Starting Sunday in the quarterfinals, Joe Welch and his Joe Welch Racing Dodge Drag Pak picked up the Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown victory at the season-opening Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway taking down Chevrolet COPO Camaros and Ford Mustang Cobra Jets along the way.
Welch would take the final round win from No. 1 qualifier Aaron Stanfield and his Janac Brothers Chevrolet COPO Camaro. Welch ran a 7.638-second pass at a Factory Stock Showdown speed record of 185.18 mph to defeat Stanfield’s 8.308 at 134.70 after he shut off early.
“I get to the finals so few times, you have to give it all you got. I am usually a little nervous, but not really too bad. I couldn’t explain why my car started darting around today but the guys figured it out. That last run it was straight as an arrow,” said Welch who has been to the finals three times in his career and picked up victories each time. “Aaron’s a good friend of mine and a great competitor. I knew that he’s good. I just knew I had to give him my best. The chips were going to fall where they may and this time the win light came on for me.”
In an exciting side-by-side drag race to start the day, Welch would drive around Jesse Alexandra for his bid into the semifinals. Alexandra would leave the starting line first but end up crossing the finish line at 7.769 seconds at 177.44 mph falling short to Welch’s 7.623 at 184.35. Welch would go on to face David H. Davies in the semifinals. Welch would have a squirrelly ride but be able to hold on for a 7.708-second run at 170.62 mph to beat Davies’ 7.760 second pass at 178.59.
Stanfield made his way to the finals by first picking up his third elimination victory of the weekend when he defeated AJ Berge in the quarterfinals. Stanfield would lay down a 7.736-second pass at 177.42 mph to defeat Berge’s 7.847 at 177.49. The victory gave Stanfield a bye into the final round, he’d take the Janac Brothers COPO to a 7.755 at 177.32 before coming up short in the finals.
In addition to picking up the win and setting the speed record, Welch also won $1,000 for beating Stanfield thanks to the Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown Bounty Program. Welch now has the $1,000 bounty on his back heading into the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, April 28-30.
“I am going to pay for my fuel which will be great. Golf great Greg Norman has a quote that I have always kept in the back of my head. ‘I would rather be the hunted than the hunter.’ I agree with that,” Welch said. “You know you are going to be at your best when your competitors give it their best. If you’re a real competitor, you want to win when they give it their best, and I agree with that.”