A new season for the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour will formally kick off on Saturday afternoon at Southern National Motorsports Park, where many new faces will do battle against seasoned veterans like Bobby McCarty, Josh Berry and Deac McCaskill.
Among the drivers competing for Rookie of the Year in the Late Model division is 14-year-old Jonathan Shafer, who has teamed up with Timothy Peters and Barry Nelson after finishing seventh in last year’s Fall Brawl at Hickory Motor Speedway with JR Motorsports.
“After we ran [the Fall Brawl] with JR Motorsports, we found out about Nelson Motorsports and went to their shop one day,” Shafer said. “Timothy [Peters] ended up showing us around, one thing led to another and now we’re running a full CARS Tour season.”
Shafer gained his knowledge about auto racing through his father Todd, who made select appearances in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series from the mid-2000s up until the 2010s, with his best overall finish being a 25th in a Truck race at Chicagoland in 2014.
Shafer started racing himself at the age of five by competing in quarter midgets, where he gradually began to learn more about set ups and maximizing his equipment as he progressed through Outlaw Karts and into Pro Late Models.
After making limited appearances in the CRA Late Model Sportsman and Junior Late Model Series last year, Shafer will make the jump to regularly competing in Late Models on the East Coast while also running ten midget races for Keith Kunz Motorsports, which has fielded cars for drivers such as Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson and Rico Abreu.
Shafer believes that balancing out an even mix of pavement and dirt track racing has been beneficial to his overall development and is optimistic that he can apply the knowledge obtained from both fields as he searches for wins with Kunz and Nelson.
“You definitely get a lot more sideways on dirt,” Shafer said. “Whenever you’re on pavement, you have to be nice and smooth, but on dirt, you are always wheeling the car. You need to keep it as straight as possible while also being sideways.”
Shafer admitted that he is always trying to learn as much as he can from those around him to try and improve his on-track performance, adding that spending time with both JR Motorsports and Nelson Motorsports has taught him to roll the corners more frequently to maintain momentum.
The 2019 Fall Brawl at Hickory provided Shafer a lesson about conserving tires on tracks with abrasive surfaces, but his ability to hang with drivers like Sam Mayer and Ryan Vargas during the 200-lap feature has given Shafer confidence about potentially bringing home a win during the first Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour race at the track on March 21.
Langley Speedway is another track that Shafer is looking forward to racing at after logging laps on the simulator, but he affirmed that his goal to start of the 2020 season is to listen to Nelson, Peters and McCarty and avoid trouble so that he gain the respect among the veterans and emerge as a regular at the front of the pack by the end of the season.
“I want to finish these races and get better as the season goes on,” Shafer said. “The thing about the CARS Tour is that I won’t be upset if I don’t win a race because I’ll be out there with so many other great drivers who can help me become a better driver overall.”
Shafer will pilot the #18 for Nelson Motorsports as he attempts to nab a $10,000 paycheck for winning the Solid Rock Carriers 300 Late Model feature on Saturday at Southern National.