As we approach the final night of competition for the 2022 season, we look upon a new format for the championship in all 9 divisions. I will be honest, when this format was announced over the off season, I was apprehensive on what this would bring. I have a lot of friends in the pit area, and there were a few who did not like it from the get go. That is no secret, and quite understandable.
This was something that was new at the local level. It has been done for a while now on the national level. Drivers and teams have been preparing their cars over the winter for a championship chase, and now, there was uncertainty in the outcome. There always was, even in the old format. One or two bad nights can take you out of contention with no chance at the big prize.
At the end of the day, Seekonk Speedway and the racing itself is designed for entertainment. That’s the bottom line. When the fans are entertained, they will return and become a part of the Seekonk family. When there is no entertainment, the stands will be empty, the pit area will be barren, and the track itself will become a housing development, shopping center, or something else that will bring in money for the property owners or buyers. With what I have seen this year, I don’t see a lack of entertainment. I have seen some great racing, and now, with this new format, I see a lot of excitement brewing for what can be one of the most exciting championship battles we have ever seen.
With this new Sunoco Drive for the Cup format, you could still have a bad night or two, and still have a legitimate chance at the championship. Look at a couple of the competitors who missed a week and find themselves in the Final Four.
Rick Martin, who has been competing at Seekonk for over 40 years, missed a week in the Pro Stocks due to funding issues. He finds himself going for his fifth Pro Stock title. Gerry DeGasparre missed a week of action for his daughters’ softball tournament in Pennsylvania. He is looking for his record tying eighth Late Model championship. The format has it’s good and the potential for heartbreak for a front running team.
Let’s take a look at some of the story lines that have kind of slipped by, shall we?
There are two pairs of siblings, and a pair of cousins, that will be going for championships this week. The Lambert Brothers have both made the Final Four in their classes. Jeremy will be battling for the Pure Stock title this year, while his brother Colby will be going after the Sportsman championship. That has not been done before.
In addition to this, a brother and sister will be battling for titles as well. Richie Murray is fighting for the Late Model Championship, while his sister Crystal will be going after the Sport4 crown this year, trying to become the third lady to be crowned champion at Seekonk.
Ryan Vanasse Jr and his cousin Colin Vanasse will be battling each other for the Bandelero Bandit championship. Ryan Sr and Mike Vanasse have been racing together for over 25 years, and now their sons will be fighting for a title together.
There are also two drivers going for two titles in separate classes.
Mark Jenison has won in both the Late Models and Pro Stocks this season, and finds himself locked into the Final Four of both classes.
Rick Martin will also be going for two titles, in the Pro Stocks, as we’ve already mentioned, and in the Sport Trucks, where he has won 7 times this season.
There has been some great racing this year in all of our classes, and there is a case for all of the finalists to be crowned.
In the Pro Stocks. Tom Scully Jr is looking for his second title, and if he can complete this task, what an emotional tribute this would be. Tom is another driver that missed a week earlier this season, due to the passing of his dad, who competed here for many years. This would be a perfect tribute to Big Tom.
Mike Brightman has been a perennial underdog for many years in the Pro Stocks, even contemplating retiring a few years ago. Over the last couple of years, he has started winning again, including four this year alone. What a story this would be for the former Late Model Champion.
Gerry D is going for his record tying 8th LM title. Barry Shaw is retiring after this season, and a championship would be a great way to go out. Brittany Campbell can join Shelby Donovan and Ava Chouinard (and maybe Crystal Murray) as female champions. Ryan Vanasse Jr can join his dad as a champion.
These are just a few of the storylines, among the many, for this weeks’ championship weekend. There are a lot more when you look a little deeper.
Seekonk Speedway Features stories on the Stars and Cars that race at Seekonk Speedway