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Joe Welch Goes 7.63 in Drag Pak to Take No. 1 Qualifier in Chicago

Joe Welch and his Joe Welch Racing DragPak took the inaugural No. 1 qualifying spot in the Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown at the Gerber Glass & Collision NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway bettering the rest of the Chevrolet COPO Camaros, Ford Cobra Jets and Dodge Challenger Drag Paks.

Welch earned his first No. 1 of the season with a 7.636-second pass at 181.64 mph in the second session with an engine malfunction. The Joe Welch Racing Dodge ran 7.806 at 179.85 in the first qualifying session on Friday but due to his engine problems in the second session, was unable to make the call for the third session.

Joe Welch, Chicago Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown No. 1 qualifier, photo by NHRA

“I love seeing this crowd in Chicago. I just love the fans. And the fans love this class. They come by and they remember the old days of Pro Stock when they were real cars. Fans come up and ask. ‘Can I sit in it? or can I touch it?’ We tell them sure, and we really appreciate the attention and support,” Welch said. “After NHRA made the horsepower adjustment (changing the upper supercharger pulley on the Dodge Drag Pak from 3.375 inches to 3.500 inches), we’ve had to make a wealth of changes to the car and unfortunately, we were going up and trying something else when my car caught on fire. I didn’t get to get up to the starting line to make that last run. Thank God that I’ve got some friends here in the pits because they’ve loaned me parts. I’ve got people over here working on the car. Hopefully we’ll get it fixed.”

Welch, who was looking for his second win of the season, did manage to get his Drag Pak fixed for the first round of eliminations. He matched up with David Davies and his DH Davies Racing Save Our Allies Dodge Drag Pak. Welch would be first off the line with a .052-second reaction time to Davies’ .277. Welch’s Challenger would run into issues late and shut off early for only a 8.183-second pass at 135.33 mph that would be bettered by Davies’ 7.849 at 177.39.

Defending his Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown bounty, Lenny Lottig, qualified No. 2 picked up his first-round win over Ricky Hord. Lottig would handle his ITI Trailers & Truck Bodies COPO Camaro to a 7.693-second pass at 178.40 to defeats Hord and his Automotive Enterprises COPO’s 7.784 at 175.68.

Lenny Lottig, Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals winner won first round in Chicago to hold onto Flextjet bounty, photo by Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery

“Well, that first round is probably one of the hardest ones because you can’t win the second one without the first round is the old saying. That’s just a nice experience of relief to get past that first round. So now, we want to just keep it going,” Lottig said. “I’m liking what I’m feeling. This car has been driving great. I can’t wait to get back to the track tomorrow.”

Competition at the Gerber Glass & Collision NHRA Route 66 Nationals for Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown continues with round two on Sunday at 12:50 p.m. with semifinals at 2:05 p.m. and finals at 3:40 p.m.

This story was originally published on May 20, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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