If not for Tim Shaffer’s victory in the 50th running of the Knoxville Nationals in 2010, Donny Schatz would have won 10 straight Knoxville Nationals features from 2006 through 2015.
Shaffer is one of only two drivers to beat Schatz on Saturday night at the Nationals in the last 12 years, as the late Jason Johnson scored a thrilling upset of Schatz in 2016.
Should the “Steel City Outlaw” add another Nationals triumph this month, it would be his second victory this year worth $100,000 or more. The first came during the Sprint Car World Championship at Mansfield (Ohio) Motor Speedway in late April.
And, that win almost didn’t happen.
Originally, Shaffer, 51, of Aliquippa, Pa., planned to race the entire World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series schedule, meaning he would have been racing at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Texas that weekend, instead of Ohio.
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
Shaffer thought he’d have more crew help to run the tour, but that didn’t materialize and he returned to Ohio after the Outlaws’ swing through California.
“That was the original plan,” Shaffer said. “We started out decent. We came out to California and we were shy a guy. We definitely needed two guys. In Florida, we had three or four. We got to California and it was just me and Cody (Jacobs). It’s just too hard for us to be competitive doing it like that.”
They decided it was in the best interest of the team to come off the road and race closer to home where they’d have more crew help.
“We have different people coming in and out helping,” Shaffer said. “We have a fuller team. It gives us more of a chance to be competitive and put ourselves in position to win races.”
It didn’t take Shaffer long, either, as he rolled to the Mansfield score not long after heading east.
“Coming back and winning that event was awesome,” Shaffer said. “Everything seems to happen for a reason. Not running the outlaw deal, we can run our own schedule and we still have 70-some races for the season. It’s more ideal for our team, so we can be competitive and to give ourselves a chance within our budget and our manpower.”
The big win was a huge confidence boost for everyone involved.
“It was a great accomplishment for the whole team,” Shaffer said. “We have one Charlie Garrett engine, which is awesome. You’ve got to have the whole package.”