Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Jake Upchurch hitting his stride in Modifieds

RED OAK, Texas — Nobody ever said it would be easy. After coming up though the ranks of short track racing correctly, mastering one class before advancing to the next, winning in the premier division can be difficult, regardless of your skills. In your first full season, it’s going to be a challenge.

Yet for 36-year-old Jake Upchurch, a 21-year career on the ovals reached a significant milestone back  on July 16. This gifted and dedicated racer with ample personality notched his first career IMCA Modified victory at Kennedale Speedway, and most will tell you there are more wins on the horizon. 

He’s found the kind of speed and consistency that eludes many drivers. This year, he’s earned six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 19 starts around North Texas, where the level of competition is intense. 

“I dabbled a little in the Modified at the end of last year, maybe five or six races,” Upchurch said. “So this is my first full season in one. I may be a veteran racer, but technically I’m a rookie in the Mods. To finally lock down that first win was huge, and was definitely a high point of my career.

“It had been a long road to get there. We had been fast all season, but things like getting caught up in wrecks, driver errors, and weird things like a flywheel breaking, an oil filter getting cut, a valve stem coming loose, you name it, just kept happening to us. It had been a difficult struggle to that point.” 

Upchurch has an extensive background in our sport, with tons of good experience under his belt. 

“My Dad first got me into this sport,” he explained. “We used to go watch the races at Cowtown and what they called Grand Prairie Speedway back in the day. I eventually started racing Street Stocks, and ran them for 10 years or so. We were successful, with over 100 wins and multiple track championships. 

“After that, we decided to go Sport Mod racing. I was fortunate there, as well, with 60 or 70 wins and some track championships. We were always after the National title, but only got as close as finishing second, third and fourth overall. Now I’m in the Modified, working my way trough a learning curve.”

As mentioned above, Upchurch competes in a region full of talent. It’s no cakewalk to hit the podium.

“I think this division is in a pretty good place right now,” Upchurch said. “The competition is tough all over North Texas, but it forces you to improve. I always wanted a Modified of my own; but just never did it until now. I’m happy I have one here at home, and work on it all the time.” 

When Upchurch puts on his safety suit, grabs his helmet and gets ready to race, he climbs into a very fine machine. 

“I own a nice IRP car put together by Chase Allen at Circle A Motorsports,” he said. “Chase is an amazing guy who has really helped me out a ton. He’s my go-to guy for setup guidance at the track, and that is invaluable. It’s powered by a GM Crate engine, and it has tremendous speed when it’s dialed in.” 

Along with his years of experience in racing and top-notch race car, Upchurch also has a few key people and marketing partners who keep his program on-track and successful. 

“I need to thank my family for their support, I couldn’t do this without them,” he said. “I’ll also thank my friend Jacob Pirkle for his guidance in learning the Modified. He has the knowledge, and so does  Chase. Both have played a big part in the gains I’ve made this year. I’m truly grateful for both of them.

“I also want to thank all of our great partners, including C and P Pump Services, IRP Race Cars, Circle A Motorsports, Undercover Shocks, Moore Designs, Fivestar Recovery, Prime Designs, Stephenville Starter & Electric, Dirt Defender, Liberty Fluid Power, Capital Electric, 141 Motorsports, All Pro Driveline, Jmac Bodies, LM Racing Fuels and Stealth Industry. I appreciate the help they all provide.”

With summer starting to wane and fall sports on the horizon, family responsibilities will come before racing in the weeks and months ahead. 

“I have two young children; one is seven years and just started playing football,” Upchurch said. “So I’ll be attending his games and racing a little less this fall. I’m one of the Assistant coaches, so that takes up a lot of my time. The other child is just four years old, so family has to be a priority these days.” 

“We are going to try and hit a few big shows. It just depends on my son’s schedule as to where and when we can go. It’ll be mainly just around here, but we’ll still enjoy it. My goal is to keep getting more seat time and keep improving our program. That win was pretty great, and now I’m hungry for more.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer
Photo by Mike Frieri