Auto Racing: Q-and-A with Paul Shafer Sr.
June 13, 2013 10:57PM
Paul Shafer Sr.
Updated: July 16, 2013 6:17AM
Shafer, 59, of Portage, Ind., began racing on dirt tracks across the Midwest in 1977 and was a track champion at Kankakee Speedway in 1984 and Brownstown Speedway in 1985. In the early 90s, Shafer left oval track racing to concentrate on monster truck events. He has since returned to oval tracks in a Legends car, while helping his son, Paul Jr., begin his racing career.
Is driving a Legends car a bit more leisurely than piloting a dirt track late-model?
Believe it or not, I’m working my butt off trying to make that Legend go. On dirt, we could make mistakes. In these Legends, you can’t. They don’t have any horsepower and really don’t have any tires. If you get out of the groove, five cars will pass you.
When you were a young driver, who did you look up to?
The guys who really ran good then were Bill Davis and Dick Potts. And then Bob Pierce came along and Roger Long.
At the height of your success, you won a heck of a lot of races.
Yeah, one year out of 23 races, I won 18 of them. We had a good setup.
How did that talent develop?
I started traveling, and that really helped me. At Brownstown, in southern Indiana, they would get 50 cars and I wouldn’t make the show. I’d have to run the consy. But I just kept going back and going back and finally started making the show. By 1984 I was pretty much unbeatable.
What was the story behind your number (20th)?
Well (laughing) … the 20th came from the 20th girl I was going out with after I got divorced. That’s kind of crazy, but that’s where the number came from.
You left oval track racing kind of abruptly for the monster truck circuit. What happened there?
Back in the 90s I started racing Mud Patrol (truck racing on mud) and I was making a little bit of money. I’d travel all over the country. Then I built a monster truck and started racing those. By 1992 I said, ‘I can’t do it all.’ It was tough to make your money back (racing late-models) in those days, and I did well in monster trucks. So I hung it up.
What got you back in a race car?
After I left (dirt track racing) I stayed away from them. I only went to a dirt show twice since I quit. But I bought my boy (Paul Jr.) a bandolero and the next thing I knew we were traveling again. He got better and better, so I bought him a Legend. And when I watched him race the Legend, there were two other guys watching their boys down at the (Indianapolis) Speedrome. We said, ‘This is kind of dumb for us to just stand here and watch.’ Let’s go buy one. And all three of us bought one and started racing.
When was the first time your son beat you in a race?
(Laughing) Probably the first time I got in a Legend. He is so much lighter than I am. I’m about 60 pounds too heavy. That’s what makes them Legends go, being light.
How proud are you of Paul Jr.? He’s getting a lot of respect from the veteran drivers at a very young age (16).
He works hard, and the deal with him is he has to get straight A’s (in school) to race. And he does it.
How far can he go?
If he stays at it and keeps trying, I think he can make it (in NASCAR). We’re going to the Milwaukee Mile, and this fall he wants to run the Snowball Derby (in Pensacola, Fla.). Maybe somebody will see him somewhere and foot the bill.
As told to Tony Baranek