Nine months to the day. That’s how long it had been since the last time “Flyin” Brian Nester piloted his No. 11 machine when he showed up on Saturday to compete in the 5th Annual Hot Shoe 100 feature at Whittemore Speedway (MI).
If Nester was a little bit rusty from his hiatus, it didn’t show.
“This is the only race I’ve ran this year,” Nester said. “I haven’t raced since last year, so that made it even better, this being my only race and winning it. Probably made a lot of people madder, too.”
It would be hard for any driver not to be envious over Nester’s improbable performance, or of the five-figure check he got as a result. Saturday’s purse was the highest Whittemore has ever offered for the event and the highest Nester has ever won in his racing career.
“It started out at $2,500 to win and then it went to $3,000,” Nester said. “Last year it was $5,000 and this year it was $10,000. The highest I’ve won is $6,000, so this is the biggest race I’ve ever won and it felt great.”
This isn’t the first time that Nester’s won the popular Midwest Modified event, however. He won the inaugural race back in 2014 and then replayed the past two more times in 2015 and 2017.
What’s Nester’s secret to all of his success over the years at Whittemore? Well, it’s somewhat of an enigma, even to the four-time Hot Shoe 100 champion, himself.
“It’s just the race track or something,” Nester said. “This past weekend, the longer the race went the faster my car seemed to get. I think I ended up lapping up to tenth place or something like that. I had a fast racecar but it helped, obviously, starting on the pole. You had to have luck I guess, too.”
Luck certainly came into play after Nester qualified 11th around the ¼-mile. Whittemore officials came up with a unique 16-car invert format which involved selecting 16 kids from the grandstands to determine the starting positions at random.
“It was kind of neat, actually,” Nester said. “There were 16 bicycles that had poker chips taped to the seat. So the kids picked whichever bikes they wanted, then they went down the line and peeled it off. The girl that picked her bike for me had the No. 1 chip on it, so that’s how I started on the pole.”
The 11th kid in line drawing the pole for the driver of the No. 11 who qualified 11th may be the sort of creepy coincidence Stevie Wonder would write about in a song, but the skilled mechanics behind the speed of Nester’s machine throughout the race weren't a coincidence at all.
“Tim Burkett and I build race cars,” Nester explained about his business, Burkett Nester Racecars. “We still work our eight-hour jobs during the day and then we build race cars after work and on weekends. Most of the time we’re so busy with customer cars, we don’t have time to work on our own. That’s why we backed down from racing.”
The proof is in the numbers. Aside from Nester’s car, 13 of the 24 cars that qualified into the A-Main on Saturday were worked on or built by Burkett Nester Racecars.
Nester isn’t making any promises about whether this win has reopened any doors for other races later this year, but he’s not completely opposed to the idea, either.
“This was actually the only race I was going to run this year but now that I’ve won it, it makes it tough to say that,” Nester laughed. “There’s no plans right now, but I’m not saying it won’t happen.”
-Story by: Melissa Strahley, Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo credit: Turn 4 Fans Photography / Travis & Tammy