
On the other hand, the 2014 Easter Bunny winner was vocal about how much he admires everything about the legendary Hickory Motor Speedway.
“It’s a marquee place, we like to go there a lot,” Shaw stated. “It’s one of my favorite tracks down south and we’ve had good luck previously, so we like to go back. We go there enough so we know who you’re racing against, which helps a little bit. But you never really know who’s going to show up down there and there’s a lot of teams with good stuff. But it’s always fun to get some different competition to race against.”
Throughout this decade, Shaw has established himself and his team as a threat to win at every race they go, picking up 15 Pro All Stars Series race victories and the 2014 and 2016 PASS North titles. But over the past two years, wins have come only every now and then, with Shaw hoping to turn that around beginning this weekend.
“We’ve had highs and lows lately,” he admitted. “We picked up a championship two years ago, but we went from winning three races a year pretty regularly to only winning once a year. Not only do we want to get back to victory lane this weekend but on a regular basis this year.”
Shaw attributes the difficulty of getting wins to just how close PASS competition has become, especially on the North tour that he competes in regularly.
“It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of multi-time winners in PASS any more like there was a few years ago. Benjamin and a few guys win two races a year, but it’s very rare you see three. It seems like we get second and third a lot, but there’s one guy that hits it randomly every race. It’s getting harder to be that one guy with the dominant car; it seems to change more than it ever has.”
Despite not winning as much as he’d like, Shaw has no plans to change his driving style in a late-race battle. He feels that the way to win races is to first win the war in the shop.
“I feel like we try to win everytime without being the bad guy. Sometimes you get a little aggressive, but every situation is different,” he said. “I always go for the win. Sometimes you can get aggressive and know that you’re not going to hurt yourself in any way, but other times the car is just good enough for second and you have to settle for that.”
Beyond Hickory, the No. 60 team will have to regroup quickly, with the first two races of the PASS North 2018 campaign coming in the two succeeding weeks at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) and Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). As expected, he and the team has it all planned out.
“We have a separate car for Thompson with the big engine. We have both cars ready to go, hopefully everything goes smooth at Hickory so we can turn the Hickory car around for Oxford and have it ready before we even go off to Thompson.”
As usual, Dale Shaw Racecars will be well represented across the board, including out of the team’s New Hampshire shop all throughout 2018.
“We’ve got Gabe Brown back and they picked up another car from (Matt) Matheson. He’s going to be running that one at Hickory,” Shaw explained. “All his stuff is kept in our shop and based here and he works on them every day. He’s going to go for points at Oxford right now and when he can he’s going to run his other car to a few other past shows he wants to hit up when he can. We’ll have a full plate with him and we’ll have Derek Kneeland running four or five times for us during the summer. He’s got a pretty busy schedule spotting for Kyle Larson but when he’s available he wants to race and hopefully we can have some good success with him.”
Success is exactly what Shaw will be looking for this weekend at Hickory and throughout the 2018 season. Race fans can watch Shaw and a strong field of Super Late Model drivers via a live pay-per-view video broadcast of the Easter Bunny 150. Live video tickets can be purchased for $19.99 by clicking here.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Pro All Stars Series