March 16, 2012 3:08:29 AM
Don't discount the power of the classifieds.
Jeremy Shaw hadn't considered selling his Open Wheel Modified vehicle. But it didn't hurt to look at the online classifieds. After all, you never know what you're going to find. Besides, the number of Open Wheel Modified opportunities in the Columbus area were diminishing, so why not.
A few clicks later Shaw couldn't believe what he discovered. A man in Colorado had a Crate Late Model that he was interested in selling.
The possibility intrigued Shaw.
The Crate Late Model action in Alabama and Mississippi was picking up, so Shaw called his father, Mike, who owned his Open Wheel Modified and asked his opinion.
"He said it sounded like a good deal," Shaw said.
The deal turned out to be a trade of one running car for another running car. The sellers met in Dallas to exchange cars and were racing their new purchases that weekend.
"It didn't cost either one of us any money out of our pockets," said Shaw, 27. "It was not something I had planned."
Two years later, Shaw has adjusted nicely to Crate Late Model racing. After winning 40 Open Wheel Modified races since he started competing in 2001, Shaw earned his first Crate Late Model victory in November 2010 at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus.
On Saturday, Shaw, who is from Millport, Ala., will be back in Columbus to compete in the 17th annual James King Memorial at the grand re-opening of Columbus Speedway.
Shaw, who attended South Lamar High School, ran second at Magnolia Motor Speedway in the season opener. He said he never could have imagined the trade would work out so well for both parties.
"I couldn't have expected to be this successful with it," Shaw said. "I knew I wanted to race and I knew what it was going to take to keep doing it, and I knew I was probably going to run in a different class. A lot of the (Crate Late Model) races we went to (after trading cars) we kind of surprised ourselves at how we came out of the box. The car runs good pretty much everywhere we go, and that is not always a given."
Typically, Shaw said cars that get traded don't include motors. This time, though, he said neither driver was going to benefit from the motor, so they left them in the cars. The decision helped both drivers get started immediately. Shaw didn't waste any time. He quickly adjusted to the 400-horsepower engine and the 14-inch tires that gripped the track better and actually provided a second to a second and a half better speed.
Like any driver, Shaw worked and tinkered on the car with the help of Kyle Shaw (no relation), who works as his crew chief, and they created a set-up they liked.
The finished package worked wonderfully. Shaw said his worst finish last season was seventh and that he consistently finished in the top five. The success has surprised him and has pushed him to do better.
"It has been worth every minute of it," Shaw said.
Shaw started racing in 2001 in the Pro Street Class. He won the Pro Street Track Championship at Columbus Speedway in 2002. He moved up to the Open Wheel Modified division in 2003 and won the track championship at Magnolia Motor Speedway in 2004. After eight years of success in that division, Shaw jumped at the chance to move to Crate Late Models. He hasn't regretted it.
"I have been blessed to run up on that deal," Shaw said.
Shaw had eight wins, 12-15 quick times and finished second in the weekly point series last season. Despite his success, he said it really isn't up to him to judge his skills. He said he will leave that up to his peers and to the fans. Still, he feels he has improved and learned how to balance aggressive driving with shrewd decision-making to keep in the hunt in as many races as possible.
That attitude has helped him off the track. He works for his father's logging business in Millport, Ala., and finds as much time as possible to work on his car and to race on the weekend. He said he limits his racing to a four- to five-hour radius to make sure the financial and time commitments are worth it.
So far, that strategy has paid off nicely, especially for someone who had only drive a Crate Late Model once or twice before the trade. Shaw hopes to build on his success this season and to concentrate on the Crate Late Model series throughout the year.
"I have been pleased," Shaw said. "As a racer, there is always room for improvement. If I am not winning every race then I am leaving something on the table. I really try to push myself to stay as close to the top as I can be.
"I feel like we can run with anybody if we put ourselves in the right position. As long as we are making the right decisions, we can be competitive with anybody."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.