CHARLESTON, Ill. — After an extended wait due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio’s Jonathan Shafer will finally take his first step into the midget racing world Friday night with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports.
Shafer, who turned 15 last week, is tackling a weekend doubleheader with the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League at Charleston (Ill.) Speedway and Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind.
The pair of races will be streamed live via SPEED SPORT Network affiliate POWRi TV.
While Shafer has passed his time recently by competing in three CARS Late Model Stock Tour events with Nelson Motorsports, earning a top-10 finish in his debut tour appearance at Southern National Motorsports Park back in February, he hasn’t raced on dirt since the Tulsa Shootout.
That’s something that Shafer is eager to change, as he steps into the dirt side of the Toyota Racing Development pipeline.
“I definitely am excited to get things going this weekend with Keith (Kunz), Pete (Willoughby) and everyone at KKM,” said Shafer. “I can’t thank them and everyone with Toyota Racing Development and TD2 enough for giving me this opportunity. I know what the team is capable of and how good their equipment is, and I know we have all the tools to succeed as I learn the midgets.
“After watching all my teammates race down in Oklahoma (at Port City Raceway and during the Turnpike Challenge) and during Indiana Midget Week, I’m glad it’s finally my turn to be able to roll out and join them.
“Last year and at the start of this year, I drove a dirt micro sprint to get ready for this step up, and we had some speed when we raced at the Tulsa Shootout back in January,” Shafer noted. “I’ve done some iRacing, too, with the midgets, to try and understand more what we’ll be dealing with, but at the same time it never fully prepares you for that first time on track in a new car.
“The midgets, I know, will have way more power and pop more wheelies than the micros did for me, but hopefully we can figure out what makes them tick and get up to speed pretty quickly with KKM.”
Shafer noted that, knowing he’s a relative newcomer to the higher-powered dirt cars compared to most of those he’s racing against this weekend, he has modest goals for the two races.
If he can crack the feature field both nights, however, then his focus will shift to hunting positions, rather than solely absorbing as much knowledge as he can.
“I think the biggest thing, for all of us really, is knowing that Keith has never been to this track,” Shafer pointed out. “So we’ll all be learning the ins and outs of a new place together, and hopefully, we can pick up on what we need pretty quickly. I’m just trying to keep it in one piece, though. All in all, I need laps and seat time, because that’s what will make me better in these cars, so that’s what our focus is on.
“If I can make the feature both nights and just keep the car clean, anything after that is a bonus, and maybe we can surprise a few people along the way, too.”
To watch every race during the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League season, visit www.powri.tv.