This hallowed ground will sit quiet for the remainder of 2021 — and into the start of 2022 — but it just finished seeing some of the best racing in 75 years of short-track action in Massachusetts. There were some incredible car counts, record crowds and historic performances during this quite impressive season. Seekonk Speedway thanks each driver, team, fan and staff member for making the 2021 race campaign one to remember.
Picking a top moment from the 75th season is a difficult task. Looking back, it opened with a ton of unknowns. When the first green flag dropped, NASCAR racing returned to the track for the first time in over 18 months, with the track essentially shuttered during 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. But, what few of you remember is that we started the year with only 25% total capacity and the pit area separated from the grandstands. Families couldn’t even sit together at the track due to restrictions put in place by the state to keep everyone safe. Months later, we look back at the year that was filled with some of the most historic moments the track has ever seen.
It was truly a 75th year we will never forget.
With no question, the most memorable moment of the year came on Saturday, August 7. It wasn’t just the most memorable of this year — but for many — may have been the one they will remember for decades to come. Chasing 100 wins was something Rick Martin fought hard for all year, scoring his 98th career win in a dramatic Pro Stock finish where Kenny Spencer and Dave Darling got together racing for the lead late, and Martin sneaked by.
He captured his 99th career checkered flag in the Sport Trucks, but on August 7, he made sure the big number came in the Pro Stocks. Martin used the outside lane to race his way to the front, and held off Tom Scully Jr. in the most dramatic fashion, by a mere few inches, to win his 100th race. The scene that night was surreal — with fans sticking around more than 30 minutes after the checkered flag, and raising their hands in the air in excitement and thanks to Martin, who had worked so hard to accomplish the goal. Mark it down as a night to remember in Seekonk Speedway history.
Dave Darling clinched his eighth track championship in Seekonk’s top division, the Pro Stocks, built by D. Anthony Venditti himself more than 30 years before. Darling’s title gave him the right to become the first driver in Seekonk history to win eight crowns, beating out Gerry DeGasparre Jr. as the only drivers to have won seven. Darling’s run included eight victories in dominant fashion — and there was no question he was going to accomplish the feat.
Possibly overshadowed by Darling’s historic run, Chad Baxter smashed the Sportsman field, winning over a handful of races, and the track title. More importantly, Baxter became the first NASCAR National Champion to come out of Seekonk Speedway, scoring the Division III National crown. The honor for Baxter, and car owners Richard and Emily Sprague, is one to keep close for the Seekonk family. Who would have thought a Sportsman regular chasing wins on a weekly basis would turn into country-wide glory.
In the middle of the year, history was on tap on Fast Friday, with the Green Hornet, Sam Macedo, winning seven straight races in the Seekonk Grand Prix Bandolero Bandit division. Memorable itself, it was a moment we will never forget, for a young rising star with green hair — to match the color of his car — smashing his competition in style with seven trophies in a row.
Racing returned in a big way on both Fast Friday and NASCAR Saturday, along with the return of historic Thrill Shows, special events and mid-week showdowns.
Three Wednesday shows were part of the schedule — including the inaugural Bay State Classic $10,000 to win PASS Pro Stock race won by Johnny Clark and the $10,000 to win Open Wheel Wednesday with the Tri Track Mods, won by Matt Hirschman. The ISMA Big Block SuperModifieds also returned, joined by the NEMA Midgets and NEMA Lites for their Boston Louie Classic, spearheading a winged warrior Wednesday to remember.
The July 4th Thrill Show packed Seekonk Speedway with some of the biggest crowds ever, while other holiday spectaculars returned, and the Monster Trucks packed the track in style.
First time winners were all over the place. On Fast Friday, the Bandolero division saw popular first-time wins for Stephen Bowden, Brent Robidoux and Milania Slihosky, while Richie Helger Jr. and Darren Krantz Jr. captured championship glory. In the Everett’s Auto Parts Sport 4’s, Mikey LeFort may have won his third straight title, but first time victories for Tyler Duhancik and Dave Simpson Jr. helped to steal the show. Perhaps the top moment of the Sport 4 season was Crystal Murray opening her year with two straight wins in the first three races, and looking like she was in prime form to win the title for the first time. However, she elected to pursue her education — a smart, but tough decision to make — and give up the chance to win the title. She still ended seventh in points, and will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
The Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Pure Stocks saw Joey Morrissette, Curtis Rolondo, Ethan Souza and Jim Reilly become first time winners, while Greg Perry found title glory again. The Nick’s Pit Stop Legends Cars division ran through Luke LeBrun, as the former Mini Cup Seekonk champ returned to partner with Nick Lascuola and win double-digit races and the impressive championship. Mason Tessier (first-time winner) and Josh Parsons were the only two drivers to win points races other than LeBrun.
On NASCAR Saturday, while Barry Shaw rolled to the Chaz Auto Body Sport Truck title, Amy Arsenault stole the show — scoring her first career win in her move from Fast Friday to Saturday, and capturing the Rookie of the Year in the division. Baxter rolled to the Helger’s Sportsman title, while Scott Serydynski Jr. was the only new winner of the year, also scoring the Rookie of the Year honors, following in the footsteps of his father. King Vinnie Arrenegado started his reign at the top of the Everett’s Auto Parts Late Models, winning five times en route to the title. In the Pro Stocks, Darling was the dominant force.
The Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series returned, a three-race series for all divisions with a special champion crowned, while Seekonk also introduced the Everett’s Auto Parts Diamond Dash races. Special event races included the Helger’s Sportsman 50, American Racer Pro Stock 75, and more.
Dylan Estrella and Ryan Vanasse got their doors blown off by clowns in a trike race, the Senior Tour Auto Racers honored their founder, Mary Lima, with a memorable three-wide parade lap and victory by her husband in her memorial race, and the Haunted Hundred ended the year with over 100 cars in the pit area and one of the most packed crowds for a short-track race in recent Seekonk memory.
All year, attendance was up in record numbers, and fans flocked to Seekonk to watch some of the best drivers in the area race for trophies, checks and bragging rights.
And in the end, outside of racing on the track, the Seekonk Speedway faithful came together in a big way to support one of our own. Rich Helger, owner of Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment, found out at the beginning of the year he needed help from all of us in his chase to donate life. With his kidney health dropping, Helger reached out to us for help in a chase to find someone to donate a kidney to help him take his next laps. The response was incredible — with thousands of people coming behind him to help keep him on his feet. Not only did some offer support with their own kidney, but the feeling of family and love pushed Helger to help his son, Richie Helger Jr., become a Seekonk champion for the first time in the Bandolero division. It was a special moment, to say the least, and one we will never forget.
Seekonk Speedway’s entire staff thanks everyone for their support during what started out to be a challenging year, but ended as one of the best ever. Thanks to the sponsors that helped make it all possible, and all of the hard work by the staff to keep the track going.
Enjoy your offseason, and we are looking forward to seeing you in May of 2022.
The Seekonk Speedway staff
Seekonk Speedway Features stories on the Stars and Cars that race at Seekonk Speedway