In his last two trips to the Snowball Derby, Paul Shafer Jr. has become a bit of a social media star. Video interviews from Racing America and other short track racing outlets have gone viral both last year and in 2019 for his vibrant personality, and has drawn attention from the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCARcasm.
“Yeah, that’s true. Last year it was the 'To win it, you’ve got to be in it,' and the year before or a couple years prior it was Dale Jr. tweeting at me because I had a mustache and gold frame glasses. It’s all fun, I love going down there.”
He returns to the Snowball Derby for the sixth time next week, looking to make the race for the third straight trip and fourth overall. His best finish in the race came in his debut in 2013 when he finished 17th, while having finish 21st in each of his last two starts.
Shafer has been a mainstay at the Snowball Derby for most of the last eight years, thanks in part to the competition and the stage the race provides.
“I love going down there and I love how big of a race it is. I love going there and trying to beat the best in the country. That’s the appeal for me, there’s a lot of good drivers and a lot of good competition. A lot of good drivers have won that race in the past.”
The 2021 season saw Shafer finish third in the ARCA Midwest Tour standings while picking up the biggest win of his career in the Gandrud Auto Group 250 at Wisconsin International Raceway. In that race, he held off late charges from Sammy Smith and Luke Fenhaus while on 150-plus lap old tires, of which he likened it to an antelope being chased through the woods in an animal documentary.
It’s a win that’s still talked about in Midwest racing circles thanks in part to that interview and a video package posted on social media by Bruce Nuttleman, and one that has him feeling good going into the Snowball Derby.
“We’ve had an awesome year. Kaukauna’s obviously the major one, everybody’s still talking about that one with the interviews and stuff from that race, it was definitely crazy. It was the biggest win of my career and my guys hooked me up real big with that one. We won it on pit strategy really, it was super cool.
“We were able to win that big one up at the Dixieland and then we picked up five or six local shows at Grundy. It was a pretty good year, really.”
He made his Snowball Derby debut in 2013 as a relatively unknown teenager fresh off a track championship at the former Illiana Motor Speedway and turned heads with his performance during the week. Eight years later, Shafer has since inserted himself as one of the Upper Midwest’s top drivers.
He says one thing that’s changed since his first time in Pensacola is the level of competition that makes the trek to Florida for the Snowball Derby every year
“When I started going there in 2013, it was a good race, there was a lot of good competition and there were probably a couple more cars than there are now. Now, instead of 65 cars there’s maybe 50 to 55 except the competition level is just that much higher. Every guy there has a shot to win the race, from the first guy entered to the last. There’s just that small chance that he can win the race.”
His success around the Upper Midwest has Shafer confident in his chances at the 54th Annual Snowball Derby. He and his team recently tested for the race and left the test excited for what they will have next weekend.
“I have good people around me and we have good cars, good equipment, good motors, good everything. But to win it, it’s going to take a little bit of luck. We have good equipment and good stuff, we tested a couple days ago and the car was really good. Hopefully that transitions into being good in the race and qualifying and all that.”