Slinger Super Speedway Midwest Sportsman Champion, 2003
How did you get into racing?
My father drag raced, then got into dirt racing at Hales Corners and Cedarburg with the likes of Jim Hendricks and all those names. He eventually got out of racing when I was born and he worked on a pit crew with a gentleman by the name of Skeeter Burrows. If that name sounds familiar, Skeeter Burrows raced Hales Corners, Slinger, Cedarburg…back in the days when you could run a Sportsman car three, four nights a week anywhere. My dad was an avid member of that pit crew with a handful of other gentlemen who I just grew up around. Ever since I was a little kid all the way through really through my adulthood, I hung out with that entire group at the weekend shop. . Skeeter Burrows has long since passed away, I think he passed away in 1996. But you could kind of go back as far as Skeeter Burrows was my idol, if you want to call it that. As a matter of fact, the purple that I, to the day I stopped racing, carried on my car or helmets was in memory of Skeeter Burrows because he always had a purple and white car.
So I grew up around that shop, that was literally every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – that’s what we did. Skeeter got out of racing in the early 80’s, so I didn’t even consider racing until I was a little later in life. But then when I was about 8 years old, which would have been about 1985, my dad came home one night and I don’t even know why, but all of a sudden he said, “Would you ever want to do go-kart racing?” and he handed a pamphlet to me and the next thing you know we met the gentleman from Franklin Kart, Doug Meyer, and some of those folks..we went there and talked to a bunch of people, and a couple of weeks later we had a go-kart in the garage. We knew nothing of what we were doing, but we started going out to Badger Raceway and the rest is kind of history. I raced go-karts from eight years old until I think I was 14. I won the track championship in my class, I think it was 1989, had a ton of success, we traveled around with the WKA (the World Karting Association), and ran Badger Raceway weekly for all those years. As a matter of fact, that’s how I know [Slinger Speedway owner] Todd Thelen. Todd raced in a different class than myself but Eric Fransen, Todd Thelen, so many people that I can still go back and they are all from my early racing days! Rich Loch, as a matter of fact, Rich and I raced go-karts in the same class together in 1987 to 1989 I want to say; he might have gotten out of it one year before I did. So there are just so many folks that I can still appreciate from my go-karting days. A lot of history that goes back a long way, and I know I’m missing some names. So, that’s how I got started into racing.
What do you like about Slinger Super Speedway?
Number one, the history of Slinger Speedway. Not many tracks are left anymore and Slinger is a unique track. When they say it’s the fastest quarter mile in the world, they aren’t lying. I can’t explain to anybody who’s not a racer what it feels like to go around Slinger Speedway, more specifically in a Super Late Model. I think I’ve heard the term used at Bristol a lot, “a fighter jet in a gymnasium” is kind of the terminology that I like to use. It is so fast, I don’t think even the avid fan appreciates how fast of a track it is. So, I love it for the history. I love the fact that it’s local. It is close to home; I do reside in Hartford and I’ve been in this area for my entire life. It’s been a place that I’ve just called home. Every Sunday night long before I ever thought about racing at that track, I was a fan every Sunday night for as long as I can remember. Whether it was going to Hales Corners on a Saturday night and then going to Slinger on a Sunday, it was just kind of normal. You never missed a Slinger Nationals, you tried to not miss too many Sunday nights, so the fact that I even got to race there later in life was just kind of a dream come true. It’s just a cool facility; there’s no place like it.
Who do you need to thank from your racing days?
