HARROD — At 14-years-old, Jac Nickles is probably a better driver than you.
Well, the soon-to-be eighth-grader at Allen East is definitely a better driver than you on a dirt track in a mini sprint car.
On June 6, Nickles became the youngest driver to win a Midwest Mini feature event at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnanville, Indiana. The previous mark was held by Seth Motsinger at the age of 15.
Nickles’ record-setting run came during Indiana’s speed week and so not only did he become the youngest to win a feature race but he won the speed week title by winning the overall points for the week.
The win and overall performance is the latest accomplishment by the teenage driver who began racing since he was 4-years-old when he jumped into a go-cart.
“I’ve always liked racing and my family has always been a racing kind of family,” Nickles said. “I used to go to my great uncles’ shop (in Lima) and they owned a couple of sprint cars and I used to visit them. I would visit them and say this is what I want to do.”
Despite racing against much older opponents, Nickles began to collect first-place go-cart finishes that only fueled his desire to continue racing.
“After a couple of years I started winning,” Jac Nickles said. “I started winning about 20 races a year, and I wanted to do bigger and better things.”
Nickles, who said even at age 4 he wanted to race mini sprints, began saving his winnings in order to save up for a mini sprint car.
Jac’s father, Larry, said, “He saved every penny he won at go-carting and bought his mini spring himself.”
Even though there is an age limit of 14, Jac bought his first car at 12-years-old.
In order to get on the track and race at the mini sprint level, Larry admits that they lied about Jac’s age.
“It is supposed to be 14 but we fibbed,” Larry said. “He is pretty big for his age.”
Despite being at such a young age and racing against adults, Jac Nickles said he was never intimidated and was used to racing against individuals older than he was.
As a parent, Larry Nickles admits he is always concerned about his son’s safety due to the dangers that can occur on the race track.
“Our decision to go to mini sprints was based on safety,” Larry Nickles said. “He had stepped up to the stage in go-carts where he was racing what we call open or unlimited carts with carts reaching speeds of up to 80 miles an hour plus and you had no roll cage and no safety belts. We felt it to be more safe for him to be in a car with a harness and a roll cage.
“Did it make it any better? No. I worry but I also know he sacrificed a lot since the time he was 5 years old to do this. There is no doubt this is what he wants to do. He has given up the birthday parties on the weekend to go racing and the sleepovers and the trips to Kings Island with his buddies because he has to race so he sacrificed on his end so I fully support him.”
Larry Nickles equates his son’s racing to any other sport where an individual can get hurt, and it is safety first.
Even though Jac Nickles was younger than most of his fellow racers, he said the competition never had a problem with him racing due to his talent behind the wheel.
“I usually try to keep my straight line and that is how you get respect,” said Jac Nickles, who added that he has not been in an accident since he began racing mini sprints. “I don’t go out there and act all crazy and crash people. That is what I tried to do and get some laps my first year.”
In his first year, Jac Nickles garnered rookie of the year honors at Waynesfield Raceway at age 12 and narrowly missed winning the championship by 17 points in the final race of the season.
Nickles’ philosophy on racing is simple.
“I put the pedal to the metal,” Jac Nickles said. “That is what you have to do in mini sprints. It is all about the momentum. If you break your momentum someone is going to catch you and you are going to get passed so that is my mindset, pedal to the metal.
The season starts in March for Jac Nickles and due to Waynesfield Raceway cutting down its schedule, the family has had to travel to neighboring states to compete.
“We are traveling three-plus hours to the closest track and up to six hours,” Larry Nickles said.
Garnering sponsors is also another area the Nickles family has learned about that helps with the financial costs. Nickles’ current sponsors are R.D. Jones Excavating, N.W.O Property Services, RCS Construction, T&D Interior, Tim Landscaping, Shawnee Manor, KPM Motorsports, C&M Building Maintenance, Lucas Oil Super Cleen, Wicked Energy Gum and Ricker Repair Service.
Larry Nickles said it is tough to get sponsors but he said their selling point is Jac Nickles’ age.
“Where ever he goes he is usually a crowd favorite,” Larry Nickles said. “You got a 12, 13-year-old racing against 25-30 year olds and if not winning he is running up front so you know he is going to get a little more air time and face time than the average guy out there just for the fact that he is so young.”
On a typical race weekend, the Nickles try to participate in two races to maximize their travel time.
While driving consumes most of his year, Nickles said he also likes to play basketball and dad likes that his son can balance his school work and race time. Jac, whose favorite subject is history, made the A-B honor roll in school.
“When I can’t race my mini sprint in the summer I always do basketball in the winter,” Jac Nickles said.
Despite receiving a lot of recognition for his latest efforts as well as signing a few autographs along the way, Larry Nickles said his son has stayed humble throughout this latest success.
“He has very few friends that know he races,” Larry Nickles said. “The parents are starting to catch on. He doesn’t’ talk about it at school unless he is asked.”
Jac Nickles next step is to move up to sprint cars and after high school to pursue racing professionally.