DIVISION PREVIEW: Baxter is The Favorite — But Who Can Knock Him Off in Sportsman?
Chad Baxter put together one of the most dominating performances in Seekonk Speedway NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Sportsman history in 2021. Countless wins, top-five finishes just about every week, a track championship, and a NASCAR National Division III title. Is he going to be able to match it again in 2022 and hoist a second straight championship in the Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman class? Only time will tell.
With a new playoff system in place — the Drive 4 For The Cup — including three races in September, where the field will be cut from 8 drivers, to 6, down to the final 4 — the Sportsman field will have so many drivers in contention, it might be the toughest to pick the final 4. In that final championship race, the driver that bests the other three in the feature will be the champion. The question is: who will make it there to be able to race for it?
Seekonk Speedway welcomes back Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment — located in Westport, Massachusetts, as the Sportsman division sponsor for the 2022 season. Helger’s has the latest & greatest in power equipment products at the best prices! Give them a call today at 774-264-9550 for more information or visit southcoastpowerequipment.com.
Even though Baxter is the favorite, the list of drivers hot on his tail is endless. A few names that come to mind first are Craig Pianka and Ed Perry.
Pianka, nicknamed “Captain Fun”, is the perfect fit to contend for a title in this championship format. As someone who has been inside the top-five for many years, Pianka sometimes has one or two bad races which force him out of contention. This new format could play right into the hands of the driver of the No. 4 machine. How about Ed Perry? Known as the one with a different paint scheme it seems like every week, Perry has proven to be fast and consistent. Could Perry be a major threat to Baxter’s title crown?
How about Adam Petty? As the hottest driver not named Baxter at the end of last year, Petty has proven to have the speed to get the job done. Although he may have struggled with consistency in the past, will this new format play right into his favor? Former Pro Stock regular Dean Petty — in the same family — has also filed a number registration. Will he get back behind the wheel?
Defending Sportsman Rookie of the Year contender Scott Serydysnki Jr. also has to be on the list of favorites. Coming off a year where he celebrated multiple accomplishments, including his first career win, the experience gained last year could help him in 2022. Is a title in his future? Maybe it’s a bit early for that. But he has to be in the discussion for multiple wins during the new season.
Chris Rioux, a former division winner, intends to be back, and should be a threat to make the playoffs and contend for the crown. Chris Gomes, who finished eighth in the point standings last year, also has a number registered for the Late Models. Former Fast Friday Pure Stock champion Doug Benoit looks to be returning to the Helger’s Sportsman division as well, hoping to make his mark on NASCAR Saturday.
How about former division champion Steve Axon? He won his championship in the old format years ago, becoming the master of consistency and capturing a crown. And even though he’s run select events and skipped some along the way over the last few years, will he come back in this new format to contend? Could he miss a few races and still make the top-8? If he happens to get there, look out. He’s fast.
How about names like Sparky Arsenault and Tyler Almeida? Both of these drivers come from completely different backgrounds — with Sparky a former division champion — and Almeida coming off an impressive year of finishing runner-up in the Rookie of the Year battle. Sparky only ran a partial schedule last year, but if he turns around and runs a full season, he could be in contention. Almeida will look to build on the 2021 season and improve towards winning in 2022.
Don’t forget names like Cody Tripp, Vinny Pangelinan, Dave Gargaro Jr., Justin Travis and Don Perry. All of these drivers will be looking to capture the checkered flag before the season is out. Add Adam Giacomozzi, Joe Melberg, Jay Steely, Randy Moretti, Tim Watson, Jared Cordeira, Paul Williams, Kaleb Marcou, and so many more into the list, and we have a true battle.
How about the man who finished second in points last year and the won the title a few years ago: Corey Fanning. Is he planning on racing a full year? If he does, he will be in contention for the points title. Even if he only runs select events, look out for him to grab a win or two.
The Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman will have regular 25 lap feature races, along with the three events in the Everett’s Auto Parts Triple Crown Series, set for 35 laps each.
The Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman season opens on Sunday, May 1 at 2PM, along with the other three Seekonk Speedway NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series divisions. Tickets are available in advance online at SeekonkSpeedway.com and will also be available at the gate on race day.
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