Great Lakes Edition: U.P Sprint Car Racer Embarks on His First Season with MSA

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(June 26, 2019) — When thinking of sprint car racing in Michigan the state’s Upper Peninsula is not typically part of the conversation. Tyler Nelson hopes someday to change that perception. The 22 year old diesel mechanic from Cornell, Michigan is in the midst of his first full season of sprint car racing with the Midwest Sprint Car Association.

Nelson’s path to sprint car racing started somewhat typical racing dirt bikes with his friends growing up. When he turned 16 years old Nelson started to get his first experience in competition with full size cars with demolishion derbies and bump and run races in the area. Nelson even won a heat race in a school bus figure eight one night.

After watching his uncle Dan Lambert race vintage supermodifieds at Upper Peninsula International Raceway Nelson got a lead on a car. After some research he found it was formerly owned by MSA Sprint Car driver Paul Pokorski. Nelson made contact and came down to watch Porkorski race his sprint car one night, stoking his fire to potentially compete in one someday.

Racing a sprint car seemed like a pip dream for Nelson until something remarkable happened during the winter of 2018 when Nelson won a sprint car in a raffle from 360 competitor Michael Summers.

After winning the raffle things started to come together as Nelson found another car in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, gathering enough parts and pieces to make his dream a reality. While Nelson’s family has been a bit help in getting him on track he was also fortunate to have a friend in Early Possi, who is a former sprint car driver with MSA and U.P. resident, to help guide him on the journey.

Other than Possi there isn’t a lot sprint car knowledge to lean on where Nelson lives in the northwest U.P.

“I don’t even know,” Nelson responded when asked about the closest sprint car team to his location. “It’s like three and a half or four hours just to Plymouth and it’s the next race is like two and half hours away.”

Already going through the typical trials and tribulations of a rookie so far this season including getting upside down Nelson had modest goals for his first season of sprint car racing.

“I want make the races and just complete all the laps or try to and get as much experience as much as I possible get for next year,” said Nelson. Then next year try to do some more races and hopefully I can win a race eventually.”

Nelson’s next outing with the MSA Sprint Cars will be July 6th at TNT Speedway in Three Lakes, WI


• Another busy weekend of sprint car racing is on tap with the Great Lakes Super Sprints in action on Friday at I-96 Speedway while the Lane Automotive Sprints on Dirt will compete at Hartford. Saturday GLSS pairs with the Michigan Traditional Sprints in a rare sprint car visit to Mt. Pleasant Speedway. Butler Motor Speedway features weekly 410 sprint cars.
• Tickets are on sale for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series only appearance in Michigan in 2019 at Hartford Motor Speedway. You can purchase online by clicking here. (
• The Auto Value Bumper to Bumper Super Sprints will be in action just over the border at Baer Field Speedway without the wings on Saturday.
• After sitting out for several weeks with engine issues Steve Irwin is slated to return to the drivers seat this weekend.