ABBOTTSTOWN, Pa. – In just four weeks, the intriguing pairing of Tim Shaffer and Heffner Racing Enterprises has shown flashes of its lofty potential.
Shaffer already has a pair of 360 wins since joining Mike Heffner’s Central Pennsylvania-based team over the winter. In Saturday’s Ice Breaker at Lincoln Speedway, the team’s debut in Posse country, Shaffer surged from 24th to 12th and earned hard charger honors.
If it wasn’t for drawing the sixth-highest pill amidst heavy, weather-affected track conditions, the Pittsburgh native may have had the car to beat. Afterward, the often stoic Shaffer carried a smile.
His tenure with Heffner is only nine races in, but in that short span, the 53-year-old feels reinvigorated again.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had somebody to work with like [Heffner Racing Enterprises], and it goes a long way,” Shaffer said. “I’ve done this long enough. I have that feeling that this can go somewhere. I’m really excited, to be honest.”
Shaffer doesn’t need to prove much else in his sprint car career. He is one of two active drivers with a Knoxville Nationals title and placement in the National Sprint Car of Hall of Fame. The other is Sammy Swindell. He is, quite simply, a living legend.
What he’s sought, though, is job security, which he has lacked these last two years.
Shaffer lost his ride with Demyan-Rudzik in 2019 before finding his way back with the team on a limited basis in 2020. He raced for three teams on a part-time basis last year – Bob Grove, Demyan-Rudzik, and Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing.
“This business is hard,” Shaffer said. “Especially when you do it for a living. Even locally, it’s not an easy gig.”
Now, for something that materialized so late in the silly season game, Shaffer is dangerously comfortable in Heffner’s No. 72 sprint car.
A large part of the instant comfort came from team manager and crew chief Heath Moyle, who joined the team mid-summer last year.
“We’re hitting it off,” Shaffer said. “That’s a part of this whole deal. Everybody has to get along.”
In total, the team has two wins and four podium finishes in nine races this year. The first came night two of the Winternationals on Feb. 12 at East Bay Raceway Park. Eight days later, Shaffer won again with the United Sprint Car Series at Southern Raceway.
Both wins came over 360 ace Mark Smith, something that legitimizes the early results.
“They really do [mean something],” Shaffer said. “Mark Smith is really awesome. When you can win against him, be competitive around him … it just makes you feel good as a whole team. We need to build on it. We’re headed in that right direction.”
This past weekend in the Ice Breaker at Lincoln Speedway, Shaffer rocketed from 24th to 14th in just five laps before he stalled out in the middle of the pack.
He eventually finished 12th, but picked up the event’s hard-charger award.
“We put it back in the box in one piece,” Shaffer said. “We passed a lot of cars on a tough track.”
As far as a schedule for this year, the team will run a good number of races in central Pennsylvania while getting their fair share of travel in as well.
They will head to the World of Outlaws event at Bristol Motor Speedway April 22-24 and target other lucrative shows around the country.
This weekend, Shaffer and crew intend to race at Lincoln on Saturday and Port Royal Speedway’s opener on Sunday.
“We’re trying to make a schedule, but we’re not sure,” Shaffer said. “I need to travel a little bit, but I need to support [Mike] around here. On the other hand, Mike says ‘I know you need to travel, too.’
“Hopefully we can come up with a good schedule for me, [Mike], Heath, everybody involved with the car,” Shaffer added. “That’s always my goal: to keep everybody happy to work hard together and be successful.”
Shafer isn’t too concerned about his schedule. He knows Pennsylvania plays host to quality racing and he’ll be a threat to win wherever he goes.
What matters is Shaffer’s clear, reinvigorated sense of direction.
“I’m not old,” Shaffer said through a grin. “I’m seasoned.
“I’ve been in a lot of situations,” he added. “And I can already see we’re already going down the right path.”