For Belding, Michigan’s Mike Nugent; since childhood weekends have been about just one thing; Speed! From the time he was 14-years-old Nugent has been making laps at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan. It started with Mike and a few of his buddies doing battle in the “Flinn Stock” division on the ¼-mile clay oval, but it didn’t take long for Nugents natural talent to exceed the 4-Cylinders and he took over piloting his dad Terry’s number #43 Sportsman class car. After competing in Sportsman and Pro-Stock Mike graduated to IMCA Modifieds where he continued to prove himself a worthy opponent until the early 90’s when he made the jump into dirt-track stock car racings premier Late Model division.
Mike’s driving style has always been courteous, clean, and just gutsy enough to be a crowd pleaser. On the track Mike is fierce competitor and off of it his ever-ready smile has earned him the respect of his peers; evidenced by the fact that he has twice been honored with the title of “Sportsman of the Year”.
Although Mike has enjoyed much success he also knows the opposite side of that equation. As he said with a bit of a chuckle, “There have been a few rollovers at this track that have been pretty exciting”. One moment in particular took place at I-96 Speedway in the Modified division, early in the event Nugent got caught up in some slower traffic and wound up catapulting off of the 2nd turn of this big ½-mile. Mike escaped uninjured, but once the car was settled back on 4-wheels he insisted the wrecker unhook and let him drive back to the pits. The crew quickly went to work changing a tire and had Mike back on the track before the green flag flew. Laughing Mike said, “Man…I couldn’t yell at the guys that night, they were pretty good!! We didn’t end up finishing all that great, but we did finish”. Mike may not have pulled out a win, but he definitely had the fans out of their seats and cheering.
2008 was a stellar season for Mike and the rest of the Nugent team; after years of hard work Mike was able to best the competition by winning the final point standing championship at I-96 Speedway, but 2009 introduced a new set of challenges when track promoter Mike Mouch introduced the Ultimate Champion Crate Late Model Series, the new series promotes economical racing with all engines being sealed and identical, “It’s really a neat concept to have everyone equal. It’s been challenging but also very fun. There are a lot of great guys that are here every week. It has taken a lot of adjusting all the way around. I’ve changed the car a lot, but also my driving style had to change some. You just don’t want to make any mistakes out there because when you do you are opening a big gap between you and the car ahead of you which is often really hard to overcome”.
As a farmer for Nugentdale Farms, Mike keeps some long hours, and he and his wife of 11-Years Betsy stay busy after-hours with their 10-Year-Old twins; Jake and Nikki. The kids are currently heavily involved in 4-H raising and showing livestock and as Mike said with a chuckle, “Usually one is going one way and the other another…but when we get time all together we also enjoy going camping”
Mike’s goals are to, “Keep racing and do the best we can out on the track and have fun while doing it. I just like racing in general, it’s fun and I’ve got a good crew that helps me”. Crew members; Mike Horrian, Chris Franks, Denny Mooley, “Animal”, and Bob Grile keep the #43 machine running smooth, and although he still slips behind the wheel on occasion, Terry is also a key part of the Nugent team.
Mike would like to thank his sponsors; Nugentdale Farms, Parnell Grocery, Harding Enterprises and Sunset Studio’s for all their help and support.
I-96 Speedway is located on W. Portland Road in Lake Odessa, just a short drive from I-96. Racing is Saturday nights at 7:30pm. For more information on I-96 Speedway you can find them on the web at www.i96speedway.com.