Driver of the Month April 2004
2002 SCCA Solo II STS National Champion!!
Name: Chris Shenefield
City/State: Wilkes-Barre, PA
Profession: Owner, RedShift Motorsports, Inc.
What year did you first get interested in (or start) autocrossing?
In the late 80’s. I was really big into freestyle bmx when I was young, and I swore I would always do the bike thing. Then I got a car, and that was that.
What kind of car do you compete with, what class do you compete in, and what are its particular strong suits in your opinion?
The first autocross was with a 1985 DSP GTI that had a slightly warmed over suspension. Looking back, I didn’t really know what I was doing…. thank goodness the suspension companies know what they are doing because the car was quick. I still remember the first few autocrosses I did in that car. It was maybe the most fun I’ve had autocrossing, way back then. Since raced several cars in Nationals, including a 94 Celica in ES (now GS), a 95 Neon ACR in DS, a 91 MR2 in CS (now ES), a 00 Celica in ES (now GS), and various STS Civics.
How much of the sport do you think is attributed to driver skill vs. car setup?
My take on this is that the driver is important, and at the local level, you could argue that driver is 90% or so. But at the national level, where car prep is at a higher level and there are lots of good drivers, then I’d say it’s about 50% driver and 50% car choice and setup.
What is it about autocrossing that keeps you interested?
It’s really good competition, it’s not too expensive, it’s safe, and it makes you a really good driver. I truely believe that autocrossing is the best form of car-control training.
Do you constantly critique yourself during your runs or after the event?
Yes, absolutely. Part of the interest for me is with regard to the format, where you really have to use your head to get the most out of the car. Autocross is such a cool balance of aggression and control that’s very difficult to get right; so while you only make a few runs on a course, you actually drive the course in your head alot more than that. What makes you a good driver is in your head, and if you aren’t thinking about what you are doing, then you are going slower than the next guy. Sometimes, I even talk to myself out loud because it forces me to remember that I need to be thinking about what I’m doing.
How do you feel after a fast, clean run?
Man, I feel awesome. It’s a great feeling! It’s a cross between feeling good that I’ve done well and knowing that I could have done something better….so it’s a satisfaction and a challenge at the same time. Very cool.
Would you consider expanding your skills to wheel to wheel racing?
I road raced for about a year, and it was absolutely amazing. Someday I’ll get back to wheel to wheel racing, but I’ll only do it to win. And in order to win, you have to have more time and money that I have now. But it’ll happen, I’m sure of it. …..and I have a good story. The first road race I ever entered was at a place called Connellsville just south of Pittsburgh. It’s an old air strip, and it was like after WWII when lots of military air strips were being turned into race sites. The race organizers used some cones and other things to help designate the course, and it was always a little different apparently…. but it was a real road race with an endurance event, etc. Anyway, qualifying was in the rain, and I was driving a Showroom Stock Neon ACR. I qualified on the pole of my race group, which included all the IT and SS classes. I had out qualified ITA CRX’s and an SSA Talon Turbo. But the point is that I had 2 people approach me at different times asking me if I was an autocrosser because I had learned the track better and faster than anyone else and had put the slowest car in the race group on the pole. Interesting huh? I’m a firm believer that a good autocrosser makes for a better road racer.
Have you ever tried to get a company to sponsor you? Were you successful?
No, but it’s gonna happen before to long I think. We have plans to get some more major sponsorship in the next few years. I have a proposal almost finished; so perhaps next year.
Is it only the driving aspect that entices you to go autocrossing?
No, I’m also a big fan of trying to figure out car setup. I almost enjoy the preparations more than the actually race. Although, that’s not really true…. I’m happiest with my hair on fire on course!
What trophies or titles have you won?
I’ve won a few Solo2 National events here and there, and I took second at the Solo2 National Championship twice. But the biggest of course was when I managed to win the STS Solo2 National Championship in 2002.
What is your primary goal for the 2004 season?
We are going to try to win the Street Modified National Championship this year. We have been researching throughout the winter on what we are going to build, but it’s likely to be a Civic with a K20 motor from the RSX-S. Light, normally aspirated, and setup well, it should make waves. But those M3’s are fast, and I hear there are some light rear drive cars entering SM this year as well. Should be an interesting year.
If you could have ANY autocross ride imaginable, what would it be and why?
One of my dreams for RedShift is to develop a competitor to the Lotus Elan. So, my dream autocross car de jour is a RedShift-developed chassis with a K-series Honda motor to beat the new Elan. Perhaps a kit car of sorts. We’ll see.