After completing his first full-time season in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour, Ashland, Ohio native Jonathan Shafer will move over from Nelson Motorsports to Lee Pulliam Performance in 2021 as he attempts to gain more experience and collect his first victory.
Shafer, who is set to pilot the same car that Corey Heim drove to a third-place finish in the series point standings last year, wanted to log as many laps as possible against drivers such as past champions in Josh Berry and former teammate Bobby McCarty, but he is optimistic in his ability to be more competitive as he moves over to Pulliam’s operation.
“Last season was a real good learning year,” Shafer said. “We were close to a win, but we just weren’t quite there. I think that taking the experience I obtained from last year over to Lee Pulliam’s team will help us close that gap and get that first win this year.”
In his debut race with Nelson at Southern National Motorsports Park in March, Shafer methodically worked his way up from a 19th starting position to bring home a solid ninth-place run. Shafer initially struggled to find consistency following the pandemic break, but he ended up matching his career-best run of ninth at Hickory Motor Speedway in August.
Shafer’s best run of the season would come during the following race at Dominion Raceway, where he started on pole and led the first 58 laps before a mechanical issue forced him to pit from the lead. Although he was not able to climb back to the front, Shafer still managed to secure his career-best run in the CARS LMSC Tour to date with a fourth-place finish.
An eighth at Franklin County Speedway would be Shafer’s last Top 10 finish of the 2020 CARS LMSC Tour season, as he finished behind the wall at Carteret County following a late-race accident before concluding his season with a disappointing 16th-place run at Florence Motor Speedway.
During his time competing in Late Models for Nelson, Shafer also took part in a handful of USAC Midget races for Keith Kunz Motorsports, and put together several solid performances, including a third-place run at Circus City Speedway in Indiana.
Shafer said that splitting time between pavement and dirt has enabled him to figure out his own driving style and led to more confidence and success in each discipline, and intends to maintain his commitment to Kunz while starting his new relationship with Pulliam.
“We’re scheduled to do around 20 races with Keith Kunz on the dirt,” Shafer said. “I’m not sure if we’re doing the Chili Bowl yet, but that would definitely be a great race to be a part of.”
For Late Models, Shafer is eagerly looking forward to start working with his new team and take his first laps in the Late Model, which will be rebranded from the #78 to the #91 as a way to resemble Shafer’s first Late Model ride.
Pulliam, who has three victories in the CARS LMSC Tour as a driver, was impressed by the potential Shafer showed in his nine appearances in the series last year and believes that he will be in the ideal environment to succeed with Winston Brooks serving as his crew chief.
“I’m really excited to have Jonathan signed to drive for us in the 2021 season and I feel like with Winston in his ear he will have a great opportunity at a breakout season in the [CARS LMSC Tour],” Pulliam said. “It’s easy to see Jonathan’s desire to learn and win races and I feel like our team gives him a great chance at achieving his goals. Our goal is to have the best two cars at the track each and every week and I think with the teams we are assembling here at LPP, we have a great chance every weekend.”
Shafer said that his main objective for the 2021 season is to win as many races as possible with LPP. While he would love to go for a title against McCarty, Layne Riggs and defending champion Jared Fryar, he considers himself fortunate to be able to continue his career with one of the most efficient drivers in the history of Late Model racing in the southeast.
“I feel pretty honored and grateful to have all of the knowledge and equipment that Pulliam and his team provide,” Shafer said. “I’m excited about this opportunity and hopefully I can go out there and win some races.”
Shafer’s first CARS LMSC Tour race with LPP is set to take place at Rockingham Speedway on March 6, which will serve as the first major event at the historic facility since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ North Carolina Education Lottery 200 back in 2013.