Look out for the Late Models in 2023 at Seekonk Speedway.
One of New England’s most exciting divisions returns to the Action Track of the East, and if you look at what happened the last few years, this division is going to keep fans on the edge of their seats all year for every single lap.
Defending champion Mark Jenison, a veteran, returns as the ringleader of the division as the drivers prepare for more three-wide, side-by-side racing. Jenison won the title in the inaugural Drive For The Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuel last year and will be a threat to make it two straight in 2023.
However, the list of challengers right on his back will be tough to beat. Former division champions Gerry DeGasparre Jr. and Vinnie Arrenegado, along with former track champions Richie Murray, Josh Hedges, Chase Belcher and Mike Duarte are also registered to chase the crown. Throw in Jacob “Rowdy” Burns and others and you have what is shaping up to be a season to remember.
DeGasparre Jr. dominated much of the season last year and came up just short of the title, but if the speed in the No. 71 returns again in 2023, look for him to park in Victory Lane often. Will his eighth track title be a possibility when September 30 comes around?
Arrenegado may have struggled through some of last year, but he’s coming back with a newer chassis and looking to return with a vengeance. He’s a proven winner, and when he gets hot, he’s sizzling. The No. 17 team has what it takes to make the Final Four, win a lot of races, and contend for the title.
Former Sport Trucks champions Murray, Belcher, Hedges and Duarte are also all considered to be threats going into the season. Murray picked up his first career Late Model win in 2022 and was one of the most consistent drivers in the division, driving the No. 08 to multiple top-five finishes. He came up just one spot short of the title last year and is hungry to get back to the Final Four and improve that by one position in 2023.
Belcher, who entered the final corner of the finale last year side-by-side with eventual champion Jension, may feel like he has something to prove. But the speed in the Everett’s Auto Parts No. 35 over the years has been great, and it should be back for him this racing season. Hedges, who ran a partial schedule in 2022, is planning a full-time schedule this season. Will a new surge of confidence and anticipation going into the season help propel him to victory? Will Duarte run a full-time schedule for both his Late Model and Sport Truck, or focus on the Truck again and run just select Late Model events?
A few other drivers to watch going into the season include Burns, Connor Souza and Tyler Tomassi. Burns was no stranger to the front of the field in Seekonk’s Legend Cars before moving to the Late Models, and quickly proved last year he has the speed and drive to race up front in this competitive class. There are certainly many situations where Burns will be in contention to win again, and should be considered a driver to watch in the race for the championship. Souza, who plans to return to Seekonk after touring with the Trucks the last few years, almost won a Late Model race late last season, and will be one to watch to score his first trophy. After a year or two in the Pro Stocks, Tomassi, a former Seekonk Bandolero winner, has registered his Late Model with announced intentions to run the third-mile full-time in 2023.
Other registered names like Ryan Souliere, Dane Saritelli, Nick Uhrig, Bill Goodrow, Paul Lallier and others. Although many of these drivers aren’t expected to run full-time, keep their names in mind in case they decide to compete in a weekly slate. Goodrow and Lallier did in 2022.
Fans can’t forget Jeramee Lillie, who ran full-time last year and nearly won races, and Charlie Rose Jr. – a former track standout – who is the defending Star Speedway Late Model champion, and won at Seekonk last summer.
Look out for Nathan Tracy, Fred Bonalewicz, Ryan Vanasse and Kevin Bowe to also make appearances.
The Late Models will open their 2023 season on Sunday, May 7, as part of Seekonk Speedway’s 77th season opening weekend. On Saturday, May 6, the annual Car Show & Go returns to the Action Track of the East, while opening day roars the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series divisions to life at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 7. Tickets for opening day and all Seekonk Speedway 2023 events are available today at SeekonkSpeedway.com.
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