NASCAR NATIONAL CHAMPION: SEEKONK SPORTSMAN CHAMP CHAD BAXTER WINS NASCAR DIVISION III NATIONAL TITLE HONORS
NASCAR NATIONAL CHAMPION: Seekonk Sportsman Champ Chad Baxter Wins NASCAR Division III National Title Honors
By Souza Media/Kyle Souza
SEEKONK, Mass. — For the first time in known Seekonk Speedway history, the track is celebrating one of their drivers becoming a NASCAR National Champion. Chad Baxter, the Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman champion for this season as part of the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series, has been crowned the Division III National Champion.
Baxter bested thousands of drivers from across the United States — on both asphalt and dirt — to win this title. Driving the RLS Performance No. 0, Baxter — a former Thompson Speedway champion — found his home at Seekonk driving for Emily and Richard Sprague.
He started off the year with wins in four of the first five races, and visited Victory Lane two other times down the stretch, ending the year with six victories in the competitive division. Out of more than 48 drivers in the Division III Seekonk class, Baxter was the dominant force, winning the championship one race early, and leading by 52 points in the final tally.
“This car here is a new car and we didn’t have a ton of motor in it, so it didn’t spin the tires and it handled well,” Baxter said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s definitely tough to come from the back to the front every week. It’s always a challenge to get there. Especially without beating and banging off anybody and making enemies.”
On top of 48 drivers, the Sportsman division has been long-known for being one of Seekonk’s most competitive classes. The Sportsman division offers three-wide racing often, and requires drivers at the front of the point standings to start outside the top-10 in most weeks and roll through the field towards the front. Baxter was able to do it more often than not — finishing on the podium in 13 of 16 races.
“With the most wins and being the most consistent that we were, it’s cool” Baxter said. “We knew if we could put a whole season together we would be in contention for the championship.”
Without the help of his dedicated crew, including Emily Sprague and her husband, Richard Sprague, a former driver himself, none of it would have been possible.
The championship is also the first NASCAR National Championship for track engine builder Nat Chiavettone, who at over 80-years-old, has been building engines that have competed at Seekonk, and countless other tracks, for many years.
Richard Sprague has been around racing a long time — but even for him, this is a top moment in his career. The two met at Thompson, while Baxter was in his final years of competing there and Sprague was the technical inspector at the time. They started in the Pure Stocks together on Fast Friday at Seekonk. His wife, Emily, got to know the two of them at the same time shortly after.
“When I met them both — I met them at the same time — and they had met before I met them,” Emily said. “We all had mutual jobs together. Chad was trying to get out of the Mini Stocks, and they ended up in the Pure Stocks — they built that car together. Things just evolved from there. I couldn’t tell you how many cars they have built together. Both of them have hands in all of it.”
Richard Sprague and Chad both work hard in the shop, Emily Sprague says. They also have support from Kyle James and his team at One Hundred Percent Wraps.
“As the wife and car owner, I’ve been very impressed with them and their season,” Emily Sprague said. “Every year I ask if we have to continue racing — it’s thousands of dollars. This year I was like holy moly — we’re actually going out there and doing this. I wasn’t at the track all of this year, running with Tyler Tomassi on the Granite State Pro Stock Series. We watched the race monitor every single week on our way home.I couldn’t wait until the end of the night just to hear how they did or Chad’s excitement… or Richard’s excitement. That’s what it’s all about for me. Whenever they started telling me about the national points, I asked what the heck that was. It’s really cool.”
“Really, I met Chad at Thompson and we started working together at our job and we became both good friends quickly,” Richard Sprague said. “We started by building that Pure Stock and we’ve been going together ever since. Chad had sold all his stuff and it worked out.”
And as they continue to celebrate their title, those around them who have seen their dedication and drive all year are thankful to be part of it.
“Chad is one of those guys who is every teammate or car owner’s dream, because not only can he drive, he’s a great mechanic and fabricator,” former Seekonk Sportsman champion Ryan Lineham, who drives a Sportsman and a Pro Stock for Sprague’s team, said. “Personally, I grew up racing in the Sportsman class, and watching what they were able to accomplish winning a national championship in such a competitive division — it’s a phenomenal accomplishment.”
