Olson raises bar even higher with IMCA Northern SportMod national title

Tony Olson (center) was national champion in IMCA’s Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMod division. He is pictured with Speedway Motors President Clay Smith at left and IMCA President Brett Root at right. Speedway Motors is title sponsor of IMCA Weekly Racing. (Photo by Bruce Badgley, Motorsports Photography)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Tony Olson didn’t leave himself a lot of room for improvement when he won 27 Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMod features and three local track titles last season.

But he raised the bar even higher in 2016 with his career first IMCA national championship.

“It’s kind of crazy how everything worked out,” said Olson, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Last year we were a couple points short but we learned a lot. This year we started figuring some more things out and had about the same number of wins at mid-season. The points race was close and it stayed that way ‘til the end of the year.”

Olson won 29 features and repeated as champion at Benton County Speedway, Davenport Speedway and Independence Motor Speedway as well as the Allstar Performance Iowa State king en route to the national title.

Eight different drivers led the national points race over the course of 2016. Olson enjoyed a two-week stay in the top spot of the standings in July and captured the national prize when bonus points from Davenport and Indee were figured in.

Listen to “Episode 190 Tony Olson” on Spreaker.

“I really enjoy all the tracks I race at. Independence might be my favorite because my driving style fits real well there,” he said. “We got 20-25 cars a night at my weekly tracks and I like that. I race with a ton of my friends weekly and that makes it a lot of fun.”

Olson had started racing at the age of 14 in the thunder mod class, the predecessor to the SportMods, at Vinton. He moved to the sanctioned division in 2006 and to the full-fledged Modified in 2008.

“We liked the class and had some success (seven feature wins) but this was before the crate era in the Modifieds,” he explained. “We went through five or six engines and it became an expense thing. We went back to the SportMod so we could run a crate engine.”

Olson ended as runner-up to Tyler Frye in last year’s national points race. He won 10 features at both Benton County and Independence, and took another nine checkers at Davenport this season.

Two of his biggest paydays came just three days apart in mid-June, the $2,000 to win SportMod Challenge and the $1,400 to win Iowa Donor Network Urbana 5 Night special.

Olson won his last five starts, and nine of his final 12 outings, and has 82 victories during his Northern SportMod career.

“This season was pretty incredible,” said Olson, who shared the credit for all his accomplishments during the IMCA awards banquet in Lincoln, Neb. “I have the best crew in the world. They’re the most knowledgeable people and they worked their butts off for me.”

Starts: 55

Wins: 29

Additional Top Fives: 21 

HIS CREW: Parents Randy and Cindy, uncle Dave, girlfriend Bryanna Behning and Randy Behrends.

HIS SPONSORS: Larry Shaw Race Cars of Batesville, Ark.; Wehrs Machine and Racing Products of Bangor, Wis.; Cassill Motors, FYP Properties, Local Vizion, Sam’s Pizza and Texas Road House, all of Cedar Rapids; Precision Performance Shocks of Oxford; Shellsburg Car Wash; Mattress Firm of Iowa; Next Level Graphics DeZigns of Imperial, Mo.; and Superior Steering Wheel of Pharr, Texas.