Illiana track champs look ahead to next season
BY RYAN HASKELL Post-Tribune correspondent December 30, 2013 11:20PM
Updated: February 3, 2014 2:55PM
Paul Shafer, Jr. made history this season at Illiana Motor Speedway winning the Super Late Model division championship at the age of 16 making him the youngest champion in the track’s 66 years.
He, along with John Senercia (Turbo Stox champion) and Chris King (Legends champion) were honored in November at the annual awards ceremony to celebrate the end of the season.
Shafer, Jr. defeated John Nutley, 1787 points to 1703 points, to claim the title in just his second season at the track. Schafer, Jr. finished third (1894) his first year behind “Fast Eddie” Hoffman (1978) and D.J. Weltmeyer (1938).
The Portage High School junior said his experience last season helped him gain confidence on the track while a new car proved to be exactly what he needed to improve speed and time.
“From year 1 to year 2, I gained a lot more experience,” he said. “I went to more tracks too; I went to Grundy (County Speedway in Morris, Ill.) at the beginning of the year.
“We got a new crew chief in Chris Purdy and got a new pathfinder chassis; last year we had a rod performance chassis. With the pathfinder, there was more opportunity to connect with the car and Chris has been working with pathfinder for the past 12-13 years. That gave us an advantage.”
Shafer, Jr. said the goal was to beat the champ Hoffman every time he got to the starting line.
“From Day 1, it was everybody’s goal to beat Eddie Hoffman,” he said of the multiple track champion. “He’s the fastest guy out there so we have to beat him.”
The junior won three straight races in July to help him earn that championship trophy.
Now he’s looking to accomplish more next season. He plans to race more outside Illiana Speedway. He’s planning to get involved with the CRA Super Series, which is planning to come down to Schererville for a 150-lap race on Memorial Day weekend. The Border Wars II race — part of the ARCA Midwest Tour — has a race on that same weekend too.
“I ran a few races with the tour this year,” Shafer, Jr. said. “I can’t wait till they come down because we won the championship this year and we run pretty good at Illiana so it would be awesome to win at Midwest Tour event.”
Senerchia battled down to the wire winning the Turbo stox title taking the title on the final night as he held off Jacob McKown by 12 points to win the crown. King earned his third Legends division crown beating out Paul Shafer, Sr., Jacob Melvin and Ben Fidone.