Want to really know the level of skills of a particular Dirt Late Model driver? Check with the builders of the cars that he has driven.

With hotshot driver Steve Shaver of Indiana, those would be the Rayburn cars built by C.J. Rayburn, as well as the Rocket cars of Mark Richards. And when these noted builders speak well of this particular driver, you know he's got what it takes.

"I think a lot of Steve's skills and we worked together when he first started driving," says Rayburn. "Heck, I'd like to have him driving one of my factory cars today. He is really good on any type of dirt surface."

Richards adds, "Steve is a determined racer, and I really think that he's one of the best drivers in the nation. One reason for his success is that he completely understands the technology of the car. We still discuss things about the cars on occasion."

Usually, outstanding Dirt Late Model careers have a long learning period, but for Shaver the career didn't start until he was in his early 20s. Before that, nothing!

"I was more interested in high school sports, mostly playing football. Even got a little interest from small colleges," says Shaver. "I did go to college for a short time, but I decided that I was going to devote my time to racing."

It started in Semi-Late Models on dirt at tracks in Ohio. "I was driving an old Huff car and did pretty well, winning a couple races," Shaver says.

A fortunate thing occurred during this time period when he worked for Butch Evans of Speedway Airflow.

"He taught me a lot about welding, sheet metal fabrication, and aerodynamics," recalls Shaver. "It has really paid big dividends in my racing career ever since."

Then, later in the '80s, he moved to the Dirt Late Models, which were a huge step up from the Semis, and drove a Howe car which he says had an excellent suspension system and a Billy Lloyd powerplant. Still later, he got his first Rocket Chassis from Richards. There was a championship at I-79 Speedway during the period.

In 1988, he started traveling with the PROS series and was the group's Rookie of the Year. Next, he moved up to the prestigious STARS series which sported top drivers such as Donny Moran, Mike Balzano, Chub Frank, and Billy Moyer.

"I learned a lot driving against those guys and had a best points finish of third," Shaver says.

Starting in 1997, Shaver started running with the Renegade Series. "At the time, I was working for Eddie Burl Smith who ran a pipeline operation," he recalls. "Eddie was also a racecar owner, and it wasn't long before I was working in his race shop."

That developed into another great situation for his career."It was also the time that I met my future wife, Ami, who has been very supportive of my racing," he says. "I assured her, though, that I wouldn't be quitting racing for quite a while."

During the '90s, until today, there have been a number of impressive wins, including a $10,000-to-win race and a number of $15,000-to-win races. But the high point of his career so far took place in 1998 when he won the Hillbilly 100 at Tyler County in West Virginia and pocketed a cool $25,000.

"That was a great win as I started 18th but got to the lead on the 50th lap," he says. "Then, it was back and forth with Donnie Moran and Rick Aukland before taking the lead for good with a lap and one-half to go."

This was also about the time period that Casey Marshall joined the team and he's been the crew chief ever since.

"We have a great working relationship and he's been a big part of the success we've had," Shaver says.

The 1999 season marked another fine campaign for Shaver as he won a $10,000 Hav-A-Tampa race at Tampa's East Bay Speedway, $7,000 at Ohio's KC Speedway, and $5,000 at Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania. Then, in 2000, he pocketed eight grand at Midway Speedway in Ohio.

That same East Bay Speedway was the site of another $25,000 payday in a UDTRA race in 2001. Drop in two more wins totaling $18,000 and you can see it was a lucrative season.