SEEKONK, Mass. -- As Seekonk Speedway inches closer to the inaugural Drive For The Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuels, set for September, NASCAR Saturday announcer Sam Tully will begin walking you through the points bubble weekly.
This is the first installment in the Drive For The Cup update. Let’s take a look at which drivers are just barely inside the top-eight, which are on the bubble, and which need to get shaking if they want to compete for the title in 2022.
WHAT IS THE BUBBLE?
For those just tuning in to this season at Seekonk Speedway, all Fast Friday and NASCAR Saturday divisions are utilizing a playoff-style format for the first time in the 75-year history of the track. What this means is that after the weekend of August 27, each division will be whittled down to just the top eight drivers (except Bandoleros, six), who will be eligible to go forward and compete for the season championship in the remaining three weeks of the playoffs. Until August 27, however, all eyes will be on the points cutoff, or, the “bubble” between eighth and ninth place.
CHAZ’S AUTO BODY SPORT TRUCKS
The Chaz’s Auto Body Sport Truck division has given fans an exciting mix of proven veterans and incoming rookies this season. One of those rookies is Tom Scully III, who currently sits 19 points to the good of the bubble in eighth place. Scully has been consistent through nine weeks of racing, finishing in the top 10 every week except for week five.
While 19 points may seem like a serviceable lead to nurse into the playoffs, all bets are off with Jake Vanada on the outside looking in. Had it not been for an unfortunate disqualification following the week eight feature, Vanada would have 48 more points to his name, putting him squarely in seventh in the standings. Instead, the road into the playoffs just got a little bit tougher for the No. 29 team. But, Vanada has clearly proven he can drive to the front of the field, achieving four top-five finishes this season, and will surely be shooting for more as he races to close the point gap to Scully.
Amy Arsenault is another driver who has done her fair share of dancing around the bubble this season. This past weekend, the driver of the No. 9 machine went out and did the best possible thing she could do for her playoff hopes – win her heat AND her feature. Coming away from the July 23 raceday with maximum points weekend (55 of them) has got to feel good, as she now sits 43 points to the good of the bubble.
HELGER’S SOUTH COAST POWER EQUIPMENT SPORTSMANS
The battle around the bubble of the Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman division is really starting to heat up, as we see just 17 points separate our last four drivers to the good of the bubble. The first driver on the outside looking in is Adam Pettey, who currently trails Tyler Almeida by 24 points. Petty has been on a bit of a slide the last couple of weeks following a DQ in week eight and a 19th-place finish in week nine, allowing what has been a razor-thin single digits points margin in recent weeks to grow to the double-digit hurdle it is now. Look for things to square off for the number #57 once we go back racing in August.
Tyler Almeida has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride in the points standings in recent weeks, sitting as high as fourth in the points just five weeks ago and now finding himself as the last car to the good of the bubble. Look for the #97 car to string together some more strong finishes and solidify his standing in the top eight.
Scott Serydynski Jr. is a driver who has been on both sides of the hotly contested bubble this season, and made a statement this past weekend after going out and claiming 55 points by winning his heat and ultimately being declared the feature winner following post race tech inspection. Serydynski has been a strong competitor in the Sportsman division all season long, and last weekend’s result suggests he’s just getting started as we ramp up into playoff mode.
Colby Lambert and Steve Axon are two other drivers who are still looking to definitively punch their tickets to the playoff chase. Lambert has put together a steady campaign in 2022, piloting his #54 car to two top-five finishes and several top-10’s, and now sits 38 points to the good of the bubble in sixth. Look for Lambert to snatch a couple more finishes well inside the top-10 to lock himself in for a playoff chase. Axon, who did the bubble dance a couple weeks back due to missing a week of competition, now finds himself tied with Serydynski for fifth, 41 points to the good of the bubble. Axon has already made a few trips to the top-five this season, and a couple more similar outings should do the trick to lock in his playoff hopes.
There’s still plenty to be decided here in the Sportsman division, and each of these driver’s control their own fate heading down the stretch. It’ll be a nailbiter to see who is in and who is out between these drivers. It’s worth a mention that should any of these drivers have a bum week or two in the points, look for Jimmy “Pepe” Silvia, currently sitting 49 points below the cutoff, to be a dark horse to jump into playoff contention.
NASCAR SATURDAY LATE MODELS
The Late Model Division showcases Seekonk Saturday’s tightest points race so far, with just 47 points separating our top eight drivers.
As tight as the standings are to the good of the bubble, things surprisingly start to loosen up when you look south of the cutoff. Jeramee Lillie sits in eighth place, 44 points to the good of Josh Hedges. Hedges, who was up as high as third place in the points as recently as June 25, has not raced in either of the last two outings. This absence has unsurprisingly washed his standing below the playoff bubble, and the more time he spends away from the wheel of his #29 machine, the narrower the window to recoup his deficit gets, in turn providing relief for Lillie & company.
Bill Goodrow, Ryan Flood, and Reese Bogue are the next three drivers out, currently sitting 73, 85, and 90 points out, respectively. Goodrow has the least distance to cover out of the three, and has had chances the last few weeks to start eating into that points deficit with starts at the front of the field. As Goodrow continues to feel out his #32 machine after several years away from the track, watch for things to click for this team and keep the car towards the front of the pack to start drumming up some late season momentum in August.
NASCAR SATURDAY PRO STOCKS
Seekonk’s Pro Stock Division has run just seven features so far this season, compared to the rest of the Saturday night divisions, which have run nine to date. Despite the shortage of features, there has surely been no shortage of fireworks on track from week to week, and a couple of surprise drivers in and around the bubble to boot.
Kenny Spencer is the last driver to the good of the bubble, sitting on just a 14-point lead ahead of Rick Martin. Spencer started the season strong with a second place finish, but since then, suffice to say the No. 0 car has been unable to match the success it found on opening weekend. Fortunately enough for Spencer, he has been able to run just good enough from week to week to keep himself a step ahead of some of his other embattled competitors.
At a glance, it may come as a surprise to some that Ryan Vanasse is currently on the outside looking in, sitting in 10th place, 23 points off the bubble. Some quick reflection on our season to date however conjures the streak of bad luck the #11 team has been dealt, and the handful of wrecks and spins Vanasse has been caught up in. The #11 car was absent from competition on July 23, stalling him out further in the points standings, but hopefully this more than capable driver can get back to the action in August and salvage some fruitful point totals in the remainder of the regular season to keep hopes of a playoff run alive.
Tom Scully Jr. and Rick Martin both had a productive week as far as climbing up the points standings go last time out, each gaining two positions in the rankings. Scully has finished inside the top three the last three weeks running, doing exactly what he needs to distance himself from the bubble, now with a 32-point cushion. Martin finished seventh this past weekend, which got him ahead of two drivers absent from competition, Vanasse and Ryan Lineham. Barring any big time shake ups, it seems it may be a two-horse race between Martin and Vanasse to see who can catch Kenny Spencer first. That is unless one of our top eight really starts to slide in the points, in which case, look for rookie contender Danny Thibeault to potentially chip away at his 49-point gap in the remaining four weeks.
With July 30 playing host to the Midsummer Thrill Show, Seekonk’s Saturday night divisions will return to action on August 6 - the first of four remaining weeks before our playoff cutoff.
There’s no telling what late-season shake ups will rock the standings in any of our divisions.
Be sure to come and watch the late-season excitement unfold right before your eyes at 6:00PM on Saturday nights at the Action Track of the East.
For tickets and more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit seekonkspeedway.com.
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