Indiana State University Newsroom

Fire ‘em Up: Team Sycamore’s dynamic duo

May 4, 2017

Driving for Team Sycamore Racing is senior Michael Nackers from Fort Wayne. Nackers is in the Moser car, which was donated to the program by Moser Engineering. The dragster measures 235 inches with a 2002 Undercover chassis, powered by a 488 cubic inch big block Chevy engine and an Abruzzi two-speed powerglide transmission, clocking in at 5.2 seconds at 135 miles per hour in an eighth of a mile.

Alongside him is junior Lesley Kelle of Indianapolis in the "blue" car, measuring 225 inches with a 1992 Spitzer chassis and an Ls7 engine. She clocks in at 5.20 seconds at 130 miles per hour in an eighth of a mile.

Nackers and Kelle have a lot in common: They loved racing, but did not think it was an option before they learned about the racing program at Indiana State University. They volunteered, and from there, they were recruited to drive. The pair is majoring in automotive engineering technology, and Nackers is returning in the fall to earn his master's degree in technology management.

Kelle has been racing since she was a sophomore. She says working on cars helped her understand what goes on in each pass and what to do in certain situations, and she was fully licensed within three or four weeks.

"The six passes went smoother than I thought they would I guess, but even being told what to expect with our first racing experience, nothing could prepare you for that feeling of pretty much being shot out of a canon," she said.

Nackers would work on the cars between racing seasons and was eventually asked to pilot one of the dragsters. He completed his National Hot Rod Association licensure last year and will be ready to compete in points this season.

"Not only do I get to drive dragsters, but I am also involved with the operations that go on off the track, where I have learned a lot about the business fundamentals required to operate a race team," Nackers said. "The connections that I have made, as a result of being involved with this program, have opened so many doors for my future."

Even if someone who knows very little about racing, one can imagine it takes a certain type of person to agree to drive thousand-pound hunks of metal over 100 miles per hour, while other hunks of metal satellite around them, with little hesitation. Kelle and Nackers both fit the description.

"I love racing because it's just something that once you've done it, you never want to stop. If I could run around every weekend and just run cars down the track, I'd be in heaven," Kelle said. "It's just one of those feelings that I can't always explain. Does any part make me nervous? Not really."

Nackers says racing is a way to compete against other people who share his passion for cars.

"It's about pushing the technology further and further to continue to be competitive," Nackers said. "Every time you go to the track, it becomes a learning experience, and no event is ever the same."

Nackers says he is comfortable driving the cars, which "need to be respected," and he has nothing to worry about as long as he - and all the other drivers around him -- does their job correctly. Their goal for the season, which started in mid-April, is simple: win as much as possible.

As their first act of the season, Team Sycamore Racing Facebook live-streamed the starting of the Moser dragster on at 3 p.m. April 19 in preparation for their first race. The team welcomes students from all majors to experience the action.

"I'm feeling pretty good about this season. I'm honestly just ready to get out and race and see what I can accomplish," Kelle said.


Photos: -- Michael Nackers of Fort Wayne -- Lesley Kelle of Indianapolis -- Michael Nackers of Fort Wayne and Lesley Kelle of Indianapolis are drivers for Team Sycamore Racing.

Writer: Kristen Kilker, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, or 812-237-3773

Contact: Randy Peters, department of applied engineering and technology management, Indiana State University, 812-237-4962 or