Dillon Welch had limited experience driving on dirt prior to this year, causing him to bring a humble attitude into the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series. He’s proven to be a very competitive rookie, standing ninth in points going into events at Wilmot (Wis.) Raceway on Saturday (July 14) and Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis., on Sunday (July 15) that are co-sanctioned with the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association.
“We were kind of going into it with lower expectations,” Welch explained. “We wanted to take it one race at a time. The transition has gone really well. Our goal is to learn every time I go out and, thankfully, the results are following.”
The 18-year-old from Carmel, Ind., finished a season-best fourth at Fayette County Speedway in Brownstown, Ill., in his sixth POWRi event on June 1 and was fifth at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway on June 22. He has five top-10s and has made the feature in seven of eight events he’s entered.
“I have been surprised,” Welch said. “It’s hard to keep your expectations low when you’re having such good runs this early in the learning process. I’ve been pleased with how things have gone and happy with how the car is running. We don’t expect to set the world on fire, but we want to keep it going.”
Welch had raced on dirt in four events before 2012, two last season in POWRi Midgets. He finished 21st in the feature at Peoria (Ill.) Speedway and failed to qualify to the feature at Fayette.
Welch, however, does have considerable experience on pavement. He ran for three years in USAC’s Kenyon Midgets, winning the championship in 2009. Welch was the USAC Kenyon Rookie of the Year in 2007 and its Most Improved Driver in 2008. Welch had three victories in USAC’s D1 Midwest Regional pavement series in 2010. He finished eighth in the famed Turkey Night Grand Prix at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway last year.
Welch considers racing on dirt the next step in his career. He’s driving for Bryan Clauson Racing in POWRi.
“We felt like we need to run dirt to continue through the ranks,” Welch said. “It’s a necessary step. We’ve been trying for a couple of years to get the right deal put together and this year the right deal arose and everything worked out. We’ve known the Clauson family (Bryan’s father, Tim, runs the team) and we started out, really, with just casual conversation. It’s awesome to work together. Tim runs a great organization.”
Welch is part of an outstanding rookie class that includes Garrett Aitken, eighth in points, and Cameron Hagin, 10th in points.
“We want to try and run as many of the POWRi races as we can, but we’re not really running for points,” Welch said. “We have Rookie of the Year potential, but we’re not concerned about it. We’re just going to let the points take care of themselves. It absolutely would be something we’d like to add to our resume. If we win it, great, if not, it wasn’t meant to be.
“We’re in POWRi because the more laps we get, the better we’ll be. POWRi is a great series to dirt track racing. We’re also running the USAC National Midget Series.”
POWRi’s National Midgets moves into the second half of the season at Wilmot with Brett Anderson and Andrew Felker tied for the championship lead.
Anderson, of Belleville, Ill., and Felker, of Carl Junction, Mo., have 1,650 points with 14 of 29 events completed. Anderson has two wins, at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Mo., and Fayette County Speedway in Brownstown, Ill., included in six top-five finishes and eight top-10s. Felker has one victory, at Peoria (Ill.) Speedway, included in five top-fives and nine top-10s.
There are a strong group of contenders lined up behind Anderson and Felker. Chett Gehrke, of Broken Arrow, Okla., is third in points with 1,280 with one top-five and five top-10s. Tyler Thomas, of Collinsville, Okla., is fourth with 1,190 and has two top-fives and six top-10s. Austin Brown, of Millstadt, Ill., is fifth with 1,070.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series top-10 points standings (after 14 of 29 events); 1. (tie) Brett Anderson, Andrew Felker 1,650, 3. Chett Gehrke 1,280, 4. Tyler Thomas 1,190, 5. Austin Brown 1,070, 6. Jake Blackhurst 970, 7. Chris Bell 940, 8. Garrett Aitken 920, 9. Dillon Welch 835, 10. Cameron Hagin 825.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series 2012 race winners: Kennedale, Texas—Brady Bacon; Kennedale, Texas—Dave Darland; Jacksonville, Ill.—Mario Clouser; Grain Valley, Mo.—Brett Anderson; Wheatland, Mo.—Jake Blackhurst; Macon, Ill.—Zach Daum; Belleville, Ill.—Danny Stratton; Peoria, Ill.—Andrew Felker; Brownstown, Ill.–Brett Anderson; Haubstadt, Ind.—Brady Bacon; Grain Valley, Mo.—Michael Pickens; Springfield, Mo.—Michael Pickens; Lincoln, Ill.—Danny Stratton; Macon, Ill.—Bubba Altig.
For more information, go to www.POWRi.com.