Single-minded Schaffer is Winchester's late-model king


November 14, 1993|By STAN DILLON

When the 1993 racing season began in April, Charlie Schaffer set his sights on the late-model championship at Winchester (Va.) Speedway.

Last night, the Hampstead resident was crowned the track champion at the annual awards banquet in Winchester.

Schaffer not only won the spring championship race at Winchester, but also captured the track title.

Schaffer made up his mind from the start that's what he was racing for. Rather than race at other tracks, he focused his efforts on Winchester.

Although Schaffer has had seasons where he has won more races, consistency propelled him to this title.

He started the season as an underdog, up against better-financed teams. But he felt he had the ability and consistency to overcome that.

"I started the season off real good," said Schaffer. "I won a double-point championship race in the spring and followed that with four straight second-place finishes."

With the good start, Schaffer quickly jumped out in front in the point standings and by midseason had a commanding lead.

"I had a good lead in the first half," said Schaffer. "But from July on, I began to have my share of trouble. In the two remaining double-point championship races, I didn't have any luck at all."

The last half of the season turned around to be just the opposite for Schaffer. Instead of all the breaks going his way, it seemed as if they were going against him.

After winning the first championship race, the next two he barely finished.

He had a flat in the next double-point event and finished 10th. In the 72-lap event, he was involved in a crash right before the fuel stop. His crew was able to repair the damages enough for him to finish the race, but he finished out of the top 10 and his point lead diminished. The car was never the same.

"The track changed the second half of the season and the car never handled as well," said Schaffer. "The car was getting old and the parts were worn."

He couldn't help but think back to the 1991 season at Hagerstown Speedway when a string of bad luck near the end put him out of the running for the track title after leading for two weeks.

"I led the points race at Hagerstown that year going into the last month when the motor blew," recalled Schaffer. "You never know what's going to happen. You try not to worry about it, but you do."

As the season turned around, Schaffer and his crew's determination kept them in front. While top-five finishes became less frequent in the second half, they still managed to finish in the top 10.

The pressure on the team mounted each week as the point race came down to the final night. The large cushion that Schaffer built early in the season was gone, and he had to finish the final race near the top. He finished sixth, good enough to win his first late-model title by a narrow margin of 30 points.

Last night Schaffer and his crew -- Jay, Bruce, Pat and John Sickles, Eddie Crowl, Pattie McDade, Robin Schaffer and wife Diana -- received their championship trophy and point money.

Schaffer said he couldn't have made it all happen without the help of his sponsors, Schaffer's Bus Service, Schaffer Mulch, Hampstead Liquors, Morris Machine in Manchester, Signs Design of McConnelsburg, Pa., Quality Trim and Finish of Westminster, Big A Auto Parts of Hampstead, Beards Fabrication of Hanover, Pa., R.J. Home Improvements and Jay Dee Supply of Dorsey.

"I feel good about it, all the work was worth it," said Schaffer. "The money will come in handy. It will help get us started on next year."

The 32-year-old has come a long way since he first started racing street stocks at Trail-Way in 1983. He has won at every track he has raced in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Now he has a track title as well.

Weekend results

Action last week at the dragways included racing for street legal cars at 75-80 Dragway last Saturday. Ron Leonard of Mount Airy was runner-up.

Last Sunday, Russell Barefoot of Mount Airy won Class I (7.50-11.99) and Ray Lewis of Woodbine was runner-up. Corey Hess of Taneytown went to the semifinals and quarterfinalists included Carroll County drivers Phil Doonis of Westminster, Rodney Kuhns of Hampstead and Joe Mayne of Mount Airy. In Class II (12.00 and slower) Jeff Davis of Westminster was runner-up, and Matt Spriggs completed four rounds. In motorcycles, Norman Wagner of Hampstead and Gene Belt of Taneytown split first-place money. Today is the last day of 1993 racing at 75-80.

At Mason-Dixon Dragway, Ray Wittington of New Windsor and Brian Koons of Taneytown went to the second round in the Trophy Class, and David Smith of Mount Airy won the Jr. Dragster division.

Lincoln Speedway had its last program of the season last week. Kenny Angell of Westminster placed 13th in the semi-late feature, and Kenny Murfin of Union Bridge was 14th in the thundercar main event.

In the Hub-City National 150 at Hagerstown Speedway, Gary Stuhler of Westminster led the first 32 laps before giving way to Davey Johnson of Imperial, Pa. Stuhler followed Johnson the rest of the way to take second in the 150-lap event. Stuhler was second-fastest in time trials for the late-model show.

Schaffer represented Winchester Speedway in the Race of Champions at Hagerstown and finished third. Schaffer was running in the top 10 when transmission problems put him out of the Hub-City 150. He was credited with 21st position. Mike Harrison of Mount Airy was 16th.

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