For 49-year-old Outlaw division driver Jason Welch, asphalt racing is a way of life. His father was a legend, his younger brother Quinny is the most successful driver in White Mountain Motorsports Park’s (WMMP) 28-year history, and now, he’s continuing the family tradition in fine style down south.
Jason was also quite good here in New England, but is now finding big speed in the Gulf Coast region. Two weeks ago, he finished third in a race at Mobile International Speedway (MIS) against some very stiff competition. Welch is the Director of Security at Austal USA, the ship builders in Mobile.
Idle since 2018, the historic high-banked 1/2-mile oval in Mobile is back open this year under the direction of Gulf Coast Racing Series/Houston Motorsports Park promoter Gina Schild-Knowles.
I was very pleased with the car last Saturday at Mobile,” Welch said. “It was super fast, but like all racers, we’re searching for a little more speed. We’re headed up to Sayre this weekend for a 50-lap feature, it’s a 1/4-mile bullring that I’ve never even seen. I’m actually in the shop tonight, about to bolt on a new carburetor from Bill Pink. I still feel like I have a realistic shot to win the thing.
The season is young for Welch, since he missed a few races while his car was being freshened and updated.
“That was actually my second race of the season,” he said. “I went to Cordele, Ga., on March 27 and finished third. I love the bullrings and won a race there last year. The car wasn’t really that good, so I took it up to Gary and the guys at Port City. They found some issues, fixed them, and now it’s fast.”
Jason Welch has a pair of podium finishes in two races so far in 2021 at Crisp Motorsports Park and Mobile International Speedway
When you dig into the Welch family’s background and impact on our sport, it’s an adventure into New England’s rich racing history. It began with Jason and Quinny’s father, who was a strong contender back when Flathead-V8 Coupes and Sportsman cars ruled the north country ovals.
Sadly, we lost Mr. Welch in a snowmobile accident when he was just 43. Jason thinks about him daily.
“Everywhere he went, he was always in the blue and white No. 33,” Welch said as he held back the emotions. “That’s why I made the switch to his number this year after running the No. 21 previously.”
Quinny started tearing up the high-banked 1/4-mile bullring that Donnie and Teri Avery built alongside the mighty Pemigewasset River soon after it opened in 1993. He won his eighth title there in 2019.
Jason’s own 21-year career has seen lots of success, as well. From race wins and titles in his native New Hampshire, to now rock-solid performances at 5 Flags Speedway and Mobile, he’s done it all.
I got my start back in 1988 running a dirt car at the Norway Pines raceway with my Dad when he was still alive,” he explained. “I didn’t amount to much back then, it was just a hobby. After high school, I enlisted in the Army and spent 10 years serving our country. I missed my prime, but I have no regrets.
“My whole family is tied to the military now; my three sons are in the Army, and my wife just retired last December after serving for 33 years. I got into racing pretty heavy when I was stationed at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. I raced in Champ Karts on the 3/8-mile oval at Old Dominion Speedway.”
From there, Welch’s career got more serious. The progression and ensuing successes are notable.
“In 2003, I started racing in the Mini Cup division at White Mountain,” he said. “From there, I moved up to a Mini Stock. I won the title in 2005, then moved up to Street Stock in 2006 and won the title in that class driving a Camaro that my brother built. Quinny was instrumental in my career, big time.
“After that, I advanced to the Super Street class. I was flying home every weekend from a job in Washington, D.C., to race at White Mountain. Once the family moved to Virginia, I let go of racing up north and got back into it in Mananas at Old Dominion. I had to start all over again in the south.”
It’s no secret that competition among brands of chassis is huge in the south, just as it is here in New England. Welch runs a Port City car from Gary Crooks and the gang in Mooresville, NC, and loves it.
“This car, along with the guidance I get from Gary and help from Steven Davis, has really turned my program around,” Welch explained. “I took this job I have now and moved down here in 2014, and I went 10 years without a win. It’s a whole different game here. But now, I’m starting to make progress.”
Among the various divisions that compete in the new Gulf Coast Racing Series, the Outlaws are a wild and talent-filled class. When you compete against the likes of John Heil, Bubba Winslow and Jay Jay Day, you have your work cut out for you. And there are others, lots of them, all very good equipment.
“John Heil is definitely one of the toughest racers in this division,” Welch said. “He is an experienced and hard-nosed racer. I’ll be going over to Houston this summer to support what Gina is doing there, and I know John will be hard to beat. This entire division is filled with great racers like John.
“He and Rick Pollaro are big supporters of Gina, and I want to say tight now how thrilled I am to see her working hard to bring Mobile back to life. I was a little hesitant due to a tire change, but now I’m on board and really love the whole package. I’m hoping to win at Mobile; I’m thrilled to race there.”
Along with his immense natural talent and that undeniable Welch family obsession with winning races, Jason also has a few key people working behind the scenes to keep his program on track.
“I am fortunate to have some great folks supporting my racing efforts,” he said. “I need to thank my brother, Quinny, for everything he’s done for me; Steven Davis and Tod Martin; my wife, Michelle, retired MSG, U.S. Army for 33 years; and my biggest fans, my kids Allyssa, Lukas, Nick and Patrick.
“I also want to thank my crew, consisting of my cousin, Freeman Welch, a disabled veteran who did multiple tours in Iraq; my spotter, Will Purhamus, U.S. Navy; and Jonathan Langham. I appreciate all they do for me.”
Good help is essential to success on the ovals, as is financial support from valued marketing partners.
“I also need to thank some great companies for their support, including ABC Designz, Courtesy Automotive, It’s All Greek to Me, Stone Arms, Inc., and Steve Cook. I couldn’t do this without them.”
With temperatures heating up in the Deep South and racing now in high gear, Welch has his sights set squarely on the checkered flag. With his momentnum, a fast car and good help, he may carry it soon.
“That’s the big goal for this year, I really want to win a coupple of these Outlaw Late Model races,” Welch concluded. “It’s a tough class, but the car is dialed in and we’re getting up to speed. We’re having fun being competitive, going to new tracks and meeting new people. I’m truly blessed these days.”
-Story by: Phil Whipple, Speed51 Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Joshua Brannon