Two Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famers, A World of Outlaws Winner, and a Local Champion to Compete in South Africa
Litchfield, MI (Thursday, February 2, 2023) - As part of a program that hasn’t been active since the COVID-19 pandemic, four open-wheel specialists will fly across the sea to South Africa for nearly two weeks. Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame drivers, Jason Blonde and Brian Tyler, plus five-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series winner Brian Paulus, surround 2022 Great Lakes Traditional Sprint Champion, Keith Sheffer, Jr as the team heads to Vereeniging, South Africa at the end of February. For Blonde and Tyler, the trip will not be their first, but Paulus and Sheffer are making their debut.
Blonde, who made the trip in 2019 with Tyler, Mike Stutsman, and Tyler Roahrig, says the chance to race abroad is all put on by the Promoter of Ultimate Outlaws Raceway in Vereeniging. The American drivers simply show up and race Sprint Cars provided by the Raceway. The cars are very similar to pavement Sprint Cars here in the USA. But Blonde says the driving style is a little different.
Speaking about how Sheffer might fit in while making his first career asphalt start in a sprint car, Blonde recounted how the South African natives wheeled their racecars.
“I think he’ll be ok,” Blonde said. “[Keith is] kind of a quick learner, as soon as he gets comfortable in the car he’ll be good to go. A lot of those guys will dirt-track it anyhow so he might feel right at home. They throw it in the corner and dirt track and smoke the tires off,” Blonde chuckled.
The program for Americans to race in South Africa has been going on for quite some time. Blonde says he remembers when Battle Creek, Michigan’s Mike Katz raced overseas back in what Blonde thought was the late 1990s. In 2023, Blonde will make his second trip to South Africa, a trip he says he’ll never miss.
“Definitely excited,” Blonde said when asked how he was feeling about going back. “The whole trip was an awesome deal [in 2019]. I always told myself if I ever got the chance to go again, i’d take it.”
The six-time Must See Racing Sprint Car winner says the two races they compete in while in South Africa have the energy and atmosphere comparable to a Formula 1 or NASCAR event.
“[The fans] would be all standing up on the wall and fence,” Blonde remembered. “They’ll have a big parade and we’ll be carrying the America Flag; they’ll have our National Anthem and everything when they introduce us,” explained Blonde.
As for the racing product itself, Blonde compares the tracks to a well-known mid-Michigan short track and says the racing will be good.
“Kind of reminds [me] of a [Corrigan Oil Speedway],” said Blonde. “Real small, not much passing, real narrow, quarter-mile or less. Kind of like racing in a parking lot - they are flat,” chuckled Blonde.
The 2018 Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame member will not only race with long-time friend and fellow Hall of Fame inductee, Brian Tyler, but he is also bringing along his future son-in-law, Keith Sheffer, Jr. The 2022 Great Lakes Traditional Sprints Champion says he’s looking forward to the surprise opportunity.
“Jason basically got invited and they said they needed a fourth driver,” remarked Sheffer. [Jason] said, ‘Do you guys want a dirt car driver,’ and they were like, ‘yeah, bring him,” Sheffer said.
Despite the great accomplishments of his future father-in-law and new mentor, Sheffer will make the flight to South Africa with virtually zero asphalt experience. Sheffer says his only time on something other than a dirt track came back in his go-kart days. But the Jerome, Michigan native already has a plan on how to be successful on the other side of the equator.
“I’m just gonna try and go and stay behind Jason when we do test,” Sheffer said. “Gonna try to stay with him and learn some stuff while I’m behind him,” plans Sheffer.
Even with all the amazing things Sheffer will experience in South Africa, he says he’s most looking forward to meeting, talking with, and racing alongside an idol.
“I’m excited to meet Brian Tyler,” Sheffer said excitedly. “I’ve never really talked to him. [There is] an article about me saying that I remind [the outlet] a lot of Brian. I’m excited to meet [Brian Tyler] and talk to and be around all those guys. That’s pretty huge for me,” said Sheffer.
Tagging along with Blonde and Sheffer will be Tyler, a member of the 2007 Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame class. An 18-time USAC Silver Crown Series Winner, 15-time USAC Sprint Car Series Winner and two-time champion, and two-time Little 500 Champion, Tyler is well-decorated on his way to South Africa.
Paulus is also making the trip as a five-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series feature winner. The Pennsylvania native also boasts six starts in the Kings Royal, with a top-five and two top-ten finishes. Paulus also has five starts in the Knoxville Nationals, with a career-best finish of 8th.
The quad-driver team representing the United States will race on March 4th at Ultimate Outlaws Raceway before moving on to a track known as “The Rock” on March 11th. Follow along with the Jason Blonde Racing and Sheffer Racing Facebook pages for more updates and behind-the-scenes content on how the drivers are doing.
Story - Zach Hiser
Photo - Ultimate Outlaws Raceway FB/Jason Blonde Racing/Jim DenHamer