Paul Shafer Jr. finished 21st in the 53rd Annual Snowball Derby Sunday afternoon. As he took the checkered flag at Five Flags Speedway, it ended a tumultuous week that saw its share of ups and downs.
As many other teams do, he arrived to Pensacola from Portage, Indiana Saturday ready to test ahead of the biggest Super Late Model race in the country. However, rain and a blown motor derailed those plans and left the team scrambling.
The problems would continue from there.
“We actually got down there Saturday and then we were going to test that Sunday before they gave us some rain. Then Monday we got three laps of testing and the motor just blew up,” Shafer told Speed51. “That put us out for another couple days, and then Thursday we were ready to go out again and the second practice the rear end broke, broke a driveshaft and a piece close to it.
“We had to actually buy a new one from Hamner, which is one of them deals where we didn’t want to do it that way. The other one threw a rod and was pretty much junk, it damaged the block and the oil pan and everything else.”
After repairing the rear end Thursday night, the struggles to find speed continued through Friday practice. Qualifying would be a different story, when they ripped off a lap that would lock themselves into the starting field.
“Going into Friday we were a little bit behind the eight-ball in terms of lines and knowing where I needed to be a little bit. On Friday we were struggling to get some speed, just all around struggling to get it right. In qualifying we got lucky and busted off a really good lap, so that made it all worth it.”
Shafer matched his 2018 result with a 21st place finish after starting 19th. He maintained that track position for the majority of the event while polesitter Derek Thorn set a blistering pace. He was caught a lap down just before the first competition yellow around the lap 100 mark, which helped set the tone for the rest of the race.
“The first run we actually had a pretty good car but Derek Thorn was just so fast. He put down a blistering pace early in the going. We got lapped there in the first run and we were one out when the competition yellow came out. We were set back from the get-go and we were never able to get it back. He was on a blistering pace and lapping more and more cars so we were never in that position to get the lucky dog again.”
All things considered, Shafer counted the 2020 Snowball Derby a big success after overcoming early mechanical issues. He was able to make his third start in the race in five tries, locking himself into the show through qualifying
“It was awesome. We were 19th, which you tell everybody in the country you qualified 19th, it’s one of them deal where they say well that’s not that good, but to be in the Derby, it’s something that’s totally different and special. A lot of the guys back home didn’t make it on time, Chase Elliott didn’t make it on time, to be in the top 30 down at the Derby is really special.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo