2007 World of Outlaws Season Review: Tim Shaffer
Tim Shaffer was anxious for the 2007 season to begin and rightfully so. After sustaining a serious neck injury at Knoxville Raceway that cut short his 2006 campaign, he headed to Florida early to get the feel for the race car again and to turn some extra laps in preparation for the World of Outlaws season opener, the Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.
It didn't take him very long to get in the groove, earning a Top-Five finish in his first race back behind the wheel at East Bay Raceway. He earned his first Top-Five of the season with the World of Outlaws on the final night at Volusia with a very stout field of over 50 cars in attendance, which began a streak of three Top-Five finishes in the next four events.
Shaffer used 39 Top-10 finishes, with 25 of those being in the Top-Five to earn a ninth-place finish in World of Outlaws championship points. It was the seventh time in his career that he has earned a Top-10 finish in the season standings.
"We went down to East Bay to try to get in a rhythm and that definitely helped," explained Shaffer, driver of the Casey's General Store Maxim. "We were on and off at the beginning of the year. The last three months, we were really strong and had a great team. We worked very well together and had a lot of fun."
From the open of the season at Volusia Speedway Park, until the season finale at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway, the level of competition was at an extremely high level each night of the season with the World of Outlaws in 2007. The average car count for the series in 2007 was 40 cars a night.
"This definitely was one of the most competitive seasons," noted the 1999 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year. "Anytime you have 21 cars following you around it makes the whole program tougher. It also makes it better for the fans."
Of Shaffer's 25 Top-Five finishes, six were runner-up performances. In successive weeks at the end of March, he finished just inches behind Joey Saldana at both Volunteer Speedway in Tennessee and Dixie Speedway in Georgia, thrilling the crowds as he charged off the fourth turn seeking a win in those events. He also turned in runner-up performances at Lake Ozark Speedway in Missouri, Nodak Speedway in North Dakota, Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and at Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas.
"It definitely was frustrating to not win," he commented. "There were eight or nine races that we had a chance to win and I didn't make it happen."
Shaffer was quick to credit his crew, which consists of John "Sparky" Pate and Chris Strait for all of their hard work this season that led to the team's success on the track, along with car owner Lonny Parsons, one of the most respected owners in all of sprint car racing.
"It's hard to keep guys on the road and that is the big key," said the former Lernerville Speedway track champion. "We have to stop running these guys to death. It's not too much about me or the owners. I can fly in or travel differently (to the races), but those guys are working night and day and it makes it harder on them the more travel we have. I am afraid we may lose more guys. It's hard to keep good help on the road. We have to look out after our teams."
Running at the front of the field and being in contention for a number of wins during the season kept Shaffer and his team motivated each time they rolled into the pit area over the course of the always demanding World of Outlaws schedule that stretches from February until early November. He won the Crane Cams Dash three times to earn pole positions during the 2007, and also was quickest in time trials three times as well.
"It helps that's for sure," he said of strong runs helping keep the team inspired. "If I get a win that really helps. When you run in the Top-Five that keeps the team motivated and working hard."
Another highlight of the 2007 season for Shaffer was the chance to compete twice at his home track, Lernerville Speedway in Pennsylvania. In the Commonwealth Clash in May he finished a very solid fourth and backed that up with another Top-Five in the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup in July.
In his first race back at Knoxville since his injury in 2006, Shaffer ran sixth and backed that up with another Top-10 finish in the series second visit of the season to the half-mile in June.
Shaffer reached victory lane late in the season during the 20th annual Short Track Nationals at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the American Sprint Car Series (ASCS), winning the second of three nights of racing at the ¼-mile bullring.
Following the inaugural Outlaws World Finals, Shaffer returned home to Aliquippa, Pennsylvania to be with his family. During the holiday season he will have a chance to catch up with many family members and friends that do not get to see him very often during the racing season. He again plans to head to Florida early in 2008 to turn as many laps as he can prior to the World of Outlaws season opener.
"I will get a lot of time at home over the winter," he said. "That is the reason that I am not going to Australia. I'll only go there if I can take my family. My wife works and my boy is in school so that makes it tough to go over. I would rather be at home with them during that time."
The 30th anniversary World of Outlaws season begins on February 8, 2008 with the 37th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.
Up Next: 2007 World of Outlaws Season Review: Paul McMahan