Crew: I absolutely couldn’t have done anything without my father. My father and I had a unique relationship when it came to racing. A lot of people thought, “Well your dad bought everything, and that’s how you got started”. That’s not how it was. A little backstory: the day I got into circle track racing with a Legends car,
I took out a loan and bought this brand new Legends car, didn’t know what I was doing, and my dad had told me he’d “disown” me if I decided to buy a racecar. At that time in my life I was kind of like, “Well, I guess that’s what I’ll do. If you don’t like it, Dad, so be it”. My dad and I were always close, but I was kind of finding my own way. So I bought a Legends car and my dad was true to his word; he was like “you are on your own”. Long story short, my very first race at Rockford Speedway in the Legends car, I got in a bad accident and destroyed the car. Little did I know my dad was in the stands watching me that day. So here I am with a bunch of crew members who were all just a bunch of friends from high school…nobody knew what we were doing. One of the people was actually part of that race shop I grew up in, but we didn’t know what we were doing. But, here I have this car that I’m making monthly payments on, and it’s destroyed – we can’t even get it into the trailer. I’m down there on a shoestring budget, I’m renting a trailer, I’m borrowing a truck, I’m coming with a toolbox that you’d buy from Fleet Farm…I don’t have anything and then I wreck the car and my dad’s in the stands and he comes to the pits afterward. First of all, it’s like, “What’s your plan, Nick?” I’m like, “I have no plan, dad.” I’m basically in tears in the truck just trying to figure out what I’m going to do next. He said, “Well, be at the shop tomorrow night; we’ll figure it out”. I’m like, “What does this mean?”. Sure enough I come to the shop that night and he gets all the old band members together from his days, who we all had this race shop with, and the next thing you know, the rest is history – my dad was a part of my now circle track career from then on out. That’s a long answer for I couldn’t do any of this without my father. I owned everything myself. My dad never owned a single part of the racecar. His deal was, if you have to get it to the track or it has to go onto the track – it’s on you. But he fully supported things that were needed at the shop and his time, that was never a question. So when it came to tools and equipment and just all of the technology, I mean my dad was never one to not invest in that…but, I’ll be darned if my dad was going to buy a tire or a pit pass. There were specific rules that we had.
There are a lot of other folks that helped get me to where I’m at. Names that I don’t want to forget…Ed Maack, Sr and Ed Maack, Jr – they were part of that Skeeter Burrows era. Ed Maack, Sr was the crew chief of Skeeter Burrows and then his son, Ed Maack, Jr and I grew up at the race shop together. So when I got into racing, to get that crew all back together again, that’s how it all started for me. Ed “Jr” became my crew chief. So it was great to have this group back that we all were like it was years earlier. These guys to this day are still like family to me, and expert fabricators, and I owe so much to them for all the time they invested in me. That only lasted a few years with them, then my dad and I eventually went our own way and developed our own deal. But I’ve had so many people who have helped me over the years, not only on my own but when I became part of the Team 16 group. I wouldn’t have been able to make some of the names that I was able to for myself if it wasn’t for Team 16. Albeit the end didn’t turn out the way I wanted, I certainly wouldn’t want to miss thanking Dan and Sonya [DelCamp] for the opportunity they gave me. As well as all those crew members of Mark Apel, Doug Droese, Rob/Ron Deming, Mike, Lenny, Jimmy… I had such an amazing time with them, and wish it could have continued. All of my sponsors, some of them aren’t even with us anymore, but I wouldn’t have been where I was without them or the crew members. There’s so many that I’d be worried I’d forget some of the names.
Sponsors: Custom Fleet Maintenance was my core supporter through the years. Ray Sill and Mike Neardales were the investors in me. Unfortunately, Ray passed away in 2006 and then Mike continued sponsoring me through the end of my career. He no longer owns the business anymore, but he and Ray are the two biggest supporters I had. Then we had Craig Zeller who supported me. I think, and I might be wrong on this, but I think I may have been one of the first two cars Craig sponsored. He was always involved with Pat McIntee for years, but I don’t know if he ever really put his name on the car. I did a lot of business, and still do to this day, with Craig, so I knew Craig professionally before I knew him from racing. He helped support me over the years as well, and I want to definitely thank him. I still give him a lot of crap that if I ever decide to get back behind the wheel he’s going to have to add me to his arsenal of drivers. I also had Stelzl Truck Wash as part of my sponsorship program, Pomp’s Tire sponsored me with Mark Bitzan. After he was out for a little bit, he became my spotter and for my final two years helped me out. I also need to mention Blue Leasing and Trev Timblin.
Anyone else: I couldn’t do what I did without having the support crew I had. Ken Savee, Chad Sill (Ray’s son), and Jason Warneke, Doug Brozozowski, Mark Bell. Then later on Luke Rollins helped me in 2004 and beyond when I ran late models at MIS. He’s who also helped build my resume that I could eventually get to be on Team 16. He was a part of that transition early on as well. If it wouldn’t have been for Luke, I probably wouldn’t have been able to have a professional format to eventually apply for the Team 16 ride. George and Cheri Forge from MotorMasters – I have so much respect for them. Also for Dan Miller, for letting me drive his car and his crew that weekend… So many folks to thank over my years and hate leaving anyone out.
Did you have any pre-race traditions/superstitions/foods/etc?
