Columbus racer nets championship with a purpose

Jason Setser of Columbus won his first career UMRA King of the TQ’s Championship in 2016. The sanctioning body, which was formed in 1961, saw a very competitive season, with several different winners and 64 different drivers racing with the series last season.

Setser, along with the other competitors this past season, will be honored at the series’ annual awards banquet Jan. 21 at the Indiana Grand Racing and Casino in Shelbyville.

Setser, who had been out of the cockpit for 11 years, returned with vengeance and a purpose in 2016. He won five feature events, which were the most of any competitor in the series. He also led in most fast times, most heat-race wins and most dash points.

His purpose was for his car owners John and Lynn Whittington of Columbus. The couple in 2013 lost their son, Peyton, to a brain tumor. He was just 5 years old. The race team now sports “The Cure Starts Now” on the side of their three-quarter midget racecar to help raise funds and awareness of pediatric brain cancer. All of the teams’ winnings during the season go to the charity to help find a cure.

Just before preschool in 2012, Peyton Whittington was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a disease that strikes the brain stem and renders nervous system function impossible. He died a year later on June 4, 2013. His mother launched the Peyton’s Angels Indiana Chapter of the Cure Starts Now in December of 2013. Each summer, Ceraland Park hosts a Carnival for the Cure, an afternoon of games and prizes in memory of Peyton.

All proceeds go toward finding a cure for DIPG and other pediatric brain tumors. Statistics show that fewer than 10 percent of children diagnosed with the disease will live longer than 18 months, and survival is even rarer.

“We won the first time back in any type of racecar at Brownstown during their No-Way Out race. It took a while for me to get in the physical shape you needed to drive one of these cars. Also, I had never raced with the safety equipment they have now days, including self-containment seats and the head and neck restraint,” said Setser, 1993 graduate of Columbus East High School.

Setser, 42, began his racing career in 1981 at the age of 7, running go-karts. He raced those for several years before moving to three-quarter midgets at the age of 23. He raced in that class for one year before advancing to a full midget for a year. The car owners that Setser drove for included Columbus’ Keith Kunz and California’s Don Johnson.

Setser then started racing 410 sprint cars for Greg Staab on a regular basis for four years. He also drove for Flat Rock’s Steve Christman for some events. With Staab, a Cincinnati native, and five-time track champion at the Lawrenceburg Speedway teamed with Setser to win the 2000 track title at Lawrenceburg.

He then left the sprint-car and open-wheel world to drive dirt late models for Edinburgh native Rick Russell, who now resides in Madison. The duo won several feature events in the area at Brownstown, Lawrenceburg, Whitewater Valley and Haubstadt.

Russell then made the decision to run Setser on asphalt in the ASA and CRA Series. In two years competing on asphalt, Setser was unable to get to victory lane even though he led events at Winchester, Lucas Oil Raceway and Salem during his stint behind the wheel.

Setser then decided to step away from racing to start a family and business. It was also during his sabbatical from racing that his father James passed away in 2005. Jason and his wife Mindy have four children — Ashton, Lydia, Ella and Gunnar.

Setser owns and operates Setser Manufacturing located east of Columbus in Newbern. His company manufactures material handling racks for area companies such as Faurecia, Toyota, Enkei, Rightway Fasteners and Cummins.

The car is sponsored by The Cure Starts Now, Setser Fabricating, Hoosier Tire, Simpson Racing Products and Mensendiek’s Auction Services. The chassis is a Lynch Chassis, and the engine is an Adams Performance built powerplant. Setser’s crew consists of Corey Cain, Beau Binder, Tim Lynch and Bradley Kelso.

Columbus drivers Rick Robinson and Elijah Setser finished 20th and 21st, respectfully, in the final 2016 points standings. Setser, 25, the younger brother of Jason, raced for the first time in his career, and his brother was impressed with how he did. “He got better each race out, he was driving an older car with an older motor in it. This year we are upgrading him to newer equipment.”

For 2017, Setser says all systems are go and that “We are just going to go out again and have fun and hopefully raise a lot of money for The Cure Starts Now. We are also going to be building the Lynch Chassis design for other competitors.” Setser says he has already received several inquiries about the chassis that he hopes will keep an already busy race shop even busier.

Setser and his other UMRA competitors will kick off their new season next month in Florida. They will compete in six events over nine days at four different tracks. The series will race at Marion County Speedway in Ocala, Branson Speedway in Archer, Showtime Speedway and Easy Bay Raceway Park in Tampa.

Final 2016 UMRA King of the TQ’s points standings: 1. Jason Setser 638; 2. Jason Goff 634; 3. Callie Wolsiffer 584; 4. Matt Hedrick 543; 5. Johnny Goff 542; 6. Ron Combs 534; 7. Aaron Percell 519; 8. Nick Speidel 492; 9. Caleb Faulkner 457; 10. Anthony Lawrence 448.