Sunday, May 6th, kicks off our 72nd Season Opener at The Action Track of the East. For the first time in almost 20 years, the Seekonk Youth Racing Association Mini Cups will not be a part of the action.
We talked about the decision on dropping this from the weekly schedule last year after the announcement was made, so we won’t go into that again. But I did want to take a moment and thank the competitors, the moms, dads, brothers, sisters and friends that made the Mini Cups what they were. They were a great addition to our history, and their legacy will continue to live on here. I am glad I was able to be a part of it in a few different capacities. Some of the former drivers continue to compete weekly here, while others compete with various touring classes, and others have taken different roles in the sport, working their way toward the top of the chain.
Speaking of former drivers still competing weekly, two of their graduates, former SYRA Champions if you will, will be competing for Columbus Energy/ VP Race Fuels Rookie of the Year in the Pro Stock class. Dylan Estrella and Austin Blais have made the move up to the top class in 2018, which will make this one of the most exciting rookie classes in memory. Joining them will be another former champion, Nick’s Pit Stop Legends Champion Jake Johnson.
Each brings a history of winning in everything they have gotten into here at Seekonk. All three have won in the Everett’s Auto Parts Late Models, racing wheel to wheel weekly. Their different styles will bring excitement to a new level this year with the Pro Stocks.
Speaking of the Pro Stocks, former champion Angelo Belsito will be returning for a full season of competition. The 2015 Pro Stock title holder took last year off while completing training, but is ready to get back at it with the toughest weekly class of competitors.
Also returning will be former top runner Todd Annarummo. Todd last completed weekly about ten years ago, when he made the move into the open wheel modifieds, where he picked up a couple of wins with the Valenti Modified Racing Series, and one of the biggest modified races on the East Coast, the Open Wheel Wednesday. With the family growing, he decided to lessen the travel and return to his roots with a brand new Senneker chassis Pro Stock. Welcome back Todd.
With former champions Dave Darling, Tom Scully Jr, Fred Astle Jr, Rick Martin all returning, adding veterans Mike Brightman, Ryan Vanasse, Bobby Pelland III, Kevin and Kyle Casper in the mix as well, this will be one of the most exciting seasons in memory. Throw in Mike Mitchell behind the wheel of the Rollie Linblad Special, and watch out for some great racing.
Speaking of Kevin Casper, it’s great to see that he and the Phil’s Propane team is ready to do battle once again. Kevin has been cleared for action after a health scare last year.
SYRA graduates continue to make moves in 2018, as Chase Belcher makes the move up into the Everett’s Auto Parts Late Models. The 2016 Sport Truck champ has gotten the nod to compete for the Columbus Energy/VP Race Fuels Rookie of the Year. Joining him will be Bill Schultz Jr, who has registered for the campaign. The Shultz name goes back a way, as his dad was a top runner in the former Mini Modified class here.
They will help continue the hot action from last year, competing against defending LM Champ Ryan Lineham, Dan Johnson, Ryan Kuhn, seven time champion Gerry DeGasparre Jr, Rey Lovelace, Vinny Arrenegado and more. John Paiva will be ready to put his name in the LM winner list.
Rumor has that Charlie Rose will be competing for the championship this year. Over the past several years, he has focused on having fun and winning races. His smile and energy have graced Everett’s Auto Parts Victory Lane several times over the past several seasons, and has not gone after the title. This year will be a different story for the Tiverton native.
SYRA graduates continue to run for the ROY honors in the Sport Trucks as well, with Brittany Campbell and Maddie Harkin, two recent graduates will have their hands full, as they will battle with Randy Burr, and Andy Kun for the Columbus Energy/VP Race Fuels honors this year.
Returning to the Sport Trucks this year will be former Pro Stock champion Bobby Tripp. Bobby has been out of action for several years, but has hooked up with an old partner in Everett’s Auto Parts. It’s fitting, as his father, Johnny Tripp was one of the forefathers for the Sport Truck division, and his brother Jody is a former champion of this class.
Six time champion Mike Cavallaro is up in the air on his plans for the season. He will be starting the season with us, but may only run a part time schedule. It’s a week to week decision for him at this point.
Defending champion Mike Duarte is ready to defend his title against a great field of cars. Josh Hedges, who had a great season and was in the championship hunt until the final laps has gone out on his own and will be racing for wins from the start.
Another driver returning after several years of absence will be Ed Gannon III, who will be getting behind the wheel of the 38 that Hedges drove last year. Add in sophomore David Simpson, Barry Shaw Jr, who was another in the hunt for the title, despite missing opening day, Darry Church, former Sport Truck champion Rick Martin and others will make this one of the most competitive years for this division in a while.