Yea…no green. I never had any green on me or around me unless it was the green flag. No peanuts. We never ate peanuts in the pits…shelled peanuts, or any peanut in any shape or form, we never had peanuts in the pits. That was my old school roots I came up in, that was their rule when they traveled – no peanuts in the pits. I had certain things that I did every time I got in the car, whether it was a little prayer to myself or certain other things. George Forge used to be the last person that I ever would see before I would get onto that race track. He was the one who would buckle me in, put up my window net, and give me the last little catch phrase. It was almost like it wasn’t the same if he didn’t do it. Everything got hooked up, he was my last set of eyes and ears before I got on that track. I look back at it and it was important. I kind of get goosebumps and a little emotional just thinking about it because he was such a good guy and I remember there were just certain little traditions, and that was one of them. If he wasn’t there, it was like this isn’t going to go well. To this day, I don’t get a chance to see him as much as I wish, but I remember that vividly. I don’t know if he still does that for anyone else, but if he does I hope they have the same experience.
What is your favorite racing memory at Slinger?
Of all the things, and this is probably going to be crazy, I drove a Modified for Dan Miller one night. It was a sponsor deal, so Dan Miller was sponsored by Custom Fleet just like I was, and he was going on his honeymoon. My sponsor put a deal together with him to put me in the car for one night in 2004 because the crew wanted somebody out there. I came there for one race, one race only, hopped in that Modified and won the feature. I think I qualified second on the night, started at the back, came back and won. It might have been the most fun I had in a racecar and I drove a lot of cars and for a lot of people. I had more fun that night at Slinger, coming from the back, passing on the outside to get the lead. It was Jeff Holtz, Dale Prunty, Wes Biswell…I mean everybody who was anybody was in that race! To drive somebody else’s car that I didn’t even fit in – they were stuffing coats in the seat to try to get me to fit, I was taller than Dan was so my head was hitting the rollbar, the radio and things just didn’t hook up correctly…but went out there and won the race. You hear about things like that – so and so just hopped in a car and won with it and here I was, I hopped in someone’s car and won it. And I didn’t win by starting from the pole and holding up the field for the next how many laps; no, I won coming from the back and passing from the outside. That of all the things was probably my favorite experience at Slinger. I remember going through Tech and I thought to myself, “Please, just don’t get disqualified. I would hate to have this night get tarnished because I’m driving an illegal car”. That was actually the first night I met George because he built Dan Miller’s motor. We passed Tech and I remember my dad was there and he came up to me saying, “Tell me everything is good!” That experience is what Team 16 remembered when I applied to drive for them. They remembered the guy that came out to Slinger and drove a guy’s modified for one night and won. Mark Apel and Doug Droese were part of Dan and Sonya’s team and remembered me, they had no idea who I was, but they remembered watching me come from the back. The next thing you know, in my interview with Dan and Sonya that came up! I don’t want to totally credit that for the opportunity I got with Team 16, but I think it had a lot to do with it, and I went on to have four years with Dan and Sonya.
Along with the Modified single race, you also ran Sportsman, Pro Late Models, and Super Late Models at Slinger. Take us through the progression from the Legends to the other divisions.
When I bought that Legends car in 1995, they were just becoming a thing in Wisconsin. As a matter of fact, I was part of the first race that Legends ran at Slinger Speedway. I finished second that day after we put the car back together with the old crew. I ran Legends cars from ‘95 to ‘97, traveled all over, won a bunch of races, and had a lot of success. Eventually I sold that car at the end of 1997. Then from 1998 to 1999, I finally put a Sportsman car together; I built my own Mid-American Sportsman. I dabbled around in that in ‘99, and then I really started getting serious in 2001. In ‘99 and 2000 we were very, very part-time. I was the only Dodge-powered everything in a Sportsman. A gentleman that was helping me was a Dodge fanatic and his deal was I’ll help you put a car together if it’s a Dodge. So I said OK, if anyone will help me, I’ll do what I can to help them. So, the next thing you know, I’m building a Dodge motor. Little did I know, nobody really had those, but Tony Strupp was running a Dodge power plant in his Super Late Model at the time. I reached out to the Strupp family quite a bit to learn about what kind of components I would need, and how I could get transmissions because at the time we’d run GM transmissions bolted onto Dodge power plants and there were a whole bunch of things that you needed to do for that. So I used a lot of resources that we had. I ran Dodge power from 1999 until 2002, and then in ‘02 I ended up blowing one of my Dodge motors and I couldn’t afford to put another one of those together. A Dodge motor basically cost me double what Chevys would cost back then, so I eventually switched over to Chevy. Then I continued Sportsman through 2003. In 2003, I did the full-time Midwest Sportsman, which was the first year that Slinger had the Midwest Sportsman division. After my championship, I sold the car to Mike Borchardt, who used to do all my decals – all my cars were lettered by Mike.
