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Champion's Profile - The Life And Times Of Dan Nickelson

Photography by Courtesy Of Dan Nickelson Collection

SC: Since Nitro Coupes are only allowed to run with one promoter (AutoStar), as mandated by NHRA, are you able to attract sponsorship, parts, and support assistance on the same level as the Pro Mods or Alcohol cars have?DN: In my opinion, [the Nitro Coupes] don't get enough exposure to attract sponsors. If Pro Mod were to become an actual NHRA professional class, I'd be back in a heartbeat. Payouts for the NHRA invitational Pro Mod series are not much more than we can earn at Super Chevy events."

SC: Which track is your favorite, and why?DN: "Maple Grove Raceway [just outside Reading, Pennsylvania]. It's a neat track with a great surrounding area. Maple Grove is right in the middle of a bunch of farmland, with rolling hills and tons of Maple trees that give off oxygen. The place has a history of providing great traction and super air."

Nickelson's new car is a '02 Corvette, built by Tom Vandergeld at Lowdown Hot Rods, located in Toronto, Canada. This is the same shop that built Gary Irving's '37 Chevy Nitro Coupe. The Corvette rides on a 115-inch wheelbase, and features a four-link rear suspension, as opposed to a "swing-arm," made famous recently with the Pro Mod crowd. The accompanying facts and figures will show you a bit about Dan's proven combination for power.

Engine Block Keith Black, GM-style DRCE
Displacement 526 cubic inches
Crankshaft Velasco, billet
Pistons and Rods Venolia
Compression Ratio 9.5:1
Camshaft COMP Cams
Valvetrain T&D Machine Products
Cylinder Heads Dart, flowed by Performance Machine (Pomona, CA)
Supercharger Littlefield, 14-71 High-Helix
Clutch AFT three-disc
Transmission Lenco three-speed
Ring & Pinion U.S. Gear, 9-1/2-inch, 4.71:1
Axles Mark Williams, 40-spline

For a good part of his 2002 season, Dan suffered from nagging back problems. Well, maybe the word nagging doesn't really explain how bad it was. Dan told us that back pain not only affected his reaction times, it also caused numbness in his legs (!). Diagnosed with a herniated disc, Dan's doctors removed some floating particles and repaired the disc, following the season-ending event in Las Vegas. And after countless trips to what some people call the "Physical Terrorist," Nickelson felt good as new, and ready to challenge all comers in defense of his 2002 crown.

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