By Sam Tully
Those familiar with the sport of racing know all too well how common it is for entire families to gear up and commit to the lifestyle to find success on track. Their efforts culminate to give one driver - the chosen one out of the family - the opportunity to carry the torch as the wheelman or wheelwoman week in and week out.
In the Seekonk Speedway community, it’s not uncommon for multiple family members to take to the track over the course of a race weekend. What is uncommon is something that is unfolding right before our eyes as we head into Championship Weekend: three sets of family members all vying for championships in the first ever Sunoco Drive for the Cup Championship Weekend.
Let’s take a look at the drivers who clearly have speed running in the family tree, and are one step away from being crowned champion in 2022.
LAMBERT BROS RACING
Colby and Jeremey Lambert take to the track every Friday and Saturday evening throughout the summer, supporting each other on their respective race days, and all the hard work has paid off.
Colby Lambert, the eldest of the two, has been racing for several years at Seekonk, and knows what it takes to win a championship, having scored a title in Friday’s Pure Stock division back in 2017. Colby has stepped up in recent seasons to Saturday’s Sportsman Division. This year, he currently sits fourth in the overall points, and will be laying it all on the line to be crowned champion this Saturday night.
Jeremey is taking a similar path as his brother, getting his feet wet in Friday night’s Pure Stock division. Proving that both brother’s have the speed gene, Jeremey has clinched a spot in the Third round, where he’ll attempt to get the Lambert family name back into the hall of Pure Stock champions yet again in 2022.
Should Colby and Jeremey both best their fellow championship challengers this weekend, it would be the first time in history that two brothers would be crowned champion in two separate divisions in the same season at Seekonk Speedway.
For Colby to have success, he needs to beat out reigning champion and seven-time feature winner Chad Baxter, as well as other multi-race winner Craig Pianka and Ed Perry. This matchup paints Colby as a bit of a dark horse in the final round, but look for him to break through and double his championship count when the Sportmans hit the track on Saturday.
For Jeremey to take the championship, he’ll need to top Danny Massa, Sam Lincoln and Mike Henriques - all of which have never won a championship before. The Pure Stock Championship is very much up for grabs this Friday, and look for Jeremey to join his brother in the ranks of Pure Stock greatness.
The Murray family name has been known for decades around the third-mile oval. In recent years, it’s been sister-brother duo Crystal and Richie Murray carrying the family torch.
Crystal has been a fixture in the last couple of seasons in Saturday’s Sport 4 division. In 2021, the season title was arguably hers for the taking, yet stepped aside prioritize her education once the school year started back up in September. This year, no school, no problem for Crystal. She leads her division in both points and wins (4).
Fresh off a win last week, Crystal is showing no sign of letting up, and will prove tough to
catch for challengers Tyler Duhancik, Jarrod Freitas and Henry LeVallee on Friday evening.
Richie has shown great speed and toughness over the course of his sophomore season in Saturday’s Late Model division. The year started off with a bang, taking down the win on opening day back on May 1. Since then, Richie has been biding his time until the playoffs, showcasing some incredible multi-wide racing numerous times, contributing significantly to what has been a truly dazzling season for the Late Models.
Richie will need to stay tough and quick if he’s to claim the season title Saturday night, as the competition he’s up against are no small potatoes. Standing in Richie’s way are six-time Late Model champ Gerry DeGasparre Jr., seasoned veteran and two-time 2022 feature winner, Mark Jenison, and 2015 Sport Truck champion Chase Belcher. Look for Richie to outperform the tsunami of success experience he’s up against as the 18-year old straps in on Saturday night.
Should Crystal and Richie both emerge victorious, they would mark the first sibling pair ever to win championship in the same season in the history of the speedway.
ALL IN THE FAMILY - THE COUSINS VANASSE
The Vanasse name is known to many speedway goers, perhaps in reference to current Pro Stock driver Ryan Vanasse, who won back-to-back Late Model championships in 2009 and 2010.
Now, Ryan and his brother Mike Vanasse are letting their sons get in on the Seekonk action.
Ryan Jr. and Collin Vanasse square off against each other on Friday nights in the Seekonk Grand Prix Bandolero Bandits Division.
Ryan and Collin have been driving bandits for a couple years now, but this year is different. With the new Drive for the Cup format, the two have been competing with each other all season long for a playoff berth, and now battle against each other week after week in an ever-narrowing playoff field.
Ryan and Collin have both managed to stave off elimination through two rounds, and make up half of the playoff field going into championship weekend. Their competition: Sam Macedo and Nick Uhrig Jr.
Out of the four drivers, Ryan is the only one to claim a feature win, scoring three of them this summer, fresh off his most recent one last week. Collin will have to pull out all the stops this week if he wants to top the Final Four including his cousin. As for Ryan, he has the momentum on his side, and needs to hit his marks one more time to be named champion.
As far as odds go, it’s a coinflip that the 2022 Bandolero Bandit Champion will be a Vanasse.
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