TULSA, Okla. — Casey Shuman was already a busy man and in a blink of an eye his life got even more complicated. Not that he is complaining.
Shuman, who has guided the World of Outlaws Late Model Series for the past four years, will add the Xtreme Outlaw Midget and Sprint Car Series to his already full plate. He’s excited but admits there was a moment of reckoning soon after the announcement was made.
“I immediately asked what I got myself into,” Shuman said. “We have been talking about doing this for the last couple of years and we finally sat down and said, ‘Let’s make it happen.’ Then when we got into it, I realized I just ate up every weekend I had. I think it is going to be fun because I love the open-wheel stuff. Who knows where it will end up? It could grow to even bigger and better things.”
Nonetheless, at least for this week, Shuman’s agenda looked a whole lot different. The choice to get back behind the wheel at the Chili Bowl Nationals was an easy one. At the very least this would be therapeutic and a chance to momentarily escape from his other duties. Here all that was required was to try to make it into Saturday night’s grand finale.
“It’s still fun,” he said. “I really enjoy it. In fact, it is probably more fun now because I’m not doing it for a living and dealing with the kind of stress I had for a long time. It’s good to be back and be on this side of the fence, make laps and give someone else a hard time about officiating or scoring or something like that.”
Shuman feels that it is important for him to get back into the mindset of a competitor and to view the world from that perspective.
“I think anyone who is an official should have some sort of racing background,” he said. “Because you can really understand things better. Having real racing experience helps and it also helps me to get into a car and understand how they are now. It’s a little different than when I was doing this full time.”
What clearly has changed is the style of racing in vogue today. Even though he feels he might be more aggressive than in the past, it still takes him time to adjust to the new reality.
“It used to be that a good slide job meant being clear of the front bumper,” he noted. “Now, it seems like if it is clear of your header, it’s good. It is a very very different deal. But the product is amazing and when I watch as a fan it’s exciting. It’s as exciting as any time I can remember.
“Still, it’s tough when you must race like that. You come here and you have all these guys put time and effort into this race. If you get cleaned out in the heat race that’s hard to accept.”
Given this situation, Shuman has empathy for those trying to maintain order and officiate the Chili Bowl impartially.
“I know there have been some judgment calls this week,” Shuman observed, “and I have always been big on not having judgment calls because it is just so hard. But things are getting out of hand. The way people race in this building today compared to 10 years ago is night-and-day different. I’m glad I’m not the one making the calls. I feel like there needs to be something done, but anytime you get into judgment calls it is a very slippery slope.”