Logistically speaking, DJ Shaw had not spent a whole lot of time chasing his first career Pro All Star Series (PASS) North championship. In his own mind, however, it felt like a long journey.
After back-to-back seasons of coming up just short and finishing third in series points, the Center Conway, New Hampshire driver secured his first career PASS North championship by finishing second in the season finale at Maine's Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday.
“We haven’t raced many years full-time, but we’ve been third for the last two and just so close,” Shaw told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It’s like less than 30 points combined for two years is how much we’ve missed it by. We’ve just been so close for so long. To finally put it on my resume and get it for the guys that have worked so hard the past three years is great.”
In order to secure his first career championship, Shaw needed to hold off one of the best Northeast Super Late Model racers of all-time in six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark. Shaw entered the season finale with a small cushion over Clark and used a strong runner-up finish Sunday afternoon to finish at the top of the standings.
“We’re racing against the best guys in the Northeast and it’s a big deal for me to especially beat a guy like Johnny Clark,” Shaw said. “He’s the most decorated guy in PASS history, so to beat him it makes you feel like you earned it. It’s just a big deal for me and everybody involved. It’s good to get it for (team owners) Julio and Rita (Miglioli), especially.”
Last season, despite winning the season finale at Oxford, Shaw came up just five points short of Cassius Clark in the championship standings. Throughout the 2014 season, he and his team used that as extra motivation at the shop and at the race track on their way to winning the title.
“We worked a lot harder at it,” said Shaw. “We went back to not having full-time help this year. It was more my responsibility and we picked up a couple volunteers that came one night a week. It was back to more family and fun, doing it because we want to rather than because it’s a job. I think it helped.”
One of Shaw’s most valuable crew members is his dad, 1994 NASCAR Busch North Series champion Dale Shaw. The elder Shaw served as crew chief for his son throughout the 2014 season. Despite their ups and downs, the 2014 PASS North champion said there’s no one else he’d rather work alongside of.
“(He’s taught me) pretty much everything,” said the second-generation driver. “It’s definitely nice to win it with him as the crew chief and everything. Without him I would have never got into racing. We fight a lot, but that’s just a product of being a father and a son. At the end of the day we love it and we wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else.”
In his prime, Dale Shaw was one of the most successful drivers in the Northeast. The now 50-year-old, who still makes spot starts in the Super Late Model ranks, recorded 19 wins, 89 top-fives, and 139 top-10 finishes in 270 career Busch North Series (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) starts.
DJ said that he never really felt the pressure of those around him to live up to the family name, but instead felt as though that pressure was put on him by himself.
“I felt pressure, but it was more pressure put on by myself,” said Shaw. “Nobody really pressured me to live up to anything. The same way I started racing, they didn’t really pressure me to do it they just gave me the opportunity and I tried to do the best I could with everything they gave me.”
In addition to working with his dad at the race track, Shaw is also a full-time employee working with his dad at Dale Shaw Racecars. The father-son duo work around the clock building Late Model and Super Late Model chassis for teams throughout the Northeast and Canada.
In addition to Shaw’s championship car, the duo also built Alex Labbe’s 2014 Serie ACT championship car and 2014 ACT runner-up Jimmy Hebert’s car.
The younger Shaw says the toughest part about working on racecars during the day is avoiding the itch to want to work on his own racecar located in the same shop.
“It’s not too bad,” Shaw said of managing his time between working on customer’s cars and his own. “You’ve just got to make sure you work on customer stuff until five. It’s hard when yours is in the same shop because you want to go out there and mess with it, but we’ve stuck to it all year.”
Because of the amount of work the Shaws have on their hands this time of year with big races taking place throughout the region, DJ didn’t have a whole lot of time to celebrate his championship. He was right back at the shop on Monday morning preparing customer cars.
“Right back to work this morning,” Shaw said in a phone interview on Monday. “We celebrated a little bit last night. I’m glad to just have it out of the way. The pressure is off to get a championship and now we can go after wins for a while without having to worry too much about points.”
Shaw says that his focus will now shift back to winning races. Although he enjoyed his championship run, he admitted that it was stressful being involved in a tight points battle for the majority of the year.
“The points thing, I wouldn’t say it takes all the fun out of it but it makes it a lot more stressful when you’re running for the championship. I just want to get back to why we race and that’s to win races.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Norm Marx