Heading into this past Saturday’s American-Canadian Tour event at New Hampshire's Riverside Speedway, Kyle Welch, of Newport, New Hampshire would have been considered by many to be an underdog.
Underdog or not, it didn’t matter when the checkered flag was waved on the Central Asphalt Paving 150 that night, as Welch picked up his first career ACT victory.
The 20-year-old sophomore driver battled among the leaders during the later stages of the race before crossing under the checkered flag in the second position. Later that night in post-race technical inspection, Welch would receive the news that he had officially been named the winner after original race winner Eddie MacDonald was penalized due to a technical infraction.
“It’s my biggest win,” Welch told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It beats all my go-kart championships. I’ve won six of those and two of them were Northeast Pavement Series, which is kind of the American-Canadian Tour of go-kart racing. I couldn’t be any happier and more proud to be an ACT race winner.”
Although the sophomore driver had mixed reactions after winning the race as a result of a penalty in post-race technical inspection, he was still very ecstatic about winning his first career ACT event. Welch described the days following his win as “surreal."
“It was mixed emotions because I didn’t want to win my first race like that,” said Welch. “Nobody wants to win their first race like that. Everyone wants to be the guy standing on the door post in victory lane. Of course I was happy and we were all celebrating, but then again I didn’t get to carry the checkered flag and do all of that stuff. Still, it is crazy to even be talking to you as an ACT race winner.”
Prior to Saturday’s event, Welch’s best career ACT finish in 11 career starts was a 12th place finish at Star Speedway (NH) in 2013.
Despite not having the finishes to show for it, Welch believed that he and his team had turned the corner at the start of the 2014 season. After racing with what he called “older equipment” last season, Welch had a brand new car built for him for this season. With a new car and up to date equipment, getting the car up to speed has been much easier for his team.
“We got a brand new Distance Chassis this winter,” said Welch. “All of my equipment before was kind of older stuff. Last year my car was an old Ray Parent car. That helped us learn the tracks, but now it’s serious and we’re going to contend for wins. We’re not making a run for a championship, but other than that I want to go out there and win races.”
American-Canadian Tour president Tom Curley that he first saw a sign of competitive talent from Welch’s team during the season-opening event at Lee USA Speedway (NH). Despite not qualifying for that event, Welch had shown competitive speed all weekend before being involved in a wreck during his qualifying heat.
“He was totally under the radar a year ago,” said Curley. “He’s got some laps, so it’s not like he’s a true rookie or anything. I really believed he had showed some competitive talent at Lee. He got absolutely hosed in the qualifying heat when he got caught up in that wreck with (Donald) Theetge. The way he and that little family team rebounded from that was very remarkable.”
With one win under his belt, Welch hopes to now carry momentum into the second half of the season and prove that his team is one that is not to be reckoned with. As Welch spoke to Speed51.com from his race shop on Tuesday, his team was busy preparing the No. 9NH for Sunday’s race at Devil’s Bowl Speedway (VT).
“I’m standing here watching all my guys and they have a new attitude,” said Welch. “They’re all positive and it’s just been great all week. They’re excited and can’t wait to get to Devil’s Bowl.
“It’s definitely been a huge boost to my whole team.”
By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
Photo Credit: Eric LaFleche