PORTLAND – Dale Shaw is a veteran driver. He’s won nearly everywhere he’s raced, including the points championship in what is now NASCAR Busch East in 1994.
D.J. Shaw is new, relatively speaking. He, too, has won nearly everywhere he’s raced, including a track championship at White Mountain Raceway in 2006 and this year’s Coastal 200 at Wiscasset Raceway.
Now, the Shaws – father and son – have their sights set on the biggest prize in New England short track auto racing, the TD Banknorth 250.
So, which of the Shaws is the better driver, right now?
“I have the experience advantage, but I’ve only raced twice this year,” Dale said, “so he probably has the seat-time advantage over me. But I’d have to say, at Oxford, I probably still have the advantage.”
Things didn’t exactly play out that way last year, when Jeremie Whorff held off his father, Bill Whorff, Jr., for the title.
“I hope it’s the other way around (this year),” Dale said. “Someone in the shop the other day asked D.J., “What would happen if it came down to you and your father running first and second,’ and he said, ‘I’d let my father finish second.'”
D.J. attended the TD Banknorth 250 media day Wednesday, while his father stayed home to work on his own car for Sunday’s race.
He stood with his hands shoved deeply into his pockets, slightly slouched, quietly and patiently waiting to speak to whomever happened to show an interest – quite a contrast to his outspoken father.
“He got that from his mother,” Dale quipped in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Certainly not from me.”
D.J. lets his right foot do the talking, instead.
A newcomer to Late Model cars in 2006 as a 16-year-old, D.J. won the season championship at White Mountain Motor Park.
“I went from carts right out to competition, and luckily it worked out,” D.J. said. “I had a good car all year.”
This year started a bit more slowly, but he’s picking up steam.
“It’s never bad to win a championship, but it raised our expectations a lot,” D.J. said. “Now when we don’t do well, we’re disappointed rather than looking at it like I’m still learning.”
“At Beech Ridge, he’s holding his own (in the Pro Stock division),” Dale said. “He’s up there in the points. He’s not doing as good as I had hoped, but that’s not him, it’s the car. I haven’t given him the car he needs yet at Beech Ridge.”
In some of the bigger, Late Model races, though, D.J. is shining. He’s finished in the top 10 in all four races, including two victories and three Top 5s.
One of those wins – in the Coastal 200 at Wiscasset – can be counted among his best ever. In that race, he came from behind to pass local legend Mike Rowe on the outside with 40 laps to go to earn the victory in the second-largest short-track race in Maine, in terms of purse size.
“To beat Mike Rowe, you’ve beat the best in the business in this part of the world,” Dale said. “He drove by him with 40-50 laps to go, he drove around him on the outside. It’s tough to drive around Mike on the outside at any track.”
Dale is still going to wish his son the best as he tries to add the richest short-track race to his growing list of accomplishments, but he added one condition this time.
“He’s got to beat me to get this one, though,” Dale said, chuckling.
Ready to roll
Despite driving two different cars, Dale and D.J. plan to work together, at least in the early-going.
“We’re going to run two totally different setups with the same type of car,” Dale said. “If one of us is way better than the other, it’ll give us a chance to switch to the other. It doesn’t make sense for us to have two team cars and go with the same setup on both.”
This weekend will mark the first big race in which both Dale and D.J. will compete against one another. It’s a bit tough for D.J., who has looked up to his father and marveled at his accomplishments for a long time. Usually, though, Dale’s helping his son in time of need, not exploiting the faults.
“He’s been a big influence on me,” D.J. said. “When a situation happens, he gives his insight on what happened, and he’s the crew chief. He makes set-up calls and does well with that. He gets real nervous, so it’s fun to see how nervous he gets – way more nervous than when he races.”
And Dale has always watched his son’s young career with pride.
“I get more satisfaction from watching him race and helping him than I do from racing myself,” Dale said. “I still love to race, but the only part of racing I like when I race is the driving.”
He’ll get that chance this weekend to potentially add another title to his legacy.
On the other end, D.J. wants to add to his own legacy, already burgeoning at a young age. His goals a bit loftier.
“I’d like to have the success (my father) had over the years,” D.J. said, and then smiled wide. “I’d like to do better, really.”
On a track where being aggressive in qualifying is rewarded, though, Dale isn’t ready to give in to his son just yet.
“I’m a lot more aggressive than he is, and that’s where my advantage is,” Dale said. “He doesn’t probably do whatever it takes to get in the show, and I probably will.”