Honesdale's own Kody Welsh visited Victory Lane for the first time this past weekend at Bethel Motor Speedway. He is the latest in a long line of family members who've competed successfully on the regional racing scene.
Some dream of hitting a game winning home run, while others vision a winning three-point basket at the buzzer.
Wayne Highlands student Kody Welsh dreams of checkered flags and racing on four wheels.
Kody, who lives in Honesdale with his parents Kraig and Tracy (VanBlarcom) Welsh and sister Leigha, won his first career Four Cylinder Novice Division feature race at Bethel Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Starting in 9th position in a field of 18 stock cars, Kody picked his way to the front and took the lead of the race just past the half way point.
He held off challenges on several late race caution flag restarts to record his first win in a full size stock car in only his seventh start.
The win pushed him up to second place in the season championship point standings, only 4 points out of first.
When meeting his family in Victory Lane, Kody's first words to his Dad were “Happy Father's Day!”
“What a Fathers Day gift from God!” said Kraig Welsh about the win of Father's Day eve. “The fact that we built the car from scratch makes it even better.”
The car is a 1998 Pontiac Sunfire 2.2 with sponsorship from Schwarz Buick GMC, Alpine Restaurant, Elegante Restaurant, Current Elevator Technology, Re/Max Wayne, Meagher Law and Rent-E-Quip.
“I remember when my father won at Bethel when I was real little,” said Kody. “I got to sit on top of the car for pictures.”
Kody began racing at the age of seven at Hamlin Speedway in Go-Karts.
After several seasons, he recorded 22 first place wins, 14 seconds, and 6 third place finishes with two championships at the dirt oval in southern Wayne County.
Over the winter, the Kody and his family decided to take the next step to a higher level of racing and put together a stock car for the Four Cylinder Novice division at Bethel.
Kody worked alongside his father, both of his grandfathers (Bob VanBlarcom Sr. and Bill Welsh) and uncle Bobby VanBlarcom, who won his first feature of 2011 in the Street Stock division last Saturday night.
The whole racing endeavor is and has been a family effort. The VanWel Racing Team has had plenty of success over the years.
On Saturday night, Kody became the third generation in the VanBlarcom/Welsh family to win at the Sullivan County, NY oval.
Grandpa VanBlarcom won back in the days of the Six Cylinder division, while his father Kraig has three victories on the asphalt speedway.
Uncle Bobby VanBlarcom dominated the 2001 Six Cylinder division with 17 out of 22 feature wins and the season championship.
Going back one more step in time, Kody's great-uncle Willard Cook of Honesdale was a stock car ace in the 1950's at VanGorder's Speedway in Beach Lake and at the half-mile oval at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.
Great-uncle Willard's 1950's stock car looked quite different than Kody's 1998 Pontiac, but one sponsor lettered on both cars is the same, Schwarz Buick.
Willard's late wife Virginia and Kody's Grandmother Gladys Welsh are daughters of Edward Schwarz, founder of the dealership.
“It is so great to have the support of both sides of the family like we do,” said Kraig. “When Bobby (Jr) and I were racing, our fathers were there to help us. Now they are helping Kody. It's really special.
"We were always taught to respect our fellow racer,” stated Kraig. “Kody has been taught to be a good sportsman, win or lose. He goes over to congratulate the winner and shake hands.”
As a result of Kody's fair play, he was voted as the people's choice ‘09 Outstanding Sportsmanship Award at Hamlin Speedway.
Kraig gave up driving stocks cars to help Kody get started in his try at the sport. People ask Kraig if he may decide to get back behind the wheel in the future.
“I get more satisfaction helping to prepare and watching Kody race than I ever did behind the wheel,” said the proud father.
Racing goes deeper than the action on the track. It also bonds families together, and the VanBlarcom/ Welsh families are a prime example.
While the men are in the pit area preparing the VanWel Racing cars, family and friends gather in the grandstand area with Grandmothers Gladys Welsh and Marilyn VanBlarcom, Kody's mom Tracy, and Aunts Kristy VanBlarcom Whittle and Faith Turner VanBlarcom leading the cheering section.
Also helping out at the garage and track are Mark Whittle, Dennis Korop-chack, Aaron Turner, and Danny Turner.
Kody likes other sports with track & field being his current scholastic sport, but he had to make a decision between baseball and racing. He picked racing.
“When I tell my friends at school that I race cars, they don't really understand,” said Kody. “I think it's because they don't know much about racing, but some have come over to the track to watch me race.”
After all the excitement of his first win, he expects more of his peers to begin to understand what he's doing ... maybe even come with their families to watch him Bethel’s youngest racers.