TULSA, Okla. – His week may not have started in the best place, but Dillon Welch put on an impressive run through the field Tuesday night that proved his Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals is far from over.
After not being happy with his car’s handling in Monday’s practice round, Welch, team owner Chad Boat and his Tucker-Boat Motorsports crew went to work trying to adjust on the No. 81 Spike-Toyota to try and give the NBC and MRN broadcaster something he could work with on Warren CAT Qualifying Night.
It took a little time, but their efforts paid off in the end.
Buried in his heat race after the draw, Welch could only come from seventh to fourth, then finished second in his qualifier to barely sneak into the show as the 16th and final driver in on passing points.
Welch didn’t stay in the eighth row of the grid long, though. He put on a furious charge through traffic, finding his way into seventh by halfway and then capitalizing on others’ misfortune down the stretch.
In the end, it was enough for a fourth-place finish, giving Welch hard charger honors for the night and a reasonable road to make his second-career Saturday A-main start at the end of the week.
“I was honestly pretty down on myself, after the heat race (with not getting further forward) … and even after the qualifier too,” Welch noted. “I kind of got hosed there on the start and was frustrated with myself … so to put a run together like that there at the end, I think, indicated a little bit what we’re capable of.
“It’s the best I’ve ever finished here on a prelim night, so I’ll take that too,” Welch added. “We’ll get set up at the front of a B-main on a Saturday and see if we can’t get back in the big show, because after three years out of it I really feel like we have a good shot.”
Despite the early struggles with the No. 81, Welch never lost faith in Boat’s ability to get the car right.
“Chad does such a great job getting these things where we want to be. We saw that Monday night with Aaron (Reutzel),” Welch noted, “and then again in the Race of Champions with Christopher (Bell). So there was never any doubt there. I knew we were going to be where we needed to be.
“Christopher told me before we pushed out there, ‘drive it,’ and I tried to do that. The results, I think showed it, and we’re pretty pleased.”
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