August 29, 2014 11:30:07 AM
Kyle Shaw has won five NeSmith Late Model races this year, though his first big-money race win in the division still eludes him.
The Millport, Alabama, native's form this season suggests he's due: three NeSmith Weekly Feature wins at Magnolia Motor Speedway and three Crate Late Model wins at Columbus Speedway. He's second in track points at Magnolia; and he qualified third in two previous NeSmith National Tour races at Magnolia this season.
The qualifying runs in the national races were followed by places in the top four, deep into each race, before misfortune found Shaw and forced him into finishes of 13th and 15th.
"Some things have to go your way, even when you're consistently running up front," Shaw said.
Shaw's confident, though, he has been taxed enough by the game, and that his success and the improvements made this season bolster his odds of reaching victory lane Sunday in the NeSmith National Late Model, $2,000-to-win feature at Magnolia.
"We're pretty dialed in," Shaw said. "We don't change a whole lot. The biggest thing is these races are 40 laps (weekly shows are 20), so the lap traffic is always a factor. You have to qualify in the first three rows to have a shot."
Shaw said he has been buoyed this year by teammate Jeremy Shaw (no relation), his friend of 25 years and sometimes crew chief on race days. Though the pair run in the same division, they'll take turns taking a week off to travel to tracks like Greenville, where Jeremy won a race in which Kyle coached him after runs. Jeremy returned the favor, running crew for a pair of wins Kyle posted at Columbus Speedway.
"The input from Jeremy at the track is really valuable," Kyle said. "We're much harder to deal with when one of us is crewing for the other."
Kyle won't have that advantage this weekend, as both he and Jeremy will race at Magnolia.
They won't be the toughest competition for each other, though, as the national tour attracts drivers from outside the area.
But local drivers have finished in the top five of each of the two previous races. There will be just as great of a challenge Sunday, said Columbus' Shay Knight.
"Your cars up front at weekly shows -- the Shaws, Johnny Stokes, Evan Ellis -- I'd put them against the top ones that travel week in and week out," Knight said. "There's no room for error in a race like Sunday -- not that you don't during weekly shows -- but there's more money on the line."