Editor’s Note: Jonathan Shafer, 15, is competing both in micro sprints and part-time this season as a rookie in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League. Throughout the course of the year, Shafer will share his experiences with Sprint Car & Midget readers while competing up and down the road.
Shafer drives the No. 97k Toyota-powered midget for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, his first year with the team. Below is Shafer’s first diary entry, introducing himself and previewing the $2,000-to-win Big Dance at U.S. 24 Speedway, an eighth-mile dirt track in Logansport, Ind.
Select entries from Shafer will be free to the public, but the majority of the series will be available to Sprint Car & Midget premium subscribers only. You can become a premium member of sprintcarandmidget.com for just $19.95/year by clicking here.
ASHLAND, Ohio – Hey guys, this is Jonathan Shafer, and I’m excited to be able to tell my story here to the Sprint Car & Midget fan base throughout the rest of this year.
To start off, I just turned 15 years old during Indiana Midget Week, and the way it fell it was one day too late for me to be able to compete in the entire week out there with USAC. I won’t lie, that was a little bit of a bummer, but we got through it!
I grew up actually watching my dad (Todd Shafer) race late models, (NASCAR) Trucks and Nationwide cars, what’s now the Xfinity Series. So we’ve been around racing a long time and it’s really all that I’ve ever known.
I’m from Ashland, Ohio, about an hour north of Columbus. It’s interesting looking at the racing ties near me, though, because if you go through the cornfield near our house, it’s almost right where Tim Richmond grew up. That’s something that’s just really cool about our little town racing-wise.
At five years old, I got my first quarter midget, and I was hooked pretty quickly after that. We raced that for a while and got a lot of wins, and won a lot of championships along the way as well. When I turned 12, I got into a JEGS/CRA late model on the pavement, and that was that first major step up for us.
My dad knows a lot about late models, obviously, because he used to do a lot of late model racing when he was younger, so it made sense for us to go in that direction and at least see what I could do. From there, we also ran some outlaw kart stuff at Milbridge (Speedway in Salisbury, N.C.) to get me some dirt experience, while also doing the late model stuff as well.
We did all of that for about two years, and then when I turned 14 we moved up to micro sprints and running a stock late model to try and keep moving up that ladder. And from there I got into running the CARS Tour this year on asphalt, while the micro has helped me advance over to the midget side on dirt.
Running midgets has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while and really looked forward to, ever since we got into the micros on the dirt. My midget racing plans started at the Tulsa Shootout back in January, when we started talking to people like Jack Irving and Tyler Gibbs about the Toyota Racing Development program and wanting to at least work with their workout and fitness plan.
But that conversation led to some more talks and after talking to Keith Kunz and Jack, that’s how I’ve now ended up with KKM for a handful of races this year. It’s been exciting so far, and I think physically, everything I’m doing with Toyota and on the dirt is helping me on the asphalt side too.
I actually ran my first midget race with KKM last weekend at Charleston (Ill.) Speedway, and man, that was a whole different experience. I learned a lot, though. It almost drives like a winged car, the midget does, or at least that’s what it felt like to me. On the cushion, you can just ride right up on it with the midget; you don’t have to slide up into the cushion like you would with a non-winged car.
That’s one thing I was getting used to, along with just how hard I could drive the midgets into the corner. I learned a lot just from that one race, especially with corner entry, and hope we can keep growing. That’s our main goal in the midget, is just to keep progressing. And then from there, we’ll build so we can go for top fives, then top threes and eventually be battling up front and hopefully contending for the win every race. But just getting better and better every race will be our goal.
I can’t say thank you enough to Keith Kunz, Pete Willoughby, Jack Irving, Tyler Gibbs, my driver coach Jay Drake and everyone with KKM, TRD and all their partners that have given me this opportunity to step up in a bigger way on the dirt and hopefully be able to make the next step in my career as things keep building. We know this is the first step in that process, but hopefully it’s the first of many steps.
I’m really excited about where everything is headed. This weekend, we’re racing a big, $2,000-to-win micro sprint race at U.S. 24 Speedway in Indiana, and then we’ll jump back in the midget next weekend with POWRi in Kansas and Missouri at Humboldt Speedway and Valley Speedway.
It’s a three-day POWRi weekend out there, so that should give us a lot of laps to hopefully check some more boxes, keep growing and learning these midgets. If we do that, the results will come before long. To watch our POWRi races, you can visit www.powri.tv!
Thank you to everyone reading and I hope all of you will keep following our journey this season here on Sprint Car & Midget. I hope to see you at the race track soon!