Stories

NICK SCHWIEN â ¢ Hays Daily News Mike Nichols rolls through turn one during a stock car heat race Sunday night at RPM Speedway in Hays.

Stock car driver Nichols nothing but money at Hays' dirt track

Mike Nichols knows how to win.

He's won national titles in the IMCA stock car class in the past.

He's won race after race after race in his career.

It's no different when he comes to RPM Speedway in Hays.

Nichols, from Harlan, Iowa, won his third stock car feature Sunday night at RPM against a solid field of drivers.

It seems all he does is win in Hays.

"(RPM treasurer) Wade Porter jokes that it's just like an ATM,"  Nichols said. "He joked about setting me up for an automatic deposit or something. That's not true. I've had good luck here and bad luck at a lot of other places. I enjoy coming to Hays, and they do a great job with the race track. It sounds redundant and like I say that a lot, but they really do a nice job with the track. Tonight was no exception."

OK, Nichols isn't quite automatic in Hays -- but he's close. He's won two Fall Nationals crowns, and other weekly races, too, when he makes the long trip southwest.

"Trust me, it isn't me," he said. "It's a combination of the car working good and the track prep here. The local racers, I don't know if they know how good they've got it. I've raced at a number of tracks all over the country, and it's not going to get much better than this."

The interesting thing about Nichols, who's made several friends in the region throughout the years, is he can do things in a stock car a lot of others can't do. He can ride the high side, drop down low or squeeze it through the middle.

That's fun to watch. You know every time he competes, he's going to be in contention for a win unless he has a mechanical failure.

Nichols isn't always a sure bet to win, but he's considered a favorite every time he's in northwest Kansas, or anywhere for that matter.

But when he is at RPM or area tracks, the solid competition he faces makes him bring out the best in himself. Racing against drivers like Jeff and Nick Tubbs, Jason Rogers, B.J. Wagoner, Kyle Vanover, Jason Schoenberger (a few years ago), etc. makes for interesting nights.

"It's awesome,"  Nichols said. "I wish we could run against that type of field every night. Not necessarily certain guys, but the competition and the car numbers. That's one thing you need. To accumulate your IMCA points, you want to race for your bonus points at the end of the year against as many cars as you can throughout the year. That's one thing that is not predictable. You can't control anything, whether it be the economy or the weather. There's so many factors involved. This year has been phenomenal, especially down in this area."

Nichols is no stranger to working his way into contention for a national points title. He hits the road weekly for races, traveling many miles and long hours in the process. Such is the life of a racer chasing points.

His victory Sunday made the trip to Hays worthwhile. And it helped him get around a few obstacles he has been facing lately.

"Especially the last couple of weeks," he said about having challenges. "A week ago Friday night, we broke a transmission and drive shaft, and we've been chasing a vibration ever since. Tonight, we went out and won our heat race and literally had the transmission out replacing parts tonight we were thinking of to try to fix the vibration. It just never ends. We changed a motor during the day today, thinking maybe it was the motor. We've had everything in and out of the car. By the same token, here you are racing for points. Racing three nights a week, that doesn't stop just because you have a vibration problem. So you have to fix it from night to night. Your crew and everybody that helps you has to be on their A game every night, too. It's a big commitment for everybody. I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of good people around me."

It doesn't hurt to have a good driver in the seat, too.

Nick Schwien is chief copy editor and online racing editor at The Hays Daily News