Local racer Halen looking to rise up
For the Nevada Appeal
I sat down with Nick Halen earlier this week to find out what he has been up to and what his plans are for the future.
I have known Nick since he was a little guy running the Outlaw Karts at Fuji Speedway in south Carson City. After three back-to-back championships in the Outlaw karts, Nick moved into road racing karts, starting locally at Desert Park Raceway in Reno.
From there he moved into a national karting series, and spent five years as a sponsored driver for kart manufacturers in the Super Karts and the Stars of Tomorrow series. He raced for Mike Speed (father of F1 and NASCAR driver Scott Speed) in 2006 and 2007, and says that he learned a lot about racing from that experience.
The economic downturn hit the karting world hard in 2008, and Nick decided to return to his oval track roots. Helped by older brother Jovon, he got a Legends ride at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway 3/8-mile Bullring, but was looking for something bigger.
In 2009, Halen had the opportunity to acquire all the equipment from a Super Late Model team in Las Vegas that was closing down. He acquired two chassis and a ton of spare parts, and set about making one competitive car out of the collection. Helped by crew chief and veteran racer Billy Scyphers and with financial help from friend Dennis Menkle, he spent the winter putting the car together.
“I learned a lot about stock car setup, thanks to Billy,” Halen said.
Running a limited schedule of only about half the races at the Las Vegas Bullring, Halen still managed to finish 11th in points, just 16 points out of the top-10. He also received the Rookie of the Year award in the LVMS Super Late Model division.
Halen has been approached by a NASCAR Camping World West team that is also starting a Camping World Truck series operation. The catch is that he has to find sponsorship in order to seal the deal. If that doesn’t pan out, he’ll be back at the LVMS Bullring in the Super Late Model, and possibly at other tracks as well.
“I really want to run at Irwindale,” he said. “It’s a great track where you can get some really good exposure.”
He hopes to get sponsorship to be able to run the Toyota All-Star Challenge there at the end of January.
Halen’s long-term goal is to reach the top level of NASCAR racing – preferably as a driver, but he would also consider a position as a race engineer.
“I just want to be involved in racing. It’s been my life,” he said.
Halen is as well suited to the race engineer role as he is to driving duties, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Nevada. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree with a projected graduation date of 2011. Halen has been able to pursue his education with the help of scholarships, and he also works part-time with his father, Steve Halen, at Performance Auto Care in Carson City.
Halen has also had lots of sponsorship assistance in his racing career. Along with Performance Auto Care, he gets help from Napa Auto Parts, United Engine & Machine, Rupert’s Auto Body, Carson City Towing, Les Schwab, Dr. Kent Gabriel, Enchantment Grafix, Carbon Race Innovations, Old-Fashion Detail, and the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
Halen said he wants to go beyond chasing sponsorship dollars and invent a new paradigm of partnership.
“I want to partner with companies in the kind of relationship that will help them market themselves through racing,” Halen said. “When I approach companies about this kind of a partnership, I try to show them the return on their investment. I’m fully committed to doing whatever it takes to help them succeed.”
If you want to follow Halen’s racing, you can go to his Web site, nickhalen.com and check out news stories, photos, sponsorship opportunities, and his blog.