There are only a few times a year Dillon Welch gets to trade his microphone for a steering wheel, and one of them comes at the Chili Bowl Nationals.
The NBC Sports broadcaster has built up a reputation as one to watch every January, with a prowess to quietly move forward and seize positive results. Thursday’s prelim night was no different as he piloted the No. 81X CB Industries Toyota to two runner-up results in his heat and qualifier before finishing seventh in a stout A-Feature that included the likes of three-time Chili Bowl champion Christopher Bell, Tanner Thorson, C.J. Leary and Brady Bacon.
“It was a really smooth night for us,” Welch told RACER. “Went forward every time we were on the track in the preliminary races earlier in the night, which is really the only thing you have to do here — just try to go forward every time you’re on track. Put us in a good spot feature and the track played to the strengths of the guys that started up front just because it was a hard track to pass on. Just really appreciative of all these guys at CB Industries. It’s really hard for me to just get in these cars and just be competitive at all, but to do it I have to have a crew chief I trust and a car that I trust. These guys give me that every time I’m on the track. It wouldn’t be possible at all without them. So, super thankful for that.”
The result pushes Welch into the B-Main for Saturday. While the Indiana native admittedly isn’t as confident going into this year’s edition of Midget racing’s crown jewel event as in year’s past, he did encounter a unique feeling during his running on Thursday.
“I weirdly felt this calm the entire day,” he said. “Normally, I’m nervous, just feeling the pressure, as I think everybody is here. But I just tried to stay calm today and not to get myself too worked up mentally, just tried to focus on one race at a time. I think that worked. I think that allowed me to just do what we needed to do. I always feel good coming in here just because I have more laps here than any other Midget track I’ve raced at. But, it’s so tough. Everything has to go right for you to just have an okay night sometimes.”
As for Saturday, there is a realistic possibility for Welch to make the main event and for an opportunity to battle it out for the Golden Driller trophy.
“I feel like we can make the A,” he said. “The car is good enough. I think that the one year I made it (in 2016), I started 14th in the B and ended up finishing fifth; just because things happen and the B-Mains are crazy and guys are racing for their life. We’re in the hunt already just by being in the B. So, feel good about that, but honestly I come into this race every year just with the goal of being dressed for opening ceremony, which is C-main, and whatever happens after that, it’s hard for me to truly be disappointed just because I am at such a experience deficit.
“I feel we’ve checked all the boxes already, so Saturday is just going to be about trying to do the best we can, try and get as many spots as we can and try to make the show. If we don’t, I don’t think that’s anything to hang our head about. Just wanna keep the car in one piece, mainly.”