MASON CITY — At 25 years old, Levi Nielsen already has a lot to be proud of in his racing career.
From 2012 to 2014, there was no driver as dominant in Mason City as Nielsen was. The Modified driver from Mason City racked up win after win on the way to three straight track championships.
And then came a year when he took a step back at the track so he could focus on other racing ventures as he moved down to Cedar Falls and turned his focus to the United States Modified Touring Series.
He still ran a couple of the bigger shows in Mason City in 2015, but a chase for a fourth straight championship was not something important to him.
With the track changes in 2016, Nielsen came back to racing nearly full time for points. His success at the track has yet to come back, though.
“The track itself is all different and making the switch to USRA and USMTS stuff is quite the big step up from IMCA,” Nielsen said. “I’m just trying to get used to everything and I think this year we’re starting to get a little more comfortable in this car, but we’ve just had a little bad luck play against us. It’s been fast so far so hopefully we can build on that.”
Another part of the equation in returning to race in North Iowa has been rebuilding his program, which has been another challenge in itself.
“It’s been a lot of hard work getting sponsorship and everything to make this big jump up and be able to fund everything,” Nielsen said. “And to top it off, be able to learn everything.”
It was a gradual climb to for Nielsen in 2016 as he had five top-10 finishes in eight starts and one top-five, which came in the season finale with a second-place performance.
Even this year, it has been Nielsen fighting the car, or fighting bad luck. But the results have been better on the whole. In five races, Nielsen has finished no worse than seventh and his top finish is fourth in three different races, including last Sunday.
Nielsen was running second for most of the race before a few mistakes in Turns 1 and 2 dropped him back to his fourth-place finish. Nevertheless, it’s progress for Nielsen and that’s what’s important right now.
“I think we had a little bit better car than where we finished,” Nielsen said of his showing on Sunday. “I was hoping we’d be able to get the win but I clipped the infield tire here on 1 and 2 two or three times but the car was good otherwise.”
MCMS TRACK NOTES
Schedule change – Next Wednesday’s scheduled Late Models show has been canceled and the Ted Zieman Memorial will now run Sunday, July 23.
New payouts – Starting this Sunday, if any one class has 20 or more cars, MCMS will pay $25 more to the drivers who finish seventh through 20th (up to 24th maximum). It increases the total purse per race by at least $350.
For the kids – All heat race winners will be invited to the front stretch with their cars during intermission so the kids and fans can come down and meet the drivers and see the cars. All are encouraged to bring their cards and Sharpies. All heat race winners who participate will get a free pit pass the next week.