2021 Usac Imw Circle City Jonathan Shafer Sam Johnson Battle Jacob Seelman Photo
Jonathan Shafer (67k) battles Sam Johnson at Circle City Raceway on Wednesday. (Jacob Seelman photo)

Driver Diary: A Tough Opening To Shafer’s Midget Week

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Shafer is a 15-year-old driver from Ashland, Ohio, currently in his second part-time season competing for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports as part of the Toyota Racing Development pipeline. Sprint Car & Midget will be following Shafer’s performance throughout the second half of USAC Indiana Midget Week as he wheels the No. 67k Bullet-Toyota.

Below is a recap of his USAC Indiana Midget Week debut at Circle City Raceway and a look ahead to Thursday’s round at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind.

INDIANAPOLIS – We knew going into our Indiana Midget Week debut that it was going to be a learning experience. After all, these are the best midget drivers anywhere in the country.

I also knew I’d have a bit of a learning curve with adjusting back to the midgets from my pavement late model, because the two cars drive differently and it takes some different skills to be successful on the dirt compared to the pavement.

Man, was Circle City a lot of learning, though. It was a bullring that had some character to it, and we were trying to figure it out just like everyone else was since it was a new track for USAC as a series.

We started off the night in qualifying pretty solid, though for a minute it didn’t look like it would be that way because the car wouldn’t fire off the first time we pushed out for hot laps. We got that resolved, though, and from there things began pretty smoothly for us.

I was happy with our qualifying speed overall. We ended up 15th and outqualified three of our KKM teammates – Daison (Pursley), Buddy (Kofoid) and Bryant (Wiedeman) – so that was something I was pretty proud of.

Everyone just told me where the line was at, and I ran it to put down a good time. It was a good car. Unfortunately, from there, things turned out a bit less well by the end of the night.

In the heat race, we were doing pretty good until I got put three wide, and then I got ran up to the wall a little bit before we really just settled in outside of a transfer spot. It wasn’t what we wanted and we got relegated to the B main, but we were just stuck deep (in the field) after we lost our momentum.

We started seventh in the B main and gave ourselves a chance to run into the top six for a transfer spot (into the feature). We hung there in seventh for a while, but once I got moved up off the bottom, it was hard to get back down in a good spot because everyone in USAC is super aggressive. You can’t give an inch.

I was just surprised how rough everyone was in the back. We fell back a bit there, and then on the restart, someone just spun out ahead of us and I got drove into the crash before we ended up 11th. Before that, I had in my mind on that restart that I was going to try and run the middle, but I didn’t get a chance to do that before everything piled in around us.

We had good speed and that’s something we’re looking to build on. We were just a little bit off when it mattered. I’m excited about Lincoln Park on Friday; it’s a track that KKM has had some good runs at in the past, so that gives me some confidence even though it’s going to be a new track to me.

As always, I can’t say thank you enough to Keith Kunz, Pete Willoughby, Jack Irving, Tyler Gibbs, KKM’s driver coach Jay Drake and everyone with KKM, TRD and all their partners.

I appreciate everyone reading, and if you can make it to the track tonight, I hope to see you there!

– Jonathan

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