AMS Goes Mic'd Up With Drag Racer Steve Shaffer At Friday Night Drags
You probably wouldn't expect to see Newnan driver Steve Shaffer climbing out of a brand-new, bright yellow Chevrolet Z06 Corvette after winning a 1/8-mile drag race at Atlanta Motor Speedway's O'Reilly Auto Parts Friday Night Drags. Dr. Steve Shaffer, that is.
Schaffer, a licensed professional counselor with a practice in Newnan, never planned to become a weekly drag racer with brand-new Corvettes at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but after a near life-threatening motorcycle accident several years ago, he gained a new outlook on life and decided, with the support of his family, to do more of the things he loved to do. One of those things was racing.
"I almost died," explained Shaffer prior to a recent night of racing at Friday Night Drags. "I said, 'what will I do?' I've got older kids. My son's 38, and my daughter is 41. They said, 'Dad, spend every penny you have.'
"So I said I'd start racing. I went and checked it out, and Corvettes were the best deal in town."
After purchasing his first Corvette, a Z51 model, in 2014, and bringing it to Friday Night Drags, Shaffer was immediately hooked on the adrenaline of straight-line racing.
"I bought a 2014, raced here, won a bunch of trophies. Then I started getting into the Z06, and I've bought a new Z06 every year since then. I've already ordered my 2018.
"I got into a profession where I do pretty well, so I'm able to buy a new 'Vette every year and kind of enjoy it, so I do. And having great kids makes a big difference too."
Naturally, as a counselor, Shaffer enjoys meeting and getting to know anyone he meets at the drag strip. After four years as a mainstay at Friday Night Drags, he's well-known by almost every driver, official and track employee and is immediately one of the most recognizable racers to spectators in the grandstands, thanks to his nearly fresh-off-the-assembly-line Corvette and twin stuffed-animal cows from Chick-fil-a strapped behind each seat.
"I know a lot of guys around here," he said. "It's been fun hanging out through the years, just meeting people.
"One of the things we do, as racers, is we're always looking to see who's behind us when we line up here. I always try to pull up first, so I know if I'm getting my butt whooped or not. I look behind me, and you just never know who's going to be there.
"So I'll go back and meet the guys. I'll go back and see what they're running. What kind of horsepower, what kind of torque and kind of have a little fun."
But Shaffer doesn't just enjoy Corvette-racing in his free time. He has incorporated his recreational passion into his professional life and uses it as an valuable tool while helping teens facing difficult life situations.
"We use our Corvettes for a lot of teaching and training, he said. "Corvettes stands for 'Challenging, open-minded, voracious, energetic, teens to excellence,' and in my office we teach them three basic things: We teach them to be I-R-R. - to be independent, responsible and respectful.
"I also teach them a concept called T-T-D. It stands for 'Take responsibility, think it through, and do it.' If you teach young people to be independent so that they can act on their own without people trying to tell them what to do; if you teach them to be responsible and completely follow through with everything the way they should; and you teach them to be respectful; they're going to get promoted and make a lot more money in their lifetime and be a lot better people."
Of course, with a natural gift for helping those around him and a personality overflowing with genuine congeniality, sometimes he can be a detriment to his own drag-strip success.
After meeting a new competitor in his racing class and dishing out a couple of helpful hints last week, Shaffer quipped with a with a wide, smile, "I shouldn't be telling you this, because now you might beat me!"
To view and/or download the entire mic'd-up video of Shaffer at Friday Night Drags, click here.
Atlanta Motor Speedway's O'Reilly Auto Parts Friday Night Drags & Show-N-Shine continues with Week 15 tonight. Grandstand gates open at 6:30 p.m., and nightly drag race eliminations start just after 9:00 p.m.
Entry to drag race or for the Show-N-Shine is just $20 or competitors can purchase a combo ticket for $30. Spectator tickets are just $10, and children 5 and under are free. More information can be found at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/drags or by calling the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211.