In 2004, I bought the house car from Pathfinder Chassis that Matt Kenseth drove at the Slinger Nationals. I wanted to move up. The ASA or what we call now crate Late Models was just becoming popular up here and Madison was running them weekly. I decided I wanted to take the leap into Late Models and this was a great deal; I could buy a $5000 motor and a Super Late chassis and go racing, and in concept that was accurate. So I did that in 2004 at Madison, didn’t travel anywhere else, and ran that one Modified race at Slinger. Then in 2005 is when I got the opportunity to drive for Dan and Sonya, and ran a Super Late from 2005 all the way through 2008, and then we parted ways. I ran for them with a Super Late, a Limited Late, the NASCAR Elite series with the perimeter cars, and the MARS tour. Those other classes weren’t full time, they were just we had cars and we had time so we ran them. I ran a lot of races with them, and I owned my own stuff as well. I had my own ASA car and we brought that into the stable. I almost won the championship in the Limited Lates at Slinger. I think I came in second; there was a 3-way battle between myself, Andy Wendt, and Scott Nottestad. That last race was a heck of a night, basically whoever beat each other was going to win the championship. I got hung up on a restart on the outside lane, watched everyone pass me on the inside and I lost the championship. I remember the spotter was calling, “I can’t get you down, I can’t get you down.”
How did you get your car number?
I was #4 in Sportsman. When I was younger we went to a lot of snowmobile races; Chuck and Allen Decker were legendary snowmobile racers. Chuck ran a #04 Merk’s Cheese snowmobile and his color was black, red, yellow, and orange. Well, being a Schumacher and being German, I always liked that color combination so I copied it when I go- karted. I had a black, red, and yellow color that I liked and my driver’s suit and everything was black, red, yellow and orange. I kind of liked the 4, so I ended up going with it and from that day on I was #4 for my whole career, until I became part of Team 16.
If you could have dinner with any three people (alive or passed) who would they be?
How could you not want the opportunity at some point to ever sit at the same table with Dale Earnhardt from the early era. But, I was a Dick Trickle fan forever. And as a kid Alan Kulwicki was “the guy”; we all knew Alan Kulwicki. So those would be a few folks that I wish I would have the opportunity to sit in the same room or jaw jack with them.
Why did you stop racing?
Team 16 and I parted ways right before the season in 2009. My wife (at the time) and I were pregnant with my son so it was almost perfect to be out of racing. He was born that year so it was really easy to take a year off, thinking I’ll be a father and everything I’m supposed to be then next year I’m going to get my car back together. Next thing you know you are a dad, you are finding other things to take your time. Then I got brought on by ASA Tour and started working for Lumpy in 2010 because he knew I wasn’t racing anymore. Now 13 years later, here I am the Race Director of the ASA Midwest Tour and I’ve been doing that since 2010. I still had intentions of getting back into racing, but then my dad’s garage burnt down – where I had everything but the car, motors, etc. All of the equipment was in there, so I lost 20 years of equipment in that fire; at that point there was no reason to get back into racing again. I would have had to start over – we lost all the tools, scales, shop dynos, welders, you name it, everything you can think about. So I sold my chassis and trailer to Brian Holtz, my motors to random people around, and I was out. All that’s left is my driver’s bag; I could walk downstairs right now and tell you my driver’s bag is the exact same way I left it in 2009.
What are you up to these days?
I have a professional career that is not tied to racing, which has kept me very busy. I’m a Vice-President of Transportation for a company called MRS. To add to the story line, that company was formed in 2008, so it actually worked out well because my career was becoming very, very hectic so my time allowed at a track and working with a team was going to be limited.
