The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 30, 2013

Shawn Wood's Inside Track column: Shaffer recalls special night


Daily Item

---- — The date was June 1, 1991.

Ted Johnson, late owner of World of Outlaws sprint car series, brought his travelling band of drivers to Selinsgrove Speedway.

Up to that point of the 1991 racing season, things were going very well for Millerstown's Todd Shaffer.

"Mr. Excitement" was racing during that time for late car owner Jim "Toad" Turnbaugh. Between 1987 and 1992, they combined to win 41 races.

They raced the 410 sprint car on Saturdays at Selinsgrove Speedway and on Sundays at the Sharon Speedway in Ohio.

Shaffer won 22 times that year, including the upset of the Outlaws.

"That year was if not my best year in racing, it was one of them," he said.

Shaffer, who hasn't raced in nearly two years, still recalls that special night at Selinsgrove.

"We had a red flag halfway through the race and we were sitting on the frontstretch when my crew chief, Jimmy Russell, came over to me," Shaffer said. "He was sick with nerves. I wasn't a whole lot better."

Shaffer recalled that the two men knew they had the Outlaws covered that night.

The other significant event that evening was the addition of the letter 'T' to Shaffer's wing to differentiate between him and Steve Kinser whose car was also No. 11.

"They made a big fuss about us having to put the 'T' on the wing," Shaffer said.

Shaffer then let it be known what he though about that idea in victory lane.

"I took the 'T' off and told them we were the real No. 11 here at Selinsgrove," he said with a laugh.

For those of you who were there at the track that night, that remark brought the house down.

After the checkers, the Outlaws wanted to pump Shaffer's engine to make sure it was legal.

"Earl Zechman is probably the fairest promoter that I was ever around and when he was told that the Outlaws wanted to pump my engine, he told them that if they didn't pump the second and third-place finishers, they weren't going to pump me," Shaffer said. "Earl came over to me and told me to put the car on the trailer."

A few weeks ago, Shaffer was honored along with Patty Beam at the Port Royal Speedway on Living Legends night.

When track announcer Shawn Brouse asked if the fans want to see Shaffer race again, it was an overwhelming response. "I get the bug all the time, but as far as being with done racing, we'll have to see what happens in the coming years," Shaffer said. "My favorite race is the Labor Day race at Port Royal and that eats at me bad that I am not racing it."

Shaffer went on to say that he recently spoke with Fred Rahmer, who is retiring at the end of the year. Rahmer told him that he was tired and wore out.

"Trust me, there's a large part of me that still wants to race," Shaffer said. "But, the dedication that it takes to do it and to be successful, I don't know if I can do that any more."

Whether or not he gets back in the car again, Shaffer has left race fans with many great memories, especially for those who were there on June 1, 1991, when "Mr. Excitement" pulled off the upset of the Outlaws.

n Shawn Wood covers motorsports for The Daily Item. Comments can be sent to sports@dailyitem.com