Team Bio

Meet Our Team – Powered by Baker Engineering
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 The Drivers

Racing Awareness’ Ben Welch Racing Super Lates in 2016

Grand Rapids, MI (October 20, 2015)RacingAwareness.com announced today that its 17 year old driver, Ben Welch, would drive one the team’s two Super Lates in 2016.  Welch, a senior at Coopersville High School, will run the full super late schedule at the Berlin Raceway contending for Rookie of the Year honors in the upcoming season. Welch has driven the past two years for RA in the team’s 97L Modified, where he captured four feature wins and the 2015 Track Championship.

a635-c429-d3aa-1c33Ben has been on the fast track since age 7 when he first jumped in the seat of a go-kart and has been racing ever since. Following success at a young age, turning right and left on area kart tracks, in 2010, Mike Welch, Ben’s dad, decided to try Ben at Winston Speedway on the dirt oval. The experiment proved successful, as he claimed his first ever feature win in a full-body stock car!

Ben first caught the eye of Racing Awareness co-owner Jeff Striegle in 2012, when Ben, then age 14, moved to Berlin and was driving a modified for a different team. “Ben started alongside our car on the restart. I thought we would just run away from him, but that kid hung with us for several laps and raced us very clean. I knew who he was before that but wanted to know more about him after that”.  Two years later Ben was driving for RacingAwareness.com;  winning a feature in his very first start.

10478574_10152263599182983_2892172741206778919_nIn 2016, Ben will begin a new chapter in his racing career by competing full time in the highly competitive super late model series at Berlin. Ben ran four times in the JEGS / CRA All-Star Tour in 2015 (a traveling crate motor super late series) and in addition to his commitment to Berlin, plans to do a limited schedule with the family owned car again in 2016. “We are going to try and race as much as we can”. Welch said about his upcoming plans “I want as much seat time as I can get. I enjoy the JEGS Series a lot but my focus will be on Berlin and trying to improve each week”.

Striegle thinks Ben’s weekly progression should be rapid and noticeable. “This is a young man with a lot of natural talent. He’s great athlete, and has all the characteristics necessary to be a great race car driver”.  In addition to auto racing, during his high school career, Ben competed with the basketball team and most recently on the Coopersville Men’s tennis team in the #1 Doubles.  Welch and partner Caleb Wiegerink, closed out their high school tennis careers by finishing 3rd in their conference.  Both Welch and Wiegerink were voted to the OK Blue All Conference team by the conference coaches in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  

Ben, while attending school, is also employed at Van Doorn Racing Development. “We are proud to be partnered with VRD and having Ben there is an added bonus. The unique thing for him is he is learning both on and off the track, something that will be key to his growth and on track success”, stated Racing Awareness co-owner, Norm Jelsma.    

Look for Ben Welch in the RA 67L super late when the season opens at the Berlin Raceway in April of 2016.  

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Dave Lake Set For A Championship Run In The RacingAwareness.com 97L Modified

Grand Rapids, MI (October 13, 2015) – The first of three Racing Awareness driver releases was made official today with the announcement that longtime Berlin Raceway driver, Dave Lake, will be behind the wheel of the team’s 97L RacingAwareness.com supporting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital modified for the 2016 season. Dave captured the Modified Championship in 2011 driving the RA 97L, and hopes to do the same this coming year in his return to the seat. ‘I’m very excited about what lies ahead for our team’, Lake said ‘I love that car. I love the division. I think it’s going to be a great summer’.

IMG_0943 - CopyThe 97L modified was the first car the RA team purchased when the decision to race was made in 2010. The car was built by Mike Bursley, then owner of Perfect Circle Race Cars and has been the car to beat ever since. In all, six different drivers have been behind the wheel of the modified, all recording at least one feature win. In 2010, Mike Bursley recorded 2 wins, while AJ Allmendinger and Mike Skinner each drove the car and each picked up feature victories. Lake, took over for Bursley in 2011 and scored seven wins during his championship season.  Kevin DeGood drove the modified in 2012 and 2013 racking up eight wins. Ben Welch has driven the car most recently in 2014 and 2015, recording a win on opening night in 2014, the first time behind the wheel, at age 16. Ben went on to record four feature wins and the championship in 2015, his first and the team’s second in the modified division.

Lake is the track’s only driver to capture championships in three different divisions; Pro IMG_1155Stock in 2006, Super Stock in 2007 and the Modified championship in 2011.  RA Team co-owner, Norm Jelsma, thinks that Lake’s winning ways will continue ‘we are thrilled to have Dave in the car’, Jelmsa said. ‘The car is a proven winner and so is Dave. It was a great combination then and I expect it will be again’.

