18-Year Old Nikko Reger: Most Wins in 2016 MX-5 Cup; has Bright Future.
18 year old Nikko Reger from Houston, Texas has claimed wins in the last three events in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires (i.e. Watkins Glen International, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road America) and is making a run at the championship with two events to go. He is one of five we are featuring in the Idemitsu MX-5 Cup Contender series.
MM: First, Nikko, your continued success at each level of racing has been impressive. We are grateful you have chosen the Mazda Road to 24 development ladder. You started in go-karts; progressed to Spec Miata and then to MX-5 Cup competition where you find yourself winning once again. What have you learned to get here?
NR: Well to start, the Mazda Road to 24 consists of some of the kindest, and most gracious people I have ever worked with, so a huge thank you to the guys at Mazda and everyone involved in this development ladder. Ever since the beginning of my racing career, I have gone into every event with an open mind looking to learn from every experience I can. So everything from go-karts to the MX-5 Cup has taught me more and more about the craft, speed and mechanics of racing.
MM: Thank you for the kind words, Nikko… You work hard training your mind and body constantly – that you’re a martial artist, a boxer, runner, and gym goer. On top of the physical pursuits, you were recently accepted to the University of Texas in Dallas. Congratulations! Tell us about your training regimen and how it helps you in the race car.
NR: Thank you! Well, physical training has always been a large part of my life. I remember when I was 3, I had my first Taekwondo lesson; needless to say, I have always strived to be an athlete. So through fighting on a national level in Taekwondo, training in boxing, and running, I’ve learned so much more than just how to be fit. All of this training results in discipline, pushing boundaries, and perseverance. I don’t really train as much to look good, or to lift heavier things, I train to get my mind, my reflexes, and my body moving as fast as the car does. Whenever I’m in a race car I like to know my body can handle anything that occurs on track, and as long as my body is in the game, it makes it a million times easier to keep my head in the game. The last thing you want to worry about leading the last lap of a Cup race is why you’re fatigued or why your arms are getting sore.
MM: You started racing at the age of 8 and found great success quickly. Tell us about your start and what you learned at the beginning that’s still useful today.
NR: In the beginning of my career, I was racing alongside my brother Timo, which really sparked a kind of passionate rivalry between us. Because of this need to beat the other, we really pushed our boundaries and improved exponentially as drivers. As I’m growing and learning more in the MX-5 Cup, I’m realizing how beneficial a teammate and others can be. Now that Timo is in another series, we openly share our speed secrets and how we conquer different challenges. My early career really made me appreciate competition, and as aggravating as it is losing to your greatest enemy (Timo), you can learn and improve yourself so much more from that experience.
MM: After karting, you made the leap to Spec Miata racing. What was the biggest learning opportunities that helped you win the Texas Teen Mazda Challenge in 2014?
NR: Spec Miata is an incredible stepping stone from go-karts. Really, from a driver perspective, Spec Miata taught me patience, and momentum. The Texas Spec Miata community is giant, and the competition is fierce; winning a major race in Texas is a monumental accomplishment. As the season came to a close in 2014, what helped me clinch the Teen Mazda Challenge was patience – whether it was executing a single pass, or not taking unnecessary risks to jeopardize my season; patience is key.
MM: From Spec Miata, you jumped to the MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge with Skip Barber. You won three races and challenged for the championship all year. As a first year pro driver, what was your biggest learning curve?
NR: Well, one of my biggest learning curves was the NC MX-5 car. It seemed everyone else in the paddock had raced the car so many more times than I had, and it was just challenging to adapt to the new car, new team, new tracks, and new competition all at once. I was lucky to have the guys at Skip Barber; they have a huge team of engineers, coaches, and mentors. They all really helped to get me acclimated to all of the new challenges that I suddenly faced.
MM: Currently running with Copeland Motorsports in Idemitsu MX-5 Cup, tell us about running up front.
NR: Fortunately, Dean Copeland and Copeland Motorsports have embraced me with open arms, and we have worked really well together. While we don’t have six others cars worth of data to be inundated with, we have great data to leverage. Dean is just incredible behind the wheel, so that has been a huge help with teaming up together. So far, CMS has scored at least a podium at every track so far. So as far as CMS being a “small or average (sized) team,” I believe we are just large enough to do incredible things.
MM: While you’re a contender for this year’s MX-5 Cup and the $200,000 scholarship that the champion receives, can you share what you are working on for 2017?
NR: Whenever bad luck hasn’t struck, I have either won or been in the top 5. I want to win the MX-5 Cup in 2016. Whatever it takes to get me there, I will do. So until the end of this season I am unsure of my future, but with that I’m very sure I will be racing a Mazda. I have to give a huge shout-out to Mazda, BFGoodrich, Idemitsu, Music Doing Good, Driven Steering, Black Armor Helmets, Rockstar Wigs, my friends and most of all my family. I know it is a long list, but it just shows how many people believe in me and I literally cannot thank them enough. If anyone is going to help me win, and keep my dreams moving as fast as I do, it is these guys.