Competitive Sportsman Class Title Chase Is Wide Open
by Kyle Souza
And with a quick look at the roster going into the year, picking the season champion is not an easy task for anyone.
To start, with championship experience in their past, Sparky Arsenault and Scott Bruneau have to be among the early favorites. Arsenault hasn’t been at the top of the class in a while, but his experience is certainly in his favor, and the car always has plenty of speed on the track. The Attleboro, Massachusetts, driver seems to find his way to the front of feature action when it matters most, but Bruneau, from Tiverton, Rhode Island, seems to be able to accumulate plenty of points each year as well.
He has been one of the top contenders in the Sportsman division for many years, and even though he came up short last year, you can expect the No. 74 to be at the front of the field more often than not this year. Especially coming off what was a little bit of an off season for his standards, Bruneau is going to look to win early and often.
Beyond them, a group of contenders will be looking to etch their name into Seekonk’s record books as the champion. To start, the No. 21 and the No. 7 might be two drivers to keep your eye on from the grandstands.
Behind the wheel of the No. 21, former Pro Stock winner Kyle Casper seems to have found some speed in the Sportsman division, winning a few races last year and entering the finale of the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series with a shot at winning that. He looked to be in the title contention sphere towards the end of the season, but a few weeks of mechanical issues and crashes sidelined his chances.
Behind the wheel of the No. 7 is another Lallier, Paul’s son Tyler, and he has plenty of experience right in the family that he can lean on. The North Attleboro, Massachusetts, native, has seen Victory Lane before, but this year he will look to put consistency together to have a shot at the title chase.
With a fresh car at the end of last season, Craig Pianka is coming into the new year full of confidence. He was able to pick up his only win of the season just after debuting the ride in 2018, and for Pianka, another veteran of the division, the time could be now if he wants to contend for a title. With experience on their side, the Fanning family — both Corey and Scott — have both filed entries planning to compete for wins. Corey might have also registered his Late Model, but you can look for him to still make appearances in the Sportsman, while has father hits the track looking to return to his prime form and grab the checkered flag.
Inside the Danny Cabral racing stable, three drivers look to win, as Cabral wheels his own No. 44, and Dick Benoit, who nearly won a race last year, returns driving the No. 47. Even though they had plenty of speed, Benoit always ended up at the tail of the field towards the end of the year with some type of gremlins inside the car. If he can keep those aside, and keep up the speed, he could certainly be a factor come crunch time this year.
The other car in that stable is Pro Stock regular Mike Brightman. He’s filed an entry driving the No. 41, and as he enters what could be his final season behind the wheel before he turns his full attention to his two daughter’s racing on Fast Friday, a trip to the Sportsman class will allow him to slip and slide and have some fun.
You can watch for Vinny Pangelinan, another veteran of the class, as he looks to piece together strong runs consistently as well.
Additional names to watch going into the new year include Ed Perry, who won a race last year, Steve Axon, who usually makes select appearances as a former champion, Ed Flanagan, Chris Gomes, Paul Williams, Joe Kohler, Justin Travis and Donald Perry.
These might not be the only drivers to watch either, as the Sportsman division is often known for drivers picking up wins that fans may not have expected.
The 2019 Sportsman season begins on Sunday, May 5, as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series opener at Seekonk Speedway.