By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Rachel Plant
HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — Long before the current explosion in popularity we're seeing in Factory Stock this year, the IMCA Stock Car division was healthy across the state. In this pandemic-shortened season of 2020, one veteran driver from central Texas is setting the pace in this class at two tracks.
For 42-year-old Jason Batt, competing in the IMCA Stock Car class at Heart O' Texas Speedway (HoT) near Waco and at Cotton Bowl Speedway (CBS) in Paige has been a blast in 2020. In 18 starts, he's earned five wins at HoT and two at CBS, with only one finish outside the top five. The man is on fire.
“What is kind of ironic is that we've gone back to the old chassis setup this year,” Batt said. “I took a few years away from the sport (2016-18), and worked as the flagman at 281 Speedway for my friend Joe Spillman. Last year, I came back and really struggled at first. It was pretty frustrating.
“Just about this time last season, I decided to go back to the setup I had been using back in 2015. It's been a totally new machine. Now, I'm really enjoying racing again. The car is much better now.”
Like most of those who win frequently, in any division, Batt says weekly maintenance is critical.
“We do a thorough inspection in the shop every week,” Batt said. “I'm working on the car right now, and I didn't even race it this week, we got rained out. Every nut and bolt on this car has a wrench on it every week. Nothing is left to chance. We know everything is tight and right when we unload.”
Affectionately known as the “Acro-Batt” in Texas racing circles (he was given that nickname by the announcers at Central Texas Speedway), Batt has an interesting background story. A veteran of the ovals now for nearly two decades, Batt didn't get this addiction from his father or grandfather.
“I didn't get started in this sport until I was 23 years old,” Batt explained. “I had some early success, then just kind of kept at it for almost 20 years now. I was working on my buddy's team, and he let me drive his car one time when he was out of town. That's how it all started for me, not your typical deal.
“My dream was always to be the crew chief for a top-notch NASCAR team. I never had any desire to drive back in the day. So that friend I was helping was a top dog, and his car was fast. I got a top-five finish in my first start, so he and I built my first race car together. My first win came with him pushing me across the line in second. I've never known if he gave me that win, but it launched my career.”
In the years that followed, it seems, the infamous Acro-Batt has gathered many trophies. Lots of them.
“I now have over 102 feature wins in 19 years of driving, and I'm very proud of that success,” Batt said. “The sport has been good to me, and I love it dearly. It's the people in this sport that are special.”
As we mentioned earlier, the IMCA Stock Car division in which Batt competes is loaded with talent, and has been for years. Despite his incredible numbers, Batt says it's no cakewalk to win these days.
“The level of competition I face at HoT and CBS is off the charts every week,” Batt said. “There are a lot of strong cars at Cotton Bowl, guys like GW Egbert and AJ Dancer are fast. They always give you a run for your money. And at Heart O' Texas, there are even more good cars in this division.
“You have guys like Benji Kirkpatrick, Jeffrey Abbey, and young Westin Abbey, the fastest kid in Texas. When he shows up, you know he's the man to beat. If you beat him, you can go home smiling.”
As you can easily imagine, it takes a pretty stout chassis and engine package to be competitive in this division. Batt has what he feels are the best options available in a world where there are many choices.
“I run a Victory Chassis built by Mark Elliott out of Iowa,” Batt explained. “My engine is from Mid State Machine, also out of Iowa. I haven't always had it, but right now I feel I have the best equipment money can buy when I pull out onto the track. This chassis/engine combination is the best there is.”
Among the many fabulous dirt tracks spread across the beautiful state of Texas, the legendary bullring in Elm Mott (near Waco) is perhaps the most high-profile. At Heart O' Texas, things are done right.
“It has the highest banks that we race on anywhere in our little world,” Batt explained. “It is bad-fast, an awesome track to drive and an even better place for fans to watch. There isn't a bad seat in the house. Wherever there is moisture, that's where you want to run. When it's dry-slick, it gets very racy.”
Along with his top-notch equipment, Batt also has some key people working behind the scenes to keep his program moving forward.
“I need to thank my family first and foremost, including Daphne, Vivian and Paisley Batt,” the humble driver said. “I'm blessed to have such a supportive family and wouldn't be doing this without them.”
Along with those good folks on his team, Batt also has some great marketing partners on board in 2020.
“I'm fortunate to have some great companies supporting my race team,” he said. “I want to thank Dirt Defender, FixYourGenerator.com, Don Wilde Race Crafts, Natemare Wraps and Hammock Fabrication. I appreciate each one and could not be this competitive or successful without them behind me.”
As this rather bizarre season starts to wind down, Batt has his sights set squarely on some clear goals.
“My main goal this year is to try and win both points titles at HoT and CBS,” Batt said. “I have a big lead in Waco, and am sitting in second place to a red-hot rookie I'm helping at Cotton Bowl. They haven't really had enough races yet there to size up my points chances, but we should do alright.
“We might have a chance at a regional title, but I'm trailing by about 20 points to the guy in New Mexico that actually helped me get my car. Either way, it has already been a great season. We just need to stay consistent now and seal the deal.”