As mentioned in 2010 I started with the ASA Tour as part of the technical support team with Lumpy in order to stay in the sport. The roles were always twofold; if you worked tech you did that early in the day, and obviously post-race, but then you always had another role in the race night. During my first couple of years, my role was to work Spotterville, dealing with Race Control and all of the spotters. It was a natural fit for me, I saw things from Spotterville that sometimes Race Control didn’t even see. I always knew exactly what the spotters were thinking when things were happening because I’d had a spotter. I could walk the walk, I could talk the talk. About 2-3 years into that, they asked me to be the Race Director and without question I took it. Tim Olson owned the series at the time and gave me the opportunity for the ASA Midwest Tour, which eventually became the ARCA Midwest Tour and I’ve now been the Race Director with Technical Support. I’m still very involved in Tech; I do not write the rules, I enforce the rules. I have the unique role to say I know what the rule is, it is not my rule, but it is a rule and I enforce it accordingly. We have Bob Abitz and a few others who actually make the final call when it comes to the technical side. So, I’m very involved in Tech, but my job for the tour is all the race day control; if it’s on the track, in any way, shape or form, I am writing the policies and procedures and policing them. I got an opportunity to be a part of the new national tour this year. As you know, Gregg McKarns sold the tour last year, so I’ve been through all the ownerships – I was part of it when Tim Olson/Steve Einhaus owned it then McKarns. Now that it is sold and is the ASA Midwest Tour and the ASA national tour with Bob Sargent. I had the unique opportunity to be the National Race Director for ASA this year, but I regrettably had to turn that down just due to the time constraints. I have a full-time job; I didn’t need another one. I love racing; I just don’t love it that much! If I was going to invest that kind of time again, it was going to be to race again. There is no secret that if I ever had an opportunity to go race again you wouldn’t have to ask me twice, but it would have to be the right opportunity. I wouldn’t do it unless it was with the right team, with the right people, with the right equipment, and doing it on my own will never happen again. I don’t have the time, I don’t have the resources, but in my heart of hearts I believe that I could still put sponsors together. So I’d have to partner with somebody and I’d bring the money and whatever it took. Before I die, at some point I want my son to see me race at Slinger. I’m not even 100% sure it has to be a certain class, would love for it to be a Super Late, but if someone had a car in a competitive class… Legends – I started in Legends, so I still think I could race them. The Midwest Trucks are coming, I’m trying to strike a deal to rent one of them. My goal is to get back in a ride at Slinger somehow; I want a reunion. I still believe in my heart of hearts I can do well there. I watch in-car cameras and stuff and think, “Gosh, it’s just like it was – it’s no different.” I need to win a Pro Late Model feature to be like Jeff Holtz [who has won features in Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Sportsman, and Modifieds]. Brian and Jeff owe me one because part of the deal when I sold them my chassis was I’ll sell it to you for this price, but I want to run something twice. That’s been many years; I’m sure he’s forgotten about it, but I haven’t. Anyway, I fully intend to be the Midwest Tour Race Director this year, and they have mentioned that I will be the National Tour Race Director for the three events in the Midwest – one of which is the Slinger Nationals.
Which Slinger driver (past or present) do you respect the most?
There’s been a lot. It’s hard because you have a lot of folks that are just staples in the business…Al Schill – how can you not put Al on the list, but yet I didn’t have a relationship with him (but I go-kart raced with Al, Jr), we just raced together. I don’t think Al Schill, Sr would know me if I walked into the bar with him. He probably would if I told him, hey one of the last weeks of the year, I took you out by accident. It was a part failure, by the way! I have a ton of respect for him. Conrad Morgan – I grew up as a kid watching him, so how can you not have respect for them when you are racing them? From back in my era, when I was running Supers – David Prunty. I don’t know if David got enough credit for what his accomplishments were back in the day. He kind of dropped off, similar to myself. Dennis has made such a huge name for himself over the years, but if you think about the era I raced in it was David. Lowell Bennett, how do you not have him on that list and Brad Mueller – I’ve known Brad my whole life; I have an aunt and uncle from Random Lake and they are very close to the Mueller family. Albeit Brad and I on track never really saw eye-to-eye, he knows this – we’ve had a few run-ins together on the track, but from a personal side of things, Brad Mueller is just a funny guy. Knowing that he’s always known my family, he kind of treats me like family when he sees me. How can you not mention him on that list? I also have a ton of respect for Steve Apel. He was just a high school kid when he and his father helped me at Team 16, and I have nothing but love for that family and entire group as they were a part of my racing experience. So albeit he “took my ride”, I never looked at it that way. Just a business deal, and I really think they have accomplished so much, and anytime I’m at Slinger I want to spend time with them. Just good people.