Inside Portage High School in Portage, Indiana, Paul Shafer Jr. is busy studying and maintaining a 4.3 GPA. When he is not studying, he gets behind the wheel of his Super Late Model to study what it takes to be successful in the sport of Stock Car Racing.
Last year, at the age of 16, he won the Super Late Model track championship at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Indiana. This weekend, the half-mile paved oval will host the Border Wars II 150 between the ARCA Midwest Tour and ARCA/CRA Super Series, both of which are series that Shafer plans to run for Rookie of the Year honors in this season.
Winning the track championship is part of his ultimate goal of making it to the higher levels of NASCAR.
He has a game plan on how to succeed to that level and is in the middle of that plan now, but first he will return to Illiana on Monday with hopes of picking up a big win at his home track.
“I’m excited to just go back, I haven’t been there all year,” Shafer recently said. “Our car that we won the track championship with, we haven’t taken it there yet.”
After visiting so many new tracks, he is excited about going home to a familiar track this Monday.
“Illiana is where I learned how to drive the car,” Shafer said. “We are learning a lot more in running touring series events because of the variety of track we race at in the ARCA Midwest Tour and ARCA/CRA Super Series.”
Shafer has raced the past two years in the Super Late Models at Illiana in their Saturday night Super Late Model division. In 2012, he finished third in points at the age of 15. A year later, he was able to put a track championship on his resume.
“I was happy to win the track championship at the age of 16, but I am 17 now,” Shafer reminded us. “Being able to win the track championship was great. Our whole crew was happy about it.”
Like most other young drivers, Shafer started racing in Bandoleros and Legends before moving up to full-bodied stock cars. He raced all over in those two types of cars from Charlotte to Kentucky.
He finished second in 2011 at the Fall Festival at the Indianapolis Speedrome with his Legend car, where he won three out of five races. In 2010, he won 43 races in his Bandolero.
After winning his Super Late Model title at Illiana, Schafer felt it was time to branch out more and start racing at different tracks.
One of the places he visited at the end of the 2013 season was the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
“I love the Derby, we had a blast. We went down there with a dually and a 32’ trailer and we got to park next to all of the big rigs, toterhomes, and 44’ stackers,” Shafer recalled. “Just to be able to go out there and qualify 15th and finish 17th was really cool, especially among a lot of good drivers.”
The Derby was a great learning experience for the young scholar.
“I learned a lot that day. That was the first time I did a live pit stop, ran 300 laps, and learned not to run out of water before the first caution.”
This year, Shafer is running for the Rookie of the Year title in both the ARCA Midwest Tour and the ARCA/CRA Super Series. Which will keep him busy on most weekends.
“There is only one conflicting date in August between the two series, so we are going to see where we are at that time,” Shafer said. “If we are doing well in both, we will continue to run the full season in each. If we fall off in one, we will stick with the other.”
Shafer feels as though both tours offer great competition and a variety of different race tracks to help further along his development.
“I want to make it to NASCAR, that is my ultimate goal,” Shafer said. “As far as how to get there, the first thing is we have to excel here and that is going to take some work. We got some work to do here as we are struggling right now.”
After high school, his goal is to attend Duke University and get a law degree. When asked what he hopes to do with that, he had a specific answer.
“I’m just going to try to get a law degree to be able to read contracts and know the law. Then I eventually want to open up a business and be capable of doing so.”
What kind of business will he open?
“Depends on which type of business makes the most amount of money,” Shafer said. “Well, you know, you have to fund racing, and it’s not cheap.”