After capping off the season with a high, it’s easy to see why Samantha Shaw is excited to go racing this season.
“I’m excited for this year,” she told Short Track Musings. “Well, I’m always excited for racing, but I think this year is going to be fun.”
As she has the past couple of seasons, she will once again have her familiar No. 81 Spira Fire Protection, Hy-Grade Steel Roofing System, Lucas Oil Products, Wix Filters, Erb & Erb Insurance Brokers, Guelph Wish Fund for Children, Victaulic Company of Canada, Top Shops Auto Body Supplies, Vinnie’s Mr. FixIt, Wolseley Canada, GUNK, and Cambridge Source for Sports Mustang at Sunset Speedway on a weekly basis. Going winless the past couple seasons after an impressive season in 2014, hopes are set on returning back to front-contending form.
“I’m hoping I can get this car back to victory lane at Sunset, or even just be there, racing for wins,” she said. “Even if I start out the season being a mid-pack car, I’m hopeful we can make some progress every week – and end up as one of the front runners.”
The challenge will be steep, though, as Sunset Speedway is expecting to have full fields of 20-30 cars on a weekly basis with combining both Mini Stock divisions back together for 2017. The change has Shaw excited as she loves racing in a bigger field of cars.
“When I started at Flamboro in 2009 – 2010, we had almost 30 cars every week – it keeps the pressure on when you’re racing up front- you don’t want to go to the back, that’s a looooooong way back to where you were,” she said. “I also think it’s way more exciting for the fans. As a fan myself, I don’t mind a smaller field if there’s good racing – but a lot of the Mini stock races last year, everyone got strung out and ran single file most of the race, nobody could gain any ground because the cars were so close in speed. Pretty boring to watch.”
Though on top of the Sunset races she is planning on, there’s also the possibility for her to run at other venues this season.
“I love to travel, and it’s even more fun following the APC series around,” she siad. “So I’m hopeful we can take the car at least to Sauble and Flamboro. I’d love to try Autumn Colours (at Peterborough Speedway) again; it’s been six or seven years since I last raced this car there.”
For Shaw, it’s easy to understand why last year was what she called “a roller coaster”, going through some struggles throughout the year. After starting off the season with a ninth on opening night, Shaw was forced to sit out six weeks after hurting her arm in a crash at Spring Velocity. Returning back behind the wheel, she was able to put together some solid runs to close out the season, scoring six top-10s, including a fifth-place finish on August 20. She admits that following a wreck at Sauble, the season was tough as a result of her and her dad “struggling to make the car handle”>
Going into the play-offs, things started to turn around as the first round of Frostoberfest at Flamboro Speedway, the car felt good and she was happy with it, but ultimately ended up with a disappointment due to a wreck. Despite the setback, she worked hard to have the car ready to go once again at Flamboro Speedway a couple weeks later, and made the most of the opportunity.
“The best thing that happened was ending the season the way we did, at the second Frostoberfest,” she said. “I had a ton of fun racing with Lane (Zardo), and thankfully, that day I was lucky, if Lane hadn’t spun me out early in the race, both of us would likely have been in that massive pileup!”
After going around on Lap 3, Shaw was able to escape the wreck that occurred three laps later at the front of the field, moving all the way up to the third spot behind Lane Zardo and Phil Givens. After quickly passing Givens on the restart, she kept the distance between her and Zardo close, finding herself on his rear bumper for a bit, before putting the No. 81 Mustang out front on Lap 23. She then led the rest of the way en route to scoring the victory. Ultimately, with a runner-up and a win on the afternoon, she’d be crowned the overall winner of the night.
“(The) only regret from that day is that I really wanted to race with Steve Laking – who had stolen Ken (Spira)’s No. 86 for the day, and I never got to, since he was involved with that wreck,” she said.
Shaw being victorious is no surprise to anybody, as the Shaw family has become synonymous in Ontario with different generations taking their shot behind the wheel. Following in those foot steps, she admits that it used to bring extra pressure.
“There was all of a sudden all this attention I really wasn’t used to, along with a really bad rivalry between Dale and I – since we started the same year, at the same track, in identical cars – it was always a battle, we hated losing to each other,” she said. “Now though, I rarely think about it, racing is my hobby, not my career. It’s cool to talk to some of the fans that have gone from watching my Grandpa in CVM, to Jake in LM, to Dale and I in our cars; some of them know more about my family than I do.”
Growing up in racing, there were certainly been a lot of moments through the years, but one of the favourites for Shaw goes back to when she was younger.
“One of my favorites is definetly the bike races my cousins and I used to have around Sauble Speedway during the Alstar banquet,” she said. “We had post-race tech and everything! It was a serious business.”