The 2020 Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour season saw Jonathan Shafer emerge as one of the series’ most promising young drivers while piloting the #2 Toyota for Nelson Motorsports.
Although Shafer failed to find victory lane, he came away from the campaign having learned a significant amount of information about Late Model racing and now enters 2021 more confident in his ability to put together complete races.
“We we’re trying to get comfortable with the team during those first three races,” Shafer said. “Throughout the year, we set little goals like Top 10s and we ended up accomplishing most of them even though we got in a few wrecks, but I couldn’t have done any of this without Bobby McCarty. He was a great driver coach and taught me everything I know about Late Model Stocks.”
Shafer’s debut race in the CARS LMSC Tour at Southern National Motorsports Park saw him bring home a ninth place finish after he started 19th, but he would not score another Top 10 until the series visited Hickory Motor Speedway for the Catawba Valley 200 on Aug. 1.
The best race for Shafer in 2020 came in the Radley Chevrolet 125 at Dominion Raceway, where he qualified on pole and led a race-high 58 laps. Mechanical issues prevented Shafer from contending for the win, but he was able to salvage the evening with a career-best fourth place finish.
Shafer was only able to score one more Top 10 in the CARS LMSC Tour at Franklin County Speedway a few weeks later. He attributed some of his struggles to his overall inexperience in Late Model racing while simultaneously competing against strong competitors in McCarty, Layne Riggs and eventual champion Jared Fryar on a regular basis.
“The competition up north is not as hard as it is down south in the CARS Tour,” Shafer said. “You have to be aggressive and there’s a whole different driving style because it’s a completely different chassis from the Pro Late Models. I had to overcome those challenges.”
Outside of Late Model racing, Shafer also developed his skills on dirt tracks by competing in USAC Midget races for Keith Kunz Motorsports, whose long list of stellar alumni includes Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Rico Abreu and Bryan Clauson.
Shafer’s ended up bringing home his first USAC Midget podium at Circus City Speedway in August, and he believes that he can eventually duplicate that success in pavement racing by carrying over the knowledge and techniques obtained from dirt tracks and using that information to get the most out of his car.
“I feel like the dirt really helps me on the asphalt,” Shafer said. “They kind of balance each other out and I don’t think too many people are aware of those perks, which include car control and throttle control. When some people get right on the edge in the asphalt car, they don’t how to save it when they’re on the verge of spinning out, but in dirt, you are always turning right.”
When Shafer has not been competing in Late Models or Midgets, he has devoted his time towards his charity Race to Feed Families, which is geared to not only providing food for children that are in need, but also for their parents and extended family members.
Shafer travels around to several different Salvation Army locations in his area to serve food to families while also talking to them about his career and all of the different components that go in to building a successful car.
While Shafer said that his strong run at Dominion and his podium at Circus City were highlights of 2020 season, he admitted that he is proud of what’s been accomplished through Race to Feed Families and hopes to see the charity grow more in the coming years.
Now that the offseason is underway, Shafer intends to reflect on the positives and negatives from his 2020 campaign and already has an idea on what he needs to do to finally break through for his first victory when 2021 comes around.
“Seat time will be important, but tire management is definitely going to be the big one,” Shafer said.”
Shafer will return to Kunz’ operation to run more dirt races next year, but will not be back with Nelson Motorsports in Late Models after skipping the Old North State Nationals at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. Shafer is currently finalizing a deal with a different organization and hopes to announce his 2021 Late Model plans soon.