Seekonk Speedway’s 2022 schedule will be released over the winter months. For more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit SeekonkSpeedway.com and follow the track on social media for the latest updates.
PETTEY GRABS SPORTSMAN DAV WIN, BAXTER CELEBRATES HIS FIRST TRACK TITLE
By Souza Media/Kyle Souza
SEEKONK, Mass. -- Adam Pettey seems to have figured out his No. 57 in the Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman just at the right time.
He sealed his second straight victory to end the season with a checkered flag in the DAV Fall Classic on Saturday, September 25, scoring the win in the special Helger’s Sportsman 50.
In honor of Donate Life, NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Sportsman competitors competed in their longest race in recent memory, and it wasn’t one that disappointed. Pettey jumped out to the lead early, but had to hold off the challenges of some of the best in the division over the final half of the race, including champion Chad Baxter, who scored a second-place finish to end the year in the final tally.
Ed Perry was third, followed by Craig Pianka and Corey Fanning, who finished the top-five. Scott Serydysnki Jr. was sixth, sealing the Rookie of the Year honors, while Doug Benoit was seventh, Tim Watson eighth, Cody Tripp ninth and Tyler Almeida 10th.
The Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman season is now complete. The schedule for the 2022 season will be released over the winter months. For more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit SeekonkSpeedway.com and follow the track on social media.
ARRENEGADO CELEBRATES DAV FALL CLASSIC WIN, FIRST LATE MODEL TITLE
By Souza Media/Kyle Souza
SEEKONK, Mass. -- A new king has been crowned in the Everett’s Auto Parts Late Models.
Vinnie Arrenegado charged to the front of the 30-lap feature at the DAV Fall Classic, passing Richie Murray for the lead inside the first five laps, then driving away to glory. Arrenegado captured the victory in the season-finale and also was crowned the champion in the Division II NASCAR class after a dominant year.
The win was the fifth of the season for the driver of the No. 17, capturing a dominant checkered flag to end quite the impressive season. Arrenegado was consistently in the top-five, and earned himself the right to carry the crown over the winter months, after many years of trying.
While Arrenegado drove away to the front, Charlie Rose Jr. scored a second-place finish, while Murray settled for third. Murray slid through the grass early, and had to go to the rear of the field — but used the outside lane and worked his way back to the front to grab third.
Chase Belcher was fourth, with Gerry DeGasparre Jr. finishing the top-five. Belcher and DeGasparre tied for second in the final point standings, with Belcher earning the tiebreaker by virtue of feature wins. Josh Hedges and Ryan Flood finished the top-five in points.
In the race, John Paiva was sixth, followed by Flood, Paul Lallier, Tyler Lallier and Nathan Tracey.
The Everett’s Auto Parts Late Model season is now complete. The schedule for the 2022 season will be released over the winter months. For more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit SeekonkSpeedway.com and follow the track on social media.
VANADA WINS SPORT TRUCK DAV FALL CLASSIC, SHAW CELEBRATES FIRST TRACK TITLE
By Souza Media/Kyle Souza
SEEKONK, Mass. --Jake Vanada used a test day in the middle of the week to get prepared, and it worked out exactly how he was hoping it would. Vanada used a strong starting spot to jump out front early in the 25-lap Chaz Auto Body Sport Truck feature at the DAV Fall Classic, taking down his first win of the season in the finale.
Behind the wheel of a brand new truck, it took Vanada a few weeks to get his feet wet. However, in the final race of the year, Vanada went to the top — and will hold the bragging rights against all others for the winter months after taking down the impressive victory.
While Vanada won the race, Barry Shaw Jr. drove the No. 85 Everett’s Auto Parts Truck to a sixth-place finish, enough to seal his first track championship. On the heels of six victories, Shaw was a master of consistency this year, winning the championship by a comfortable margin over Mike Cavallaro.
