The last three racing seasons have been a steady climb for Tyler Nicely. After finishing third in the DIRTcar modified standings in 2021, he rose to runner-up the following year.
Last season, however, the 28-year-old struck gold. Nicely went on a tear aboard his No. 25 modified as he led the nation with a whopping 27 victories, putting the Kentucky native in a league of his own.
“We’ve been close. Just this year (2023), we had everything in place to make everything work with good people behind me, a good crew,” Nicely told SPEED SPORT. “I switched back to an Elite chassis and went back to Nick (Hoffman, owner of the chassis company).
“Me and him talked before the season even started, and he just told me, ‘You need to go after that national title. You can do it.’”
Hoffman, a five-time DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion who advanced to late models last season, showed supreme confidence in Nicely.
In return, Nicely dug deep and churned out an astounding beginning in Florida.
“So, just going into Speedweeks last year, we knew that that’s what we were going out to do,” Nicely said.
Out of the gate, Nicely ripped around Volusia Speedway Park, North Florida Speedway and East Bay Raceway Park as he snagged five feature wins during UMP Modified Florida Speedweeks.
His success was a kick-start to an unforgettable campaign.
“Coming home before the season even gets started and I already had three 80-point victories going into I guess the regular season, it helped,” Nicely explained. “We were just able to take that momentum from Speedweeks and roll on through the rest of the year.”
A modest Nicely was quick to credit his crew when describing what the x-factor was in their championship run.
“My two crew guys, Chase, he’s been with me, I think since he was 8 years old,” Nicely began. “Then Austin, he came on the road with me about two summers ago and has been with me ever since.
“So, those two, I can trust them on the car and where I can just be worrying about what the race track’s doing and what adjustments that we’re gonna need to make.”
Describing them as his “two little brothers,” Nicely beamed at the enjoyment the three had as they chased trophies across the country.
“We just had a lot of fun doing it and just pretty much we all knew what the end goal was and we just kept our heads down,” Nicely said.
During the summer months, Nicely won five times in 17 races to claim the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals title, and when the season concluded he’d secured the national championship.
Like any competitor, traveling with a national series can be taxing.
While Nicely conquered the 59 nights of racing he contested during the DIRTcar modified schedule, he stressed positivity through the endless grind.
“The biggest thing is you can’t let yourself get down because it’s so easy to lose self-confidence,” Nicely said. “In the racing world that we race in, you can’t let yourself get down. You just got to keep your self-confidence up and just keep trucking along.
“You just can’t give up. Just keep going and things will eventually turn around.”
Perhaps where Nicely learned patience within the sport was through his parents. His father was a street stock racer, while his mother competed in hornets when Nicely was a child.
As he watched his parents compete, the time came for Nicely to get behind the wheel.
“The first thing I got to drive was a go-kart,” Nicely said.
However, after two races, his mother had bigger ideas.
“My mom kind of vetoed that after the second race and told my dad, if he wanted me to race, I was gonna have to get into a big car,” Nicely recalled.
Thus, Nicely was thrust into a 602 crate engine modified. Finding success, he graduated to UMP modifieds, where he’s competed since.
With his breakout year completed with a championship in UMP modified competition, Nicely’s taking a different approach to the upcoming season.
“I’m still gonna go to Florida in a couple of weeks to run Speedweeks at Volusia,” Nicely stated. “But I’m gonna slow down really on the mod stuff this year and just race bigger races.
“If we tie ourselves down to anything points-wise in the dirt stuff, we might run the MARS Modified Series. We’re gonna do some CRA street stock races. I think I got 12 asphalt CRA races on my schedule.”
Notably, Nicely banked three victories in the MARS modified division last season while running a part-time schedule.
“Then, the modified stuff and some dirt street stock stuff,” Nicely said. “So this year is gonna be a little bit different.”
His approach for this season is simple — enjoy racing without committing to a full schedule in any series.
Though, his career goal remains clear — late models.
“The end goal is to end up full time in Lucas Oil (Late Model Dirt Series) or World of Outlaws (Late Model Series),” Nicely concluded.