Posts Tagged ‘NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’

The “Region Racers” Series – Rudy Nichels

By: Wm. LaDow

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In 1908, a 10-year-old boy crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He and his father journeyed from Austria with the intent of settling in America.

Though his last name was Puja when he entered Ellis Island, it was soon changed. It’s unclear whether in his pocket rested a few coins or perhaps he was cared for by a kind immigration worker who gave him some change to get a meal, but from that day forward his last name was Nichels.

After establishing their residency in Chicago, a teenage Rudy could often be found at the corner pool hall, or participating in a local “game of chance.” But a few years later, Nichels settled down in the Calumet Region’s Griffith, Indiana, got married and eventually started a family — a daughter and three sons.

Nichels was a born entrepreneur and quickly sensed that the American automobile was fast becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. He made it a point to get involved in any auto-related businesses he could find.

FTIn time he was able to parlay his savings into the purchase of a small Fisk Tire store on Ewing Avenue in South Chicago. So small was the shop that an automobile couldn’t be completely parked under the roof while having its tires changed. Using the slim profits from this business, Nichels in 1930 purchased a restaurant located at the intersection of Fifth Street and Highway Avenue in Highland.

With his wife, Gladys, doing the restaurant cooking, Nichels turned his efforts toward another business, a gasoline service station, and auto repair shop.

q_in_highland_nichel_471942In 1936, he purchased a second restaurant and tavern just two miles east, on the corner of Ridge Road and Cline Avenue. Soon, he had a service station, an auto repair garage, a restaurant and a tavern all on the northwest corner of that intersection, which he christened “Rudy’s Place.”

With his early investment in restaurants and auto repair shops starting to pay off, he began a search for another moneymaking opportunity and uncovered midget car auto racing.

The more Nichels heard about midget car racing, the more he thought it might be a good fit with his other businesses. On Oct. 10, 1937, Nichels decided to take a look at this potential business venture, and with his oldest son, 14-year-old Ray visited the newly constructed Hammond Raceway located at the junction of Sheffield and Calumet avenues. With another 7,000 fans in attendance, Nichels witnessed his first midget car race. It would not be his last. A few weeks later, Nichels purchased his first race car.

At the Hammond, Indiana Speedway 5/8th’s mile track are two Nichels midgets. The car on the left is the #25 driven by Mike O’Halloran and on the right is Teddy Duncan in the #2. Both drivers would eventually be elected to the National Midget Racing Hall of Fame. Kneeling between the Nichels cars are from left: Dale “Tiny’ Worley, Ray Nichels and Rudy Nichels – Nichels Engineering Archives

At the Hammond, Indiana Speedway 5/8th’s mile track are two Nichels Service midgets. The car on the left is the #25 driven by Mike O’Halloran and on the right is Teddy Duncan in the #2. Both drivers would eventually be elected to the National Midget Racing Hall of Fame. Kneeling between the Nichels cars are from left: Dale “Tiny’ Worley, Ray Nichels and Rudy Nichels – Nichels Engineering Archives

From that day on, Rudy threw himself whole-heartedly into auto racing, owning several cars from 1938 through the late 1940s, giving drivers such as Ted Duncan, Tony Bettenhausen, Johnnie Parsons, Paul Russo, Ray Richards and Mike O’Halloran some of the finest midget race cars in the business. All of these drivers eventually became members of the Midget Racing Hall of Fame after capturing a series of track championships driving for Nichels Service. Johnnie Parsons used his 1948 Midwest Championship driving for Nichels as a springboard toward winning the 1950 Indianapolis 500.

Nichels established “Nichels Service” shop at the corner of Cline and Ridge Road as the cornerstone of Midwest auto racing. Working with racing equipment suppliers from across the country he built a superb reputation for racing expertise. Nationally known drivers such as Ronney Householder anchored their race teams and equipment at Rudy’s Place when barnstorming across America.

Rudy Nichels shop at the corner of Cline Avenue and Ridge Road in Highland, Indiana in 1947. Working on the two Nichels owned midgets in the front of the garage is 24 year old Ray Nichels. In the back on the right in the white tee shirt is Ronney Householder, who at the time was one of the most respected drivers in racing. He went on to manage Chrysler Corporation’s racing operations from 1955 thru 1972 – Nichels Engineering Archives

Rudy Nichels shop at the corner of Cline Avenue and Ridge Road in Highland, Indiana in 1947. Working on the two Nichels owned midgets in the front of the garage is 24-year-old Ray Nichels. In the back on the right in the white tee shirt is Ronney Householder, who at the time was one of the most respected drivers in racing. He went on to manage Chrysler Corporation’s racing operations from 1955 thru 1972 – Nichels Engineering Archives

The racing business was so profitable that Nichels began promoting and sanctioning races at tracks throughout Illinois and Indiana.