For the past two seasons, Scott Bruneau has been Mr. Consistency, winning the title both years. Don’t look for anything different from the three time Sportsman Champion this year. But his competition will be as fierce as ever. Two time champion Paul Lallier is ready for another year, which he says may be his final one. He will be ready to knock off the Bruneau name from the top of the division.
A host of talent will be gunning for the crown this year as well. Three time champion Sparky Arsenault will be one of those leading the charge, which will include Cory Fanning, Craig Pianka, Ryan Flood, Jesse Melberg, Dick Benoit, Randy Moretti with a return, Tyler Lallier, who is also returning, and a handful of others.
The Sportsman will continue, as they always have, to put on some of the most exciting side by side racing anywhere.
Don Perry picked up a Sportsman at the end of last year, and is ready to compete for the Columbus Energy/VP Racing Fuel Rookie of the Year. Right now, it looks as there aren’t any takers for the ROY title other than Perry, but that can change quickly.
If you looked at the full season schedule, you noticed some changes with our focus. The season is a long one, and with the cost, not to mention the time, teams were asking for some relief. This year, we have moved our Thrill Shows to Saturday nights, giving out Fast Friday and NASCAR Whelen All American Series teams some time to regroup and refocus. It was a welcome change to the schedule for our competitors. Be sure to keep an eye out for those off weeks for our weekly competitors.
On Opening Day, we will introduce our 2018 Seekonk Speedway Wall of Fame inductees. This was the most popular years for voting, as almost 30,000 votes were cast. Each driver is deserving of being on the Wall, but unfortunately, only two will get the nod. I will let you know as we open the show.
Fast Friday will continue to help grow the sport once again with the Nick’s Pit Stop Legends, Pure Stocks, Sport4’s, and the Bandalero’s. They kick off their season on Friday night, June 1st. The competition in each of these classes will continue to be some of the most competitive racing in the northeast. They too will have their off-weeks when the Thrill Shows take over the Saturday night slot.
New to the schedule will be the double header Monster Truck Madness on Saturday July 21. They will be in competition at both 1pm and 7pm. There will be a pit party and ride alongs. If you are a Monster Truck fan, you will not want to miss this event.
The Tri Track Modifieds will return again for their two events. The annual Open Wheel Wednesday, which has become a staple in the Modified schedule, will be held on June 27th. They will return for the second annual Haunted Hundred. If you talked to anyone who was at last years Haunted Hundred, they probably told you it was one of, if not the best modified race in the Northeast in all of last year.
The Pro Stock Nationals will return for their third engagement on Wednesday July 18th. $10,000 up for grabs for the winner will continue to bring in more and more cars each year.
Did you ever wonder if people remember Seekonk Speedway years after a visit? I always have. Heck, I hear people around this area asking “Are they still running? My dad/mom used to bring me there when I was a kid.” Once some people grow up, they forget about it for a while, thinking it closed down, or something else is there now. Of course I always offer them an opportunity to come back and enjoy a night of racing. I know people grow, move away, things take over their lives.
I bring this up, because I was at the season opener of Bowman Gray Stadium on the 21st of April. Of course, I had to represent, as I had on my new pullover. A gentleman was standing next to me and noticed the logo, and asked if we were still racing. He was stationed at Quonset Point back in the early 1960s, and would visit us when his schedule would allow. I thought it was pretty cool that a retired Seabee would remember some fun he had back in 1962.
As we kick off this new season, let me ask you do something. Or several things. One, cheer loudly for all of the competitors. These men and ladies have given a lot to be here either part time or weekly. Not to mention what their families and friends have given as well. Not everyone gets along on the track every week, but they have all given everything they could.
Second, bring a friend with you that hasn’t been here in a while, or at all. At Bowman Grey, they had about 10,000 plus people in the grandstands. Now, I don’t expect that here, but boy, wouldn’t that be nice. For the competitors, as well as the speedway itself.
Third, enjoy yourself while you’re here. When it all comes down to it, this is entertainment. Entertainment that hundreds of employees at the track, thousands of men, women, children, and families have gotten together for, so they could pursue a passion that has grown inside of them since they first experienced this glorious sport that we all enjoy.
Fourth, if you own a company, have a friend that does, or know someone who has the financial means to partner up with a competitor, regardless of the division they compete in, or what they can offer. Believe it or not, every little bit helps. You would be surprised on how down to earth these drivers, car owners, teams are. I just might surprise you how tight the budgets are on some of these teams, even when you look at them and think they are well funded. Rumor has it that there are at least a couple of teams that close to closing up due to funds.
They are like a family. Sometimes a little dysfunctional, but none the less, a family. A family that I am proud to be a part of, no matter how small my part.