With defending champion Josh Hedges moving to the Late Model division in 2019, the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Division IV Sports Trucks will crown a new champion this year. Hedges became the second straight driver to clinch their first championship in the Sports Trucks, following in the footsteps of Mike Duarte, who grabbed the 2017 title. Since 2006, the only driver to repeat as champion of the class is Mike Cavallaro, who won six titles over the span.

Speaking of Duarte, the Dighton, Massachusetts, driver is also making the move to the Late Models this season, so it looks like he won’t be challenging to win the championship. The combination of the two drivers making a move is sure to give a newcomer the chance to get to the head table.

Defending Rookie of the Year Andrew Kun leads the list of potential challengers that could come to the front of the class. After struggling for speed a bit early in the 2018 season, Kun found the handles on his No. 88 Truck in the second half after gaining some crucial experience on the track. His father, Mike, who was at the head of the Pro Stock technical inspection for the last few years, will be taking a step back and joining his son to turn the wrenches as they look for checkered flags. Kun is a former Pure Stock champion as part of the Fast Friday program, so he certainly knows how to get the job done.

Veteran Barry Shaw Jr. is one driver who can’t be overlooked either. Shaw always shows up to the track with plenty of speed in the No. 85, and often finds himself finishing consistently in the front of the pack each and every week. In the past, he’s come up just short of championships. Las year, he finished fifth in the standings. With two of the most recent champions moving up, Shaw could be one of the division veterans in position to pounce.

Formerly a Rookie contender, Dave Simpson seems to have found his knack for the Sports Trucks class. After moving up from the Fast Friday schedule, Simpson has found some speed under the hood, and will certainly be a factor in 2019. The Fast Friday class has proven to be a successful stepping stone for many drivers and Simpson is just another example.

Beyond them, the list of rising talent is going to emerge in a big way. Former Sport 4 winner Richie Murray, the son of former Pro Stock veteran Rob Murray, is jumping to NASCAR Saturday’s looking to make a name for himself. Last year, Murray rolled to victories in the Sport 4 division, and he’s not going to be behind the wheel of a Truck that isn’t proven. Even though it will have the No. 08 on it, Murray will drive the same Truck that Hedges won the championship with last season. Maddie Harkin, a former Bandolero competitor at Seekonk, is heading into her second season in the Sports Trucks looking make even more improvement.

Veteran drivers already registered for the season include Ed Perry and Darryl Church, two drivers who have been in the Sports Trucks before and know what it takes to win. Nick Mattera, a former Fast Friday competitor in the Sport 4 class, has also added his name to the list of drivers in his attempt to make the move to NASCAR Saturday night.

Before the season starts, many more veterans and Rookie of the Year contenders are expected to join the list.

The Sport Trucks season gets underway on Sunday, May 5, as part of Seekonk’s annual opening weekend, which will include a Custom Car Show on Saturday, May 4. The opening Sport Trucks feature of the season will be a Power 5 race, scheduled for 30 laps.