It’s almost here, Championship night. Two races remain as the 72nd championship season closes down, and while most of our championship chases are all but settled, there are two battles going on with our Saturday divisions to keep an eye on.
The first is the battle for the Sport Truck title. There are 2 points separating Chase Belcher from Mike Duarte. What was a three truck battle now seems to be down to these two youngsters. Barry Shaw Jr came into last weeks action tied with Belcher, with Duarte 4 points behind, but an overheating problem knocked Shaw out, all but taking him out of the title chase. Mike finished one position ahead of the former champion, and could be the spoiler in this.
A couple of weeks ago, Mike looked like he was out of the battle, but was able to climb back into it. This will be fun to watch over the next couple of weeks.
The other battle to keep a close eye on is the battle for Rookie of the Year in the Everett’s Auto Parts Late Models. While it is not unusual to have a rookie driver in the top five this late in the season, but to have 2 rookies is highly unusual.
Both Ryan Kuhn and Jake Johnson have had incredible seasons this year. This duo battled all year last year in the Nick’s Pit Stop Legends, with Jake becoming the youngest Non-SYRA champion in Seekonk’s history. This year, the pair continue to battle, and are tied in the championship standings with two races remaining.
Out of the 14 races this season, they each have 10 top ten finished, while Jake has 8 top five to Ryan’s 6. They both have picked up wins this season, as well as earning a ton of respect from their competitors. Kind of reminds me of a battle that Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr had when they were coming up the NASCAR ranks.
Speaking of rookies in the Late Models, another young driver is starting to come into his own. Mike Toner Jr made the leap from the SYRA ranks into the Late Models this year. Over the past several weeks, he has shown a lot of improvement. They picked up a new ride and it has allowed the youngster to show his talent.
The Late Models have a good future with these youngsters.
Scott Bruneau can clinch his second consecutive and third overall Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman championship with another solid run this week. In addition to this title run, he is solidly in the top five in the National NASCAR Whelen All American Series division III standings. He is the only New England driver in the top twelve, and he is joined by Paul Lallier, Scott Serydynski and Sparky Arsenault in the top 17.
Ryan Lineham currently sits 25th in the division II standings. The biggest thing hurting him in the national standings is the lack of races that have been run. In 13 races, he has 4 wins, but with the national rankings taking the best 18 races, there aren’t enough to push him into the top ten.
Dave Darling is in the same boat with the Division I national standings. He sits 85th nationally. Again, with only 13 races, it’s difficult to keep up with those that compete at three or four tracks a week, up to 37 events for some drivers.
**These numbers for national standings are updated as of 9/3/17.
Now, let’s get into another discussion that has come up many times in the past. Is the season too long here at Seekonk? We start traditionally the first Sunday in May, and race through September. It does seem like a long season for the competitors.
But, look at the numbers and its 16 races for the Pro Stocks and Late Models this year. With those numbers, there is no chance on the national championship, unless one driver goes on a tear and sweeps the season. Not an easy feat, although Dave Darling is about as close as you can this year.
But some of the competitors have mentioned that it is a long season, and they wouldn’t mind a break here and there. That makes sense, as it is not cheap to run weekly for 5 months with only one break (July 4th weekend) in between.
This year, and the past few, there have been a week or two off for the Pro Stocks and Late Models. When the modifieds have come to town, the American Canadian Tour, The Granite State Pro Stocks, the top two divisions have had a break if they chose to. This year, the Trucks and Sportsman had a night off as well.
How does the track give another break for the competitors and keep them fresh? That’s one that the management has been discussing and trying to figure out. While we want to keep the racers fresh and wanting to continue, we want to keep the fans excited about the product on the track. Not an easy rope to walk.