KAUKAUNA, Wis. – Paul Shafer Jr. said that one of his dreams was to always win the Gandrud Auto Group 250 at Wisconsin Int’l Raceway.
On Tuesday night, he achieved that dream by holding off Sammy Smith and Luke Fenhaus in a thrilling finish for a $10,000 payday.
“From about 85 laps to go, all I could do is run, just run,” an excited Shafer said in victory lane. “They got better tires. I was just run, go 110 percent. The only thing running through my mind was one of those planet earth things where they are chasing antelopes through the woods and they were going to catch me for sure, and they didn’t catch me.”
Shafer inherited the lead during a competition caution on lap 156 where he one of a handful of cars that stayed out while the rest of the field stopped to get fresh tires for the final run. Shafer got his fresh tires on lap 96.
The Portage, Ind., driver led the last 94 laps en route to the victory, but it wasn’t an easy drive as he held off pressure from Smith in the closing laps.
The final restart came on lap 219 where Shafer and Smith battled for the lead. The two touched coming off of turn four allowing Shafer to get out head of Smith. Smith, with Fenhaus in tow, tried to chase down Shafer, getting within .2 seconds but that was as close as they got, allowing Shafer to grab the checkered flag and big check.
“They got underneath me a couple of times and we rubbed doors a little bit,” Shafer said. “I just kept going and gained some distance, it leveled out and it worked out.”
Smith was pleased with his night, but was hoping to finish one spot higher in the end.
“It wasn’t a bad night, we ran in the top five all night,” Smith said after the race. “I felt like we made good changes on the break. I feel like I should have told them a little more of what I needed, just felt like if I got a little bit more we could have gotten him on the restart.”
Fenhaus had a good points night with his third place finish after current ARCA Midwest Tour point leader Ty Majeski fell out on lap 97 and finished 25th.
“I’m really happy with it. We struggled here the past two years,” Fenhaus said. “It was a good points night for sure. Paul was fast and he took tires early so I was surprised on how he finished off on the run. Overall it was a really good run.”
Austin Nason finished fourth with Gabe Sommers rounding out the top five.
Recent NASCAR Cup Series winner Aric Almirola finished 10th. Fellow NASCAR Cup Series competitor William Byron made his ARCA Midwest Tour debut and ran in the top-10 until he fell out on lap 135, finishing 21st.
Paul Shafer Jr., Sammy Smith, Luke Fenhaus, Austin Nason, Gabe Sommers, John DeAngelis, Dalton Zehr, Dennis Prunty, Justin Mondeik, Jonathan Eilen, Aric Almirola, Andy Monday, Casey Roderick, Rich Bickle Jr., Sawyer Effertz, Dillon Hammond, Jesse Oudenhoven, Levon VanDerGeest, Bobby Kendall, Derek Kraus, William Byron, Casey Johnson, Jeff Van Oudenhoven, Travis Sauter, Ty Majeski, Jesse Love, Carson Kvapil, Andrew Morrissey, Jeff Holmgren, Braison Bennett.