COLUMBUS, Ind. – Fourteen-year-old Jonathan Shafer has become the latest young gun to join the growing midget roster at Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Racing this season.
Shafer, from Ashland, Ohio, will run a limited schedule of roughly 10 races with the Toyota-backed midget team. After starting in micro sprints, this year will mark Shafer’s first foray into midget racing.
“I’m really, really excited and can’t thank Keith (Kunz), Pete (Willoughby) and Toyota Racing Development enough for giving me such a great opportunity,” Shafer told Sprint Car & Midget. “Anyone who knows about midget racing knows Keith’s name, and in my eyes, they’re the best midget team out there. To be able to work with them is huge for me and I can’t wait to get started with them.”
“I love it anytime that we can bring a new young kid onto the scene,” added Kunz. “Jonathan is only 14 years old, so that really gives us a great opportunity to mold him into a driver as we work on the learning curve he faces, with not having really any midget experience. His background in the late models is impressive, so I’m excited to get him into a car this summer and see what he can do.”
Shafer will debut with KKM on May 22 at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill., with the POWRi National Midget League.
In all, the Buckeye State teenager will compete at Belle-Clair, Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway, Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill., and Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway in POWRi action.
He’ll also make USAC Midwest Regional Midget appearances at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway and Paragon (Ind.) Speedway as well.
It’s a diverse schedule that Shafer admitted he couldn’t have pictured when discussions began between his family and the KKM squad in January around the Tulsa Shootout in Tulsa, Okla.
“My dad (former NASCAR Truck Series part-timer Todd Shafer) actually started talking to Keith at the Tulsa Shootout about me running a midget with them … and it was about two weeks later that I got to go up to his shop in Indiana and we really sat down and started looking at what some of those races would look like,” the younger Shafer recalled. “Keith showed me around the shop and how they work on the cars and everything, and I was blown away. It was so methodical in how they go about everything.
“They put the time in and the effort in, and you can see that with everything they do,” Shafer continued. “That’s the kind of team a driver wants to be a part of and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
Shafer noted that he’s already spent time on the iRacing motorsport simulation service in order to prepare for some of the things he might face when he gets to his first race with KKM in May.
“Me and my micro buddies, we’ve been on iRacing running the midgets a lot, just to try and get a good grip on them,” Shafer said. “It’s pretty realistic and I feel that it does help you a lot. I don’t know that I know entirely what to expect, but I feel like I have a little bit of an idea and as a young driver, that’s really all you can ask for.”
As he prepares to take the next step and compete in the national spotlight, Shafer admitted he was still absorbing just how quickly he’s reached the point in his career that he sits at going into 2020.
“Man, not even just a few years ago, I was in a quarter midget and an outlaw kart … and two years later I’m running late models and getting to suit up with the best team in midget racing. It’s unbelievable,” Shafer sounded. “I’m so grateful to all the supporters and partners who have helped me get to this point and believed in what I can do in racing.
“We’re going to learn a lot this summer, but we’re going to have a lot of fun along the way, too.”