2017 Season for Tyler Nelson Shows Constant Improvement
By Jessica Jenkins
When 2017 began all of the pieces were in place for Tyler Nelson to split his time behind the wheel with three National Midget teams. Driving for Harris Racing in POWRi and USAC, Roger Mason primarily with USAC and his own #88 in various events, ample opportunity was provided for Nelson to get even more experience on a variety of tracks. Early season motor problems in the Tyler Nelson Racing car prevented a handful of mid to late season races, but overall the season was one full of learning and growing confidence for the 20 year old racer.
As the season kicked off in Tulsa mid-January at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, motor issues set Nelson back early on his qualifying night. That put him in a position to pick up an L Main win on Saturday and he was set to continue advancing until getting knocked out by a competitor's unfortunate decision early in the K Main. The two month "offseason" ended in March with another indoor USAC race at DuQuoin's Southern Illinois Center for his second time working with Jack Harris and the #91 team. April and early May brought four straight feature appearances in the 88 at Kokomo and Montpelier before transitioning back to POWRi with Harris Racing through early June, highlighted by the May Jacksonville-Macon doubleheader yielding ultra-competitive runs prior to mechanical trouble. On the heels of the June Jacksonville-Macon double, USAC's Indiana Midget week took center stage. Planned appearances for Roger Mason's #47 turned into three days of Nelson bringing his 88 after a blown motor on night one of Midget Week knocked the 47 out of contention for the remainder of the week.
July exploded with a hot weekend in central Illinois for three straight days of USAC racing. Nelson made the Feature all three nights, capping it off with his debut at Springfield's Multi-Purpose Arena, where he tied for highest point earner after the heats. August's first several days took him to Kansas and Missouri with a handful more starts in the 47 that included making the team's first two Feature appearances. The month wrapped up with Harris Racing at Macon Speedway for a total of three feature appearances that month. September was highlighted by an eighth place result in Southern Illinois Raceway's feature and finished up with a doubleheader at Belle-Clair to wrap up four straight starts for Harris Racing. October's Kokomo Klash in the 88 and USAC's Turkey Night Grand Prix on Thanksgiving with Roger Mason provided his only starts in each of those months before returning where he started in the Midwest with Harris Racing for the Junior Knepper 55 at DuQuoin.
Out of 26 races Nelson made seventeen A Main starts that led to an average starting spot of 11.4 and an average finish that totaled to 15.6. Many times finishes didn't reflect how competitive Nelson and his teams were, but weekends like Macon Speedway in May with a top four run underway and Springfield's top three starting spot based on passing points in July were memorable for the Olathe, KS native. His eighth place qualifying run during Midget Week at Bloomington and top ten in qualifying time at Beloit in August also showed he was going the right way. Nelson's eighth place finish at the Southern Illinois Raceway followed his top ten at Kokomo in May to be among his best race results of the year. With so many short bullrings on the schedule, it gave Nelson plenty of opportunity to get stronger on that style. As Nelson explained, "I think this year I've mostly improved on little tracks. I always kinda struggled on little bullrings, but this year with Jack, I feel like I've really grown there. By the end of it, I really improved in that aspect."
Nelson recapped his year by sharing, "I think I grew a lot as a driver. It's always a pleasure driving for Jack Harris. They've got really nice stuff and every week I felt like we were improving and building a relationship, so we were getting more comfortable. I know what he wants out of a driver and he knows what I want out of a car. I really enjoy driving for Roger Mason too. They took me out to Turkey Night again and that's always just an awesome venue. As far as my own car, it was kind of disappointing. Overall I think, in a lot of ways, it's a really good year."
This upcoming year will be a huge restart for the Tyler Nelson Racing #88 as he got a new SR-11 engine package. Between what is going on with his car and returning to Harris Racing, there are a lot of good things ahead in the new year for the Indianapolis resident. "I'm really looking forward to going into 2018 with [Harris Racing]. We're going to have a new car and everything, so it should be pretty fun. I'm excited to run my new engine in my personal car next year, so that's going to be a big step up in our program. Gotta thank Stanton Racing for that."
To keep up with all that Tyler Nelson has going on this upcoming season, including the rapidly approaching Chili Bowl, head over to @TylerNelsonRacing on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TylerNelson88 if that's more your speed. Updates and pictures will be posted all season long.