Lake began his racing career 1992 and he and his family joined RacingAwareness.com in 2011.  Also in 2011, Johnny Benson Jr drove the first RA Super Late, but after one year, decided to chase a ISMA Super Modified championship. Johnny’s departure left the Super Late seat open and Dave stepped right in capturing rookie of the year honors in 2012, finishings 8th in series points. In 2013, Dave was voted Most Improved Driver and recorded a 4th place finish in the SLM division.  Dave also drove the super late the past two years finishing 6th and 5th in the points standing in 2014 and 2015.  

Racing Awareness Welcomes Terry Van Haitsma to the Team’s Super Late

Grand Rapids, MI (October 27, 2015)When the checkered flag dropped over the Super Late Model feature on championship night at the Berlin Raceway, 2015, it brought the end to the racing season, but more so, the end of short track racing for RA driver and former track champion, Joe Bush. Bush, a former 3-time Outlaw Late Model track champion, announced earlier in the year that 2015 would be his last behind the wheel. Joe, who received the Lifetime Achievement honor at the recent Berlin Raceway banquet, is expected to spend his time with his daughter Lauren, helping her in her racing career.  His departure from Racing Awareness left the team in search of a new driver.

IMG_1152The driver search was quick and easy, landing an obvious choice, a two-time Berlin Raceway track champion, Terry Van Haitsma. Terry, owner of Premier Metal Products, is a 35 year old driver from Hudsonville Michigan. He and his wife, Marcy, have a 9-month old son, Harvey.  Terry has been a fan favorite at the Berlin Raceway over the past 14 years and is considered a top contender in both outlaw and super late models.

Terry’s short track career in highlighted by his 2012 Super Late Model track championship at the Berlin Raceway. He has also competed in both the CRA Super Series and the JEGS Allstar Tour.

Van Haitsma began racing in the Sportsman division at Berlin in 2003; one year later, he won the Sportsman championship. In 2006, 07 and 09, Van Haitsma finished runner up in the Outlaw Late Model division.  Terry has raced only part time, with focus on family and business since his Super Late title.  In all, Terry has captured 18 feature wins, two championships  and the respect of drivers and fans alike.

With Terry’s on track experience and success, the RA Team feels that Van Haitsma will be a perfect fit. ‘You don’t just replace a guy like Joe Bush, but we are extremely proud to have Terry on our team’ said Jeff Striegle, co-owner of Racing Awareness. ‘He is a very talented race car driver and he understands all that goes into making these cars fast.  Bottom line, he is a proven winner on the race track’.

‘We had a very, very short list of people we wanted to talk with about our team’, Striegle said. ‘Terry was on that lIMG_1159ist from the start. We feel very strongly that this will be a winning combination’.

For Terry, 2016 will mark a return to running the full season and competing for a championship. ‘I couldn’t be more pumped about this upcoming year’, said Van Haitsma. ‘I really feel like this can be something pretty special for all of us. I’m looking forward to being a part of Racing Awareness on the track and through their charity efforts’.

RA co-owner Norm Jelsma feels like Terry will be a perfect fit for RA. ‘We wanted Terry to jump right in and get comfortable with how we operate and our expectations. So far, we couldn’t be happier. He seems to truly understand exactly what we are looking for. I wish we were racing this weekend’.  I think we can all agree to that!

The Owners

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Jeff Striegle, Rusty Wallace,  Norm Jelsma & Lisa Davan:  2015 RA Charity Golf Outing

 Jeff Striegle
Owner: RacingAwareness Inc

Jeff is employed at Gordon Food Service Store (20 years) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When not at GFS, Jeff is a radio broadcaster for the Motor Racing Network, which covers NASCAR. 2016 makes the 18th year of broadcasting for MRN Radio. Prior to MRN, Jeff co-hosted radio broadcasts of the Berlin Raceway. Striegle got his start in racing back in 1983 as a driver in open-wheel cars.

Norm Jelsma
Owner: RacingAwareness Inc

Norm is employed at Lesley Elizabeth Inc. as a national sales manager.  Norm recently retired from his role as the ‘Voice of the Berlin Raceway’ where he served as the track’s Public Address Announcer for 18 year. During that time, he was recognized with the State’s Track Announcer of the Year award. Prior to announcing, Norm worked with the Berlin Raceway Safety Crew.

Phil Kowatch: Korte & Kowatch 
Treasure: RacingAwareness.com

Lisa Davan
Director of Charity Giving: RacingAwareness.com 

The Corporate Partners

You see our list of corporate partners, but what you don’t see are the extraordinary leaders that make these companies special. Each of our partners is unique in their own way, but share one common belief, that there is more to life than just sales.

The Track

The Berlin Raceway, located in Marne, MI, is just 10 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids. The facility, considered one of the premier paved short tracks in the nation, begins its 66th year of operation. The 2016 season promises to be one of the best on record. The facility boasts a dynamic race schedule along with many exciting changes designed to make this a true family entertainment venue. www.berlinraceway.com

 

 

RacingAwareness.com is about family, ours and yours …
We miss you Bob & Cindy

 

 

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