Fifteen-year-old Evan Shotko has become so accustomed to driving fast that slowing down to learn how to drive on the real road has been a struggle.
“I actually don’t have my license yet but I’m actually not a very good road driver to be honest with you,” Shotko said with a laugh. “Honestly, on the road I get sidetracked and I get bored with it. So I don’t know, I just can’t really pay attention for that long going that slow, my mind just drifts to something else. It’s boring.”
While learning to drive on the road hasn’t been the easiest, Shotko has seen success at a young age on the racetrack. He has two seconds and a third-place finish in the Budweiser Super Late Model division this season at Berlin Raceway, a 0.4375 mile asphalt oval in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Shotko is in his second season driving super late models in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, and has two wins under his belt. While he said his team has struggled at times this season, every night they’re showing a lot of speed, and he’s getting the chance to run against seasoned professionals.
Shotko’s grandfather raced, which got his dad into the sport, and his dad is who got Shotko into it. He began racing at 7 years old, and by 10 was driving full sized cars.
With the sport skewing younger and younger, Shotko knew if he wanted to get his name out there, he needed to get started early.
“Everything in racing nowadays is so you have to be young to go anywhere so it was really my only shot to go anywhere in racing is I had to get thrown in the with big dogs right away because I had to make a name for myself at the top level,” he said.
Shotko has given other sports a try, but none of them gave him the thrills he gets winning a race.
“It doesn’t do for me what racing does. Racing has always been my life,” he said. “Right now I’m actually at my race shop. I’m at my race shop every day of the week. Even Saturdays and Sundays, so I live, eat, and breathe it.
“Really, a lot of it is the competition. Anything that I’ve drove, whether it was dirt, asphalt, go karts, I always wanted to be at the top level with some of the best guys. I don’t really find the level of competition anywhere else in any other sport. Not to mention, if you win it’s a heck of a reward.”
The young racer has already gone up against some of the best short track drivers in the country this season, including super late model legends Bubba Pollard and Casey Roderick. At first, racing against the best at such a young age was daunting, but Shotko said he’s starting to feel more comfortable, and wants to consistently race against the best.
Plus, he’s learned a lot from watching the way drivers like Pollard conduct themselves on the track.
“At 14 years old you’re going against NASCAR drivers and people you watch on TV. It’s definitely a little bit scary at first but now I’ve gotten to the point where it’s just a normal Saturday,” he said.
“The level of competition that they bring and their driving style and how they race other people is totally different than what I’m used to. So anytime I go to the racetrack I’m learning, whether it’s from Bubba Pollard or from Casey Roderick, they all have different styles and you can always use their style to your advantage and change your own style and make yourself better.”
Shotko will finish his full season at Berlin this year, and travel some to other tracks too. He’ll begin his junior year of high school in the fall.
While he wants to get as many wins as he can as a driver, his ultimate goal in racing isn’t behind the wheel. He has dreams of becoming a crew chief in the future, and to him, being a good driver will help him get there.
“I know crew chiefs and stuff that haven’t ever raced and I don’t think it’s quite the same,” he said. “Where if you get a crew chief that has raced and get a driver explaining the car you know exactly how to fix it because once upon a time you felt that feeling and you fixed it years ago. So you can almost do the same thing. So that’s why I think it’s important because you can relate a lot better to the driver.”
Until then, Shotko is focused on becoming the best driver he can be.
“Really, it’s any race car driver’s goal to win as many races as they can,” he said. “But I really want to learn and know as much about a race car as I possibly can. Me and my dad are crew chiefs for my own car so I make a lot of my own changes and stuff, so I’m really just trying to learn as much as I possibly can to hopefully achieve that dream.”
Racing will return to Berlin Raceway this Saturday with Outlaw Late Models, Superstocks, and Midwest Compacts. The next super late model race at Berlin will take place on July 13.