Shawver Jr., 22, follows in dad's tire tracks


December 06, 1992|By STAN DILLON

If there was ever anyone in motor sports who is following in his father's footsteps, it is Al Shawver Jr.

The 22-year-old Finksburg native began racing midway through the 1992 season in the semi-late division at the Hagerstown Speedway. In his sixth race, he won his first feature, and two weeks later he proved he was for real by winning again.

Although he only ran 10 races, less than half the season, Shawver still finished 13th in the point standings.

The young Westminster High graduate quickly caught the attention of many racing veterans. His ability to learn, his driving style and his desire to succeed are traits identical to his father.

The younger Shawver doesn't mind being compared with his father. The senior Shawver was a top late-model driver, winning the late-model track championship at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., in 1983 and late-model track titles at Winchester Va. Speedway in 1985 and 1987.

Ever since he could remember, the young Shawver was around racing, watching his father. As soon as he was old enough, he was in the competition area helping his father wherever he could.

At first he ran errands. Then he began to switch the quick-change gears. During the week he helped with the chassis setup by adjusting the weight distribution. With each change his father took time to explain why the changes were made, teaching him as much as he could.

When Shawver turned 16, he lost interest in racing. His father, still racing weekly at the time, wasn't going to force his son into the sport. But two years later Shawver turned to racing four-wheelers.

"Racing motorcross sparked my interest back up in racing," said Shawver. "I wanted to prove that I wanted to race, that I could get out on my own and do it.

"Racing four-wheelers was cheaper and easier to maintain. It gave me experience, endurance and strength. It was a lot more physical than racing cars. I wanted to prove that I wanted to be involved."

In the meantime, Shawver's father left weekly racing in the prime of his career and moved to Hagerstown to start his business, STARR Performance, building race cars.

In 1991, the two began to discuss teaming up. Al's father told him that he would supply the car, one from his own shop, but Al Jr. had to come up with the money for the motor.

The two decided to begin racing in the semi-late division because it was close to a late model, but less expensive. It was also the type of car that Shawver was building for other drivers and they were winning with it.

Finally this summer, Shawver had saved enough money for the motor and was ready to race. They set realistic goals for the year. Little did they realize how far he would come in just a short time.

"When we first started, all we wanted was to get track experience and build up confidence. I didn't expect to win." said Shawver. But by the sixth race he was in victory lane.

"It was like all my dreams come true," recalled Shawver about his first win.

But the storybook year didn't end there. Two weeks later, Shawver's father substituted for an injured driver in the limited late-model race and won a special 100-lap event. The next race the younger half of the duo won his feature in the semi-lates.

The father and son complement each other. Al Sr. passes on years of driving experience that obviously paid dividends right from the start.

"He made me aware of how critical the mental aspect was in racing," Al Jr. said. "He made me think about every aspect of racing, how to pass, what line you want to run and knowing the driving style of others. I couldn't have done it without him."

By winning in such a short time in a sport where many drivers never win a race, Al Jr. helped his dad's business. Winning race cars builds demand.

Sponsor help for the Shawvers come from Dietrich Auto Body in Hagerstown, STARR Performance, Layton Coy and Leggett Research.

The young Shawver can't wait for the 1993 racing season. He hopes to win the semi-late track championship at Hagerstown, then move up to late models. Later he would like to do some asphalt racing and eventually race full time.

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