MERCER, Pa. – official release — Mike Campbell photo — From 2009 through 2012, Tim Shaffer was the man to beat in University of Northwestern Ohio All Star Circuit of Champions competition.
Since 2012 after his fourth straight series title, however, a lot has changed for “The Steel City Outlaw,” including teams and crew members. The win totals fell, and Shaffer was left wondering when the rebound would come.
That all changed Sunday at Mercer Raceway Park. Shaffer held off protégé Danny Holtgraver to claim the 25th running of the Western Pennsylvania Sprint Car Championship Presented by Bonnell’s Rod Shop. It was Shaffer’s fourth career win at Mercer, which is minutes from his home in Aliquippa, Pa.
The four-time champ of the UNOH All Stars Circuit of Champions held off his protege, Danny Holtgraver, and Jac Haudenschild. It was the second straight night that a local UNOH All Star Circuit of Champions competitor made it to victory lane.
The win was the 54th of Shaffer’s All Star Career, moving him into fourth on the series’ all-time win list. It was Shaffer’s first UNOH All Star win in nearly a year, since he swept the Attica Ambush Aug. 30 and 31, 2013. Shaffer’s win also stopped Dale Blaney’s three race UNOH All Star win streak.
“I’m just happy to win, it’s been a while,” said Shaffer.
Danny Holtgraver was closing rapidly in the final stages of the race, but Shaffer was able to stay out front with perfectly timed passes of lapped cars.
“You got to have some luck in this game, you know, and catching them at the right time is definitely an advantage,” said Shaffer. “You have to make it happen to get by, and you can’t get tied up too long.”
Holtgraver acknowledged that Shaffer had the edge in traffic.
“He was unbelievable in traffic,” Holtgraver said. “He could get through them really good and I just got to them at the wrong time. If I am going to finish second, it couldn’t be to a better guy, he’s done a lot for me.”
Shaffer had the pole position for the start of the 30 lapper. To his outside was a local talent, Carl Bowser. Shaffer got the jump, while Bowser was fighting to hold his position. Dale Blaney and Haudenschild were hounding him. As the filed was coming to complete lap one, Bowser and Blaney made contact, with the current All Stars points leader spinning to the inside apron. Restarting in the rear of the filed, Blaney’s hopes for a sweep at the Park were dashed.
Shaffer got the lead again when the race was officially started and he held it through the conclusion of the contest. Shaffer withstood a close call when he entered traffic for the first time. He had just cleared Francis Sesco when the the slower machine went around. Fortunately, Haudenschild, who was then running second, was far enough behind that he was able to avoid impact with the disabled car.
Shaffer was able to maintain control of the race despite having his pace slowed on several occasions. The last stoppage came on lap 14, for Scott Priester spinning in turn two. With his car pushed off and rejoining the field, the field got ready for a 16 lap run to the checkers.
Shaffer continued to lead Haudenschild when the race resumed, but the man on the move was Danny Holtgraver. He advanced from fourth to second by lap 22 and set out after the high-flying Shaffer. While Holtgraver was able to close the gap on his mentor, he could never pull beside him. Shaffer timed his passes of lapped machines perfectly, and Holtgraver had to check up on more than one occasion when he closed on the slower cars at inopportune times.
Shaffer led Holtgraver to the checkers. Close behind the lead duo was Haudenschild. Lee Jacobs passed Bowser in the second half of the race to get the fourth spot. Cap Henry led Adam Kekich, Andy McKisson, and Brandon Spithaler across the line. Blaney rebounded to take the tenth position at the finish.
The UNOH All Stars next head to Attica Raceway Park Friday and Saturday, Aug. 29 and 30 for the traditional Attica Ambush, an event Shaffer swept last year. On Sunday the All Stars travel back to the NAPA Auto Parts Wayne County Speedway where earlier this year Sheldon Haudenschild scored his first series victory.
For more information go to www.allstarsprint.com.
RESULTS: UNOH All-Star Circuit of Champions; Mercer Raceway Park; August 24th, 2014
A-Main (30 Laps): 1. 45-Tim Shaffer; 2. 10H-Danny Holtgraver; 3. 9W-Jac Haudenschild; 4. 81-Lee Jacobs; 5. 10-Carl Bowser; 6. 53-Cap Henry; 7. 5K-Adam Kekich; 8. O-Andy McKisson; 9. 22-Brandon Spithaler; 10. 14K-Dale Blaney; 11. 7-Eric Williams; 12. 13-Brandon Matus; 13. 23-Jimmy Light; 14. O8-Dan Kuriger; 15. 27-Billy Dietrich; 16. 33-Brent Matus; 17. 15-Scott Priester; 18. 7C-Caleb Armstrong; 19. 55F-Taylor Ferns; 20. 46-Mike Bauer; 21. 24-Chris Pochiro; 22. 2S-Francis Sesco; 23. 38-Dennis Wagner
Hard Charger: O-Andy McKisson[+9]