Tyler Nelson Flexes Muscle Early at USAC's Shamrock Classic
By Jessica Jenkins
On the heels of his first DuQuoin feature appearance back in December, Tyler Nelson was optimistic about what his Harris Racing team could accomplish at the Shamrock Classic. Starting out shotgun for the second of USAC's heat races, Nelson used his head to expertly avoid collisions just ahead of him. Already having gained four spots within a handful of laps, the racer from Kansas wheeled his way to third by the end of ten circuits. A net gain of five positions put him at the top of passing points in second place overall.
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Slotting into sixth place for the second of four qualifiers, he attempted to work in the high line early on. With the inside lane as the place to be, he chose to run low and set about taking over fifth. Restarting inside the top five with a couple circuits remaining, Nelson held off previous DuQuoin victor Tyler Courtney for fifth place. With his excellent standing in passing points, reminiscent of Springfield last summer, the Indianapolis resident was handed a sixth place starting spot in the biggest race of the night.
USAC's season opener one year ago was Nelson's first as a twenty year old and one year later he was making his second Southern Illinois Center feature in his final race before turning twenty-one. Ready to continue the momentum built throughout the evening, #91 fired off and remained inside the top ten during the early circuits of the 50 lap event. While racing good friend Gage Walker for position, a slight miscalculation was made and the white and blue midget looped around. Restarting with the whole field ahead, Nelson kept in touch with the cars ahead and survived a couple more yellows to inch his way back towards the top fifteen. But the perils of running in the second half of the field caught up with him in the final 1/3rd of the race, sending the fan-friendly racer to the infield with a heavily deflated right rear tire. Once the dust settled Nelson and his Jack Harris-led team had earned a twentieth place result in their second Shamrock Classic appearance.
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Not at all indicative of how the rest of the evening went, Nelson owned up to being back that far in the field. "We just didn't get the finish and I put the blame on myself because I had a really good car. I should have bid my time a little better and kept my nose clean, but I got into it. That's part of this short track racing stuff. We were racing with Spencer Bayston there and it's just a tough deal here, being a points race and [the track] being so small. I think we have a lot to work on, but we've been a lot racier here. Back in December we did a really good job and we had a good night other than the feature here tonight. It's just more consistency. If we pull more consistency, the speed is there and I think we're really getting the hang of each other."
Giving credit to his car owner, the young racer continued, "I think we did alright. Obviously I want to thank Jack Harris for giving me an awesome car tonight. I mean, it was a lot better than where we finished. Anytime you can just lock in straight from a qualifier and not have to run a B, especially at a tough deal like this where you have people like Justin Grant and Spencer Bayston taking provisionals, we did something tonight. I think we've got a lot of good stuff to work on to go outdoors. We are definitely improving, there's no doubt about that." Huge thanks go out to each person who worked on the car and Nelson's partners Wilwood Brakes, Superior Bearing & Supply, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City, Weld Wheels, Regency Coffee & Vending and Spike Chassis that continue making this possible.
Looking ahead on his schedule, Nelson returns with Harris Racing's #91 for a Jacksonville doubleheader April 6th and 7th. One week later he will be back in his own equipment at Kokomo Speedway for back-to-back nights of USAC national midget racing on April 13-14th. Keep up-to-date with Nelson on his Facebook page @TylerNelsonRacing for pictures from DuQuoin and updates on his races all season long.
Results at a glance
Heat 2--start 8th ; finish 3rd
Qualifier 2--start 6th ; finish 5th
Feature--start 6th ; finish 20th