Tom Nicholls “Powers” To Impressive 2015, Eyes Stock Car Return
The 2012 stock car racing season was the last time that “Big Poppa” Tom Nicholls had planned on driving a full stock car season.
The Sherwood, Prince Edward Island businessman and powerlifter turned stock car driver had spent 2011 racing in the ultra competitive Street Stock class at his home track of Oyster Bed Speedway. Upon seeing the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour at the Island oval, Nicholls planned during that winter to make the move himself to the biggest regional stock car touring series in Atlantic Canada.
That season was cut short on May 12th of that year, one week before the season, when Nicholls was involved in a life threatening accident during the series “Test ‘n Tune” event at Scotia Speedworld near Halifax, Nova Scotia. The accident left Nicholls with Traumatic Brain Injury, or a TBI.
Fast forward to 2015 and Nicholls continues to shatter records in powerlifting on the possible road back to the race track.
In fact, 2015 was one of “Big Poppas” best years to date in the sport. At 52 years old, competing in the Masters 2 age group in the Classic/Raw category, he won three major championships – the Worlds, Commonwealths and National Championships. With those titles under his belt, Nicholls has now won three World Championships, 15 National Championships and two Commonwealth Championships over the course of his powerlifting career. His best lifts for the year included a 606lb. squat, a 442 lb. bench press and a 645lb. deadlift.
With three titles in 2015, Nicholls set a remarkable seven World records, eight Commonwealth records and four National records!
The passion for race cars and to resume regular driving duties for his race team, Big Poppas Motorsports, still resonates and has driven Nicholls. He has stayed active as the owner of the team, which fielded Street Stock cars for young rising Island star Brandon Snow last year. Snow finished fourth in the season standings at Oyster Bed Speedway, second in the fifth annual David Lambe Memorial race and had select starts at off-Island race tracks, highlighted by a second place finish in the Caleb Dunn Memorial weekend at Petty International Raceway in River Glade, NB last August.
Along with Brandon and his father Kenny Snow’s team, Snowstorm Racing, the plans for 2016 are well underway. The team is looking at fielding up to three Street Stocks from their Island based stable with Brandon Snow as the primary driver for the second consecutive year. Their iconic #63 car, which fans have been accustomed to seeing with the team all the way back to the 2011 season, will be campaigned to raise awareness for Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
As for Nicholls himself, his vision is to return to the seat of a Street Stock car on a regular basis at some point in the future following his successful return and climb back to the top of the powerlifting ranks. Nicholls says that he feels great, feels that he is fully healed and that the next step would be to slide back behind the wheel of a race car.
The timetable for his return is still undetermined. “There are still some things to work out to be able to race on a regular basis which would be a dream that I have dreamt many, many times since 2012,” said Nicholls. “Racing and powerlifting were the two things I thought of everyday and that really motivated me to get up and do the work required every day to heal and get back to being myself again. I don’t care if I am any good at it, I just want to go out and have some fun.”
“I feel the time is now that I can get back into a stock car,” said Nicholls of his aspirations of getting back behind the wheel to run his first full time Street Stock season in five years. “In my view, if I can powerlift then I can race. I met all the check points the past two years both mentally and physically to get back to the top in powerlifting in the world again. With that accomplished, using the same process and checklist it has led me to the point that I feel I am ready to return to the track.”
A complete announcement on the plans for Big Poppas Motorsports and Nicholls is expected as the season draws closer. While no official schedule has been released, the Oyster Bed Speedway season traditionally opens on the Monday of the Victoria Day weekend.
Photo by Marlie Paynter