In the 25-lap race, Vanada bested Cavallaro to the line, with Rick Martin third, followed by Amy Arsenault, who clinched the Rookie of the Year in the Sport Truck division. Brittany Campbell finished fifth, followed by Shaw, Lenny Guy, Mike Duarte, Daryl Church and John Silva.
The Chaz Auto Body Sport Truck season is now complete. The schedule for the 2022 season will be released over the winter months. For more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit SeekonkSpeedway.com and follow the track on social media.
NUMBER EIGHT: Darling Makes Seekonk History, Becomes First Driver To Win Eight Titles
By Souza Media/Kyle Souza
SEEKONK, Mass. -- Eight was the lucky number for Dave Darling at Seekonk Speedway on Saturday, September 18. The driver of the No. 52 Johnson’s Landscaping Pro Stock captured an eighth-place finish in the 40-lap feature, which was enough to clinch him a record eighth track championship. Competing in the top NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series division at Seekonk, Darling also sealed the NASCAR championship for the state of Massachusetts.
In 75 years of racing at Seekonk, a third-mile Massachusetts oval located just 15 minutes from Providence, Rhode Island, no one had accomplished the feat of winning eight titles before. It was the fourth consecutive championship for Darling in the class, and it came on the heels of eight victories in 14 races, along with top-five finishes in all but three events.
“This isn’t how we envisioned the night to go,” Darling said after being involved in a first-lap wreck on the final night and riding to eighth at the end. “Car was awful after that, but hats off to the crew. We had a great season. We all wanted to win on the last night, but eight championships, it is just unbelievable. Four in a row is crazy. I can’t thank everyone enough — my family, my dad for all of his support, my mom, my kids. Everyone.”
This season, Darling had to hold off rising star Ryan Kuhn, a member of the Alan Kulwicki Driver Development Program. Kuhn finished second in points, 52 points back, but at times the season seemed a lot closer than that. Kuhn didn’t go to Victory Lane like Darling did, but was consistent — inside the top-five himself in all but a few races. It was the victories that allowed Darling to flex his muscles, once again.
And that’s nothing new for him.
Over the last four championship runs, Darling has more than 25 wins, catapulting himself into title glory. Darling also won titles in 2013, 2012, 2007 and 2006. His first Pro Stock victory was in 2003, with his most recent coming this year. All of the titles have come with Ronnie Pond as part of the team, with about half coming with Pond as crew chief.
Darling won the title from 2017-2019, but during 2020, Seekonk didn’t compete in NASCAR Saturday action due to COVID-19. Jeff Belyea joined the team in the middle of the stretch, joining Ronnie Pond, and the two made an epic combination, one of the best in track history. Darling followed up a year off by returning to title form this year with eight wins — it was like he didn’t even have a break.
“It’s definitely emotional to get number eight. I have been waiting a year for it,” Darling said. “It was a long year and this was probably one of the more stressful championships. Even though the points were not tight, we just didn’t want to have a bad week to put ourselves in a bad spot.”
Luckily for Darling, when chaos struck on the final night, it didn’t matter. All he had to do was take the green in the 40-lap Pro Stock feature and the championship was sealed up.
“You can have the fastest car but on any given night anything can happen,” Darling said. “You try to be patient and make your own luck to some degree. It was definitely one of the more stressful years. Ryan (Kuhn) had a great season — so if we didn’t have the season we had — he’s been finishing top-five every week and it could have been real close.”
For now, the celebration is well underway for the Seekonk, Massachusetts driver. With dedicated sponsors and team members, he will spend the winter months as champion again. But this time, he’s re-written the record books forever.
“I can’t thank everyone enough, to write the history books here is amazing,” Darling said. “I came here as a kid. It’s all of the people that make it happen. It’s the fans, the families of the crew… Jeff Belyea, Kevin, Kevin, my dad, Ronnie, Tom, Gary… some of them have been here for all eight. Their family allows them to do it every Saturday night, and we are thankful for that. It’s a grind, and a team effort.”
For more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit SeekonkSpeedway.com and follow the track on social media for the latest news.
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