HARLAN, Iowa – What had been an atypical season ended with a career highlight for Mike Nichols.
Nichols won 32 IMCA Sunoco Stock Car features and three track championships on the way to a record-matching seventh career national crown, clinched before a much-anticipated first IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals fueled by Casey’s championship.
“I’ve always been a numbers guy but this is the only time since I’ve been racing that I didn’t pay attention to point standings, bonus points, anything,” said Nichols, from Harlan, Iowa. “The passing of my brother in April put a lot of things in perspective for us.”
Nichols started a new job the same month and has since started accelerated classes to earn a Master’s Degree in business administration. He and wife Anita are also making plans to build a new house so their summer was even busier than normal.
“It was a little hectic. I’ve become a professional juggler,” he said. “One of my greatest regrets was not completing my education. I work full-time and travel a lot for work while I take accelerated classes. I took my laptop to Super Nationals and did homework during farming sessions. That was my racing vacation.”
The top driver in the EQ Cylinder Heads Northern Region, Nichols’ track championships came at Lexington Raceway, where he won all 11 starts during the weekly point season, and Crawford County Speedway and Shelby County Speedway.
He had nine wins at both Crawford County and Shelby County, a pair at Junction Motor Speedway and a single checkered at RPM Speedway before topping the Saturday main event at Super Nationals.
“That meant a lot to us. I don’t know if I can explain how much. We’ve tried to win Super Nationals for a lot of years,” said Nichols, who celebrated that victory four days after his 40th birthday. “It was a stellar year. It’s hard to compare to 2016.”
He’d tied IMCA’s single-season record with 54 wins, earned at a dozen tracks, last year.
“We had more wins last year but our focus this year was to support our local tracks more. We wanted to support local people and tracks as much as we could. We stayed fairly close to home and have taken Lexington on as a home track,” Nichols said. “It feels good to be the guy who is loyal to his regular tracks and is still successful.”
He leads all IMCA drivers with 34 career track championships. Also the national champion in 2002, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2014 and 2016, his 461 Stock Car wins are best all-time in that division.
“One thing about weekly racing, if people want to come race with me, they know where I’ll be,” Nichols said. “There’s no secret to our success. You assemble a team that is the best at what it does, from manufacturers to crew. You do that, and with a little luck, you can expect to always be contending for the win at the end of the night.”
Nichols’ off-track goals outnumber his on-track aspirations in 2018.
“I want to get educated and get the house built,” he said. “One thing we would like to do is get to 500 wins. It would take a heck of a year but it would be cool.”
Starts-45 Wins-32 Top Five Finishes-42
HIS SPONSORS: EQ Cylinder Heads of North Las Vegas, Nev.; Performance Bodies of Cedar Falls; Dynamic Drivelines of Des Moines; Bassett Racing Wheel of Burlington, Wis.; Schoenfeld Headers of Van Buren, Ark.; Moser Engineering of Portland, Ind.; Jim Hiland and Bilstein Shocks, Mooresville, N.C.; QuickCar of Lebanon, Tenn., and FAST Ignition and Comp Cams, both of Memphis, Tenn.; Eibach Springs of Corona, Calif.; CP Carrillo/Bullet of Irvine, Calif.; Dirt Defender of Red Oak, Texas; Kevko Oil Pans of Fairmont, Minn.; Mi Casa Family Restaurant, The Lounge, Dotz’s DJ Service, Petersen Motors and the Rust family, all of Harlan; Pizza Ranch of Harlan and Denison; McClellan Electric of Denison; Gaul Farms of Earling; B & B Chassis of Belle Plaine, Minn.; KS Engineering of Albert Lea, Minn.; Luke Cochran and SSS Motorsports of Springfield, Neb.; FX Suspension of Phillips, Neb.; Koch Farms of Cambridge, Neb.; One4 Cutz of Omaha, Neb.; VP Heartland Fuels of Manhattan, Kan.; Western Carriers of WaKeeney, Kan.; Champion Racing Oil of Clinton, Mo.; SixNine Design of Jamesport, Mo.; and The Joie of Seating, Concord, N.C.
HIS CREW: Wife Anita, Justin Gessert and Paul Zimmerman co-crew chiefs, Tuffy Zimmerman, Mike Diercks, Stan Nichols, Julie Schneider, Brian Dotzler, Chris Gaul, Josh Nielsen, Lon Lefeber, Mike Onnen and Sterling Sorensen. Honorary pit crew are Steve Nichols and James Buwalda.