It was during this time that his son, Ray, went out on his own and entered IndyCar racing, eventually competing in 15 Indianapolis 500s and building a Hall of Fame career as one of the nation’s finest mechanics and race car builders.

Rudy Nichels died in April of 1955, leaving a lasting legacy of being one of the first in a long line of Region Racers.

 

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A few brief notes from the racing scene …

Kyle Busch headed to Charlotte

Kyle Busch was discharged from the Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida and has been transported to North Carolina for further treatmentThis photo above was posted on twitter by Kyle’s wife, Samantha (@SamanthaBusch) with the comment: “Off to NC! Thank u to everyone at Halifax for taking such good care of Kyle n to all of U for the continued prayers!”

David Ragan has been named as the interim driver for Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing for at least the next few weeks … see USA Today’s report by Jeff Gluck here.

In the case of an interim driver for Atlanta, Stewart-Haas Motorsports has named Regan Smith as its Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend Feb. 26-March 1st. Atlanta will be Smith’s second race in the No. 41 car. He drove the Haas Automation Chevrolet to a 16th place finish last Sunday in the Daytona 500. Smith already had some history with Stewart-Haas prior to Daytona. He subbed for Tony Stewart in the team’s No. 14 car last August at Watkins Glen.

Smith was the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year and won the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina Raceway. He is a fulltime driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and finished 2nd in the 2014 championship standings. Smith, 31, is from Cato, New York.  An interim driver for the No. 41 team at next weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and subsequent races has not yet been determined.

Kevin Harvick - RacerDefending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick stated that Kyle Busch’s Daytona accident was a wake-up call to NASCAR tracks that should have been more proactive on safety. His position was clearly stated in a piece published on Racer.com.  “I hit the same wall further up last year and voiced my opinion and unfortunately I was just a dot on the chart and there was no reaction,” he said. “Hopefully this is a lesson learned. You don’t want to have a reaction, the tracks have to be proactive, they have to look ahead for accidents that might happen.”

 In IndyCar … 

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For a Rahal Racing snapshot of how the 2015 season is shaping up so far — Click Here

Also related to Indycar and the Indianapolis 500: Michael Andretti, owner of Andretti Autosport and Ryan Hunter-Reay, reigning Indianapolis 500 Champion discuss how they are looking ahead to both the 99th and 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

In an interview with MotorSport.com‘s Covy Moore, Tony Kanaan spoke candidly about the loss of the Verizon IndyCar’s first scheduled race of the season in Brazil and how the cancellation affected him, the fans and Team Chip Ganassi … see the interview here 

photoLarge_GA32Announced Tuesday in Indianapolis that seven-time TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Champions and six-time Rolex 24 At Daytona Winners Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) that reigning Rolex 24 At Daytona Winner and three-time Verizon IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon will join Scott Pruett and Joey Hand in the driver lineup of the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost Riley Prototype for the historic 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on March 21.  Dixon competed once with CGRFS this season in a second Prototype fielded in the Rolex 24 At Daytona where the team scored their first victory of the season and Dixon’s second overall win in the event (2006).

scott dixonDixon will enter his 14th season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2015. He is a three-time Verizon IndyCar Series Champion (2003, 2008, 2013) and won the Indianapolis 500 in 2008. Dixon’s 35 INDYCAR wins are tied for fifth on the all-time list, and he has 18 CGRFS sports car starts resulting in two wins, three pole positions and six podium finishes.

Dixon commented: “Sebring is one of those iconic motor races in the world and I think we’ll have a good chance. The team started strong with a win in the Rolex 24 At Daytona with the No. 02 car this season, and the No. 01 car won in its Sebring debut last year. I’m looking forward to working with Scott and Joey again, and the whole IMSA program.”

Chip Ganassi has been a fixture in the auto racing industry for over 25 years and is considered one of the most successful as well as innovative owners the sport has anywhere in the world. Today his teams include four cars in the IndyCar Series, two cars in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and one Prototype in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.  Overall Ganassi Race Teams have 17 championships and over 160 victories, including four Indianapolis 500s, a Daytona 500, a Brickyard 400 and six Rolex 24’s at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Ganassi boasts state-of-the-art race shop facilities in Indianapolis and Brownsburg, Indiana and Concord, North Carolina, with a corporate office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.