Wednesday Jul 22 2009
Life in the fast lane suits Lincoln resident well
By: Cody Kitaura, News Messenger Correspondent
Almost every weekend, Nick Lyons pulls his $20,000 racecar to Roseville’s All American Speedway with a 20-year-old pickup truck and an open trailer. His pit crew, headed by his father, doesn’t have matching uniforms and is smaller than many of the other teams. Some of the other racing teams have newer tow vehicles and nicer trailers, but his father, Barry Lyons, said they don’t mind. “We like it that way,” he said. “We both know the racing is done on the track.” Nick Lyons, who has lived in Lincoln for three years, still manages to keep up. He’s currently in second place in the Modified Division of a NASCAR-sanctioned class of racecars: open-wheel cars with full bodywork and V8 engines pumping out more than 500 horsepower. Partway through his third season of Modified Division racing, he’s currently in second place, 25 points behind the overall leader, Roseville’s Jarred Beddow. But he’s hardly new to racing. When Nick Lyons was 8 years old, his parents introduced him to quarter midgets – scaled-down racecars designed for children. He raced various types of cars as he got older, winning championship titles in quarter midget racing. Last year, he finished third and was named the most improved driver in the Modified Division. Barry Lyons said he introduced Nick Lyons to racing because he wanted to keep him out of trouble and pass on a legacy. Barry Lyons, now 53, raced for most of his life, quitting only when his son was born. He said racing has changed considerably since he competed. “When I did it, it was hard to find a race on TV,” he said. “(Racing) has grown by leaps and bounds.” Even the way Barry Lyons and his son strategize has changed. “When he was in quarter midgets, I would draw a circle in the dirt and say, ‘Here’s you, here’s the other car,’” Barry Lyons said. Now, the two communicate mid-race via radio. Barry Lyons said he also tries to pass on what he learned off the track. He said he wants his son to have a positive influence on racing. “There are always going to be people who have a negative impact on the sport, but for each one of those, there are 10 good ones,” Barry Lyons said. Josh Blackwood, a friend who works in Nick Lyons’ pit crew, said Nick Lyons has a great rapport with the other drivers. “He’s known out there as one of the nicest, cleanest drivers,” Blackwood, 26, said. “He’s known to be a very upfront, sincere, honest guy.” Barry Lyons said Nick Lyons is almost always calm and cool, but sometimes he does get upset. In one race, a competitor caused him to lose control and then drove over the front end of his car, Nick Lyons said. As track officials were helping to push Nick Lyons’ disabled car off the track, the other driver’s son threw a Gatorade bottle at his car. “I had them stop (pushing) and I chased him down,” Nick Lyons said. “I was pissed.” Nick Lyons said the races attract a wide range of fans, but there’s always a family atmosphere at the racetrack. He said he gets a lot of support from the people who come to watch his races, including his friends, girlfriend, and his mother, who brings food for the pit crew. Daniel Mendoza, a friend who often attends the races, said he tries to “get him pumped up.” “We pull the ‘Ricky Bobby’ thing on him and tell him, ‘If you’re not first, you’re last,’” he said. “When we’re all uptight and razzing him, he’s really calm.” Nick Lyons also attributes much of his success to the five local businesses that sponsor his car. He is one of the few drivers who owns the car he races, he said, so he relies on sponsors to help with the cost of tires, fuel and entry fees. Each 40 to 70-lap race can burn as much as $100 worth of fuel, he said. Nick Lyons has only won a Modified Division race once, but he’s finished in the top six at every race this season. He wants to win, but he’s realistic. “I’m never going to be a NASCAR driver or anything, but I like the competition,” he said. Mendoza said it’s in his blood. “If it’s got wheels and an engine, it’s got Nick’s name written all over it,” Mendoza said.