By the time Aaron Wells closed his trailer door at Tulsa Raceway Park early Sunday morning, his clock read 5 a.m. The reigning Mid-West Pro Mod Series champ was exhausted and it was a long night by any account. But it was a weekend that actually included drag racing and a trip to the winner’s circle, so Wells was more than happy to bask in the joy of the moment.
His off-season went far longer than expected thanks to the current COVID-19 pandemic, but there was little rust to be found from Wells, his team and the blown Jerry Bickel Race Cars-built ‘ 67 Mustang GT 500, leading to a win at last weekend’s Throwdown at T-Town.
Wells went a blistering 3.64-seconds at 209.82 mph in the final round against Judd Coffman, continuing a stretch of impressive performances for the Mustang, Okla. native.
“To have the winter or off-season be basically the length of three, and then come out and qualify No. 1 and win the race, it’s picture perfect,” Wells said. “It was unreal. It’s been an awfully long (off-season), so it was amazing to get back in the swing of things. It was sure nice just to get back to racing, and to win, it was just great. We’re having a blast and every win still feels like the first one.”
This one will surely feel decidedly different from perhaps any.
With the public health crisis wreaking havoc on all events, Wells wasn’t sure there would even be racing this weekend in Tulsa. The MWPMS had already adjusted the early part of its schedule, and Wells was thrilled when he received confirmation the race would happen.
To add to it, track owners Keith Haney and Todd Martin worked with the local government to allow fans, with everyone following strict social distancing guidelines. It made for a unique environment in Tulsa, but Wells believed everything went well, noting it could serve as a guide for track operators across the country.
“If you would have asked me a short while ago if this race was going happen, I would have unanimously said there’s no way. To have everyone work through the problems and everything, it was sure nice,” Wells said. “Honestly, I think they did well keeping everyone cleared from the starting line and from congregating there.
“And for the most part, people were respectable in the pits and kept their distance. The track worked hard as well, and in the stands they were able to social distance as much as you could expect. Big tracks are perfectly capable of doing the same thing as Tulsa, keeping everyone safe and keeping everybody clear. Fortunately, I think it worked out really well.”
Everything worked out almost perfectly for Wells, who looked like he had not skipped a beat. After testing a number of different things on Thursday, the team found something that worked, immediately vaulting to the top with an impressive 3.666 at 207.75.
After clinching the MWPMS championship last year, winning the special invite at the NHRA race in Dallas and then posting a remarkable victory at the Street Car Super Nationals in Vegas, Wells wasn’t sure if he could keep that incredible pace.
It didn’t take long to see he could.
“The minute we went down the track (in Tulsa), I knew we had something to work with. We just continued to chip away at it and make improvements,” Wells said. “I felt pretty confident we could make it do what it had in the past. We went in not expecting to qualify No. 1, but we definitely expected to go rounds.”
That expectation was met quickly, as Wells went 3.765 at 205.22 and 3.952 at 159.14 to reach the semifinals. The second-round victory came with some issues, as Wells and his team, which includes tuner Travis Cannon, as well as his mother, father, wife and two daughters, had to work hard to make the call.
“From the firewall back, everything came apart between the second and third rounds,” Wells said. “We had an electrical issues and it was a bit of a thrash, but we were able to make the call. I’ve just got good people who help make this all happen. I’ll be the first one to admit I’m blessed.”
Wells found his footing in the semifinals, going 3.689 to beat Clint Satterfield before making the quickest run of the weekend in the final round against Coffman.
It was a spectacular start to his championship defense and Wells was more than willing to pass along credit to his talented team.
“I’d obviously love to take the credit, but that’s not where it’s won,” Wells said. “(Engine builder) Darren Mayer is always working and building something phenomenal, and Bickel builds a great car. All these parts and pieces make a different, but it’s really the preparation that brings it all together.”
The end result is what happened over the weekend and each success only pushes Wells more. It may be hard to top 2019, but the quest of a perfect season and another championship will always be the goal.
“I want to win every race I go to and I’m not going to be satisfied until I do that,” Wells said. “It’s going to be difficult to top last year, but we’re going to try to do as much as we can.”