Former Truck Champions, Rookie Contenders Invade Late Models

After one of their best seasons in recent memory, with thrilling finishes just about every week, the Late Models are returning to competition this season with a little bit of a new look.

While veterans will return looking to continue their success, there are two former Seekonk Sports Truck champions making a move to the division, and multiple Rookie of the Year contenders looking to make a name for themselves.

Let’s start with the veterans.

It’s hard to bet against Gerry DeGasparre Jr., a seven-time champion of the class, and someone who certainly knows his way around the track. Even though his success over the last few years might have tapered off, DeGasparre isn’t going to go down without a fight — as the offseason has given him the chance to look over his equipment and prepare the best setup to roll on the track with.

And right with him, veteran Vinny Arrenegado might finally have his chance to etch his name in the record books. After a successful 2018 season that saw him come up just two spots short of the title, Arrenegado is back with a new look and a new confidence in what he hopes will be a quest for the title. If the last two years have shown anything, he will be a threat starting right with the beginning of the season.

With those two drivers, veteran Bobby Tripp is registered for another go in the Late Models, while Dan Johnson and Chase Belcher — two upcoming drivers who have already dipped their feet in the Late Model waters — look to take their talent to the next level and contend for wins on a weekly basis.

Then comes the list of drivers invading the division looking to take checkered flags and the championship trophy.

The last two Seekonk Sports Truck champions — Josh Hedges and Mike Duarte — both are planning to make the move up to the Division II class and begin their learning curve. Hedges has been quite busy already during the offseason, competing down south at Richmond Raceway, and he also was able to run some laps at the tail end of the 2018 season to get the feel for the car. Duarte, who won the 2017 Truck title, purchased a car from former regular Mike Teague and is going to look to take his talent up to a class where the learning curve is going to be difficult — but he seems ready for the challenge.

Derek Gluchacki, who comes up from the Fast Friday Nick’s Pit Stop Legends Cars, has talent and showed it in a big way last year — coming up just short of winning with a second-place finish in his first career Late Model start at the D.A.V. Fall Classic. Tyler Tomassi, another driver who comes from Fast Friday and has been successful in the Seekonk Grand Prix Bandolero class, is also going to look to begin making a name for himself.

Additional names to watch heading into the new year include Dane Saritelli, who is a former Sportsman regular who stepped up to the Late Models late last year, Nick Uring, a former Pure Stock champion, Rey Lovelace, a former Sportsman champion, Mike Toner Jr. and Mark Jenison, a driver who competes both right here at Seekonk and across New England.

Jake Johnson, who won multiple races and the Rookie of the Year honors in the Pro Stock division last season, is also going to compete in select Late Model events.

The 2019 Late Model season begins on Sunday, May 5, as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series opener at Seekonk Speedway.