Shirley is one of those guys who does what he loves for a living — he drives race cars. Late models, to be precise. And a year ago, Shirley, who lives in Chatham, Ill., won just about everything in sight, including the UMP Summer Nationals and UMP national title.
But when Shirley talks about pressure going into the 2013 season, it’s a different kind of pressure than you might have expected.
“There’s always pressure, but not necessarily to try and do what you have done the year before,” he said while in town for the April 21 “Clash for the Cash.” “There are bills to pay, and it’s not like going to a 9 to 5 job.”
The victories are sweet, but the paychecks are sweeter — and needed.
Shirley’s wife, Shannon is a nurse at Memorial Hospital in Springfield. She stays home most of the time.
“We each do our part to help pay the bills,” he said. “We have bills like everyone else. I’d like to have her be able to travel more with us, but not many people are able to to take their wives to work with them.”
Shirley, 32, has been a full-time racer for eight years. His favorite track is in Pevely, Mo., but he also enjoys the small ovals like Quincy.
“We race on more tracks like Quincy than any other,” he said. “It all comes down to how well-prepped the tracks are.”
The size or location of the tracks Shirley runs are not the issue. It’s the payouts.
“It’s tough making a living doing this, because of the way the economy is and how expensive the (equipment, cars, etc.) have become,” Shirley said. “The purses are the same they were 20 years ago, but the expenses aren’t, and that doesn’t make any sense.”
For the record, Quincy has done its share to support Shirley. He won $9,185 at the Bullring in 2012 and took away another $1,000 for his fourth-place finish in the “Clash” two weeks ago.