NASCAR NATIONAL CHAMPION: Seekonk Sportsman Champ Chad Baxter Wins NASCAR Division III National Title Honors

By Souza Media/Kyle Souza
 
SEEKONK, Mass. — For the first time in known Seekonk Speedway history, the track is celebrating one of their drivers becoming a NASCAR National Champion. Chad Baxter, the Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman champion for this season as part of the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series, has been crowned the Division III National Champion.
Baxter bested thousands of drivers from across the United States — on both asphalt and dirt — to win this title. Driving the RLS Performance No. 0, Baxter — a former Thompson Speedway champion — found his home at Seekonk driving for Emily and Richard Sprague.
He started off the year with wins in four of the first five races, and visited Victory Lane two other times down the stretch, ending the year with six victories in the competitive division. Out of more than 48 drivers in the Division III Seekonk class, Baxter was the dominant force, winning the championship one race early, and leading by 52 points in the final tally.
“This car here is a new car and we didn’t have a ton of motor in it, so it didn’t spin the tires and it handled well,” Baxter said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s definitely tough to come from the back to the front every week. It’s always a challenge to get there. Especially without beating and banging off anybody and making enemies.”
On top of 48 drivers, the Sportsman division has been long-known for being one of Seekonk’s most competitive classes. The Sportsman division offers three-wide racing often, and requires drivers at the front of the point standings to start outside the top-10 in most weeks and roll through the field towards the front. Baxter was able to do it more often than not — finishing on the podium in 13 of 16 races.
“With the most wins and being the most consistent that we were, it’s cool” Baxter said. “We knew if we could put a whole season together we would be in contention for the championship.”
Without the help of his dedicated crew, including Emily Sprague and her husband, Richard Sprague, a former driver himself, none of it would have been possible.
The championship is also the first NASCAR National Championship for track engine builder Nat Chiavettone, who at over 80-years-old, has been building engines that have competed at Seekonk, and countless other tracks, for many years.
Richard Sprague has been around racing a long time — but even for him, this is a top moment in his career. The two met at Thompson, while Baxter was in his final years of competing there and Sprague was the technical inspector at the time. They started in the Pure Stocks together on Fast Friday at Seekonk. His wife, Emily, got to know the two of them at the same time shortly after.
“When I met them both — I met them at the same time — and they had met before I met them,” Emily said. “We all had mutual jobs together. Chad was trying to get out of the Mini Stocks, and they ended up in the Pure Stocks — they built that car together. Things just evolved from there. I couldn’t tell you how many cars they have built together. Both of them have hands in all of it.”
Richard Sprague and Chad both work hard in the shop, Emily Sprague says. They also have support from Kyle James and his team at One Hundred Percent Wraps.
“As the wife and car owner, I’ve been very impressed with them and their season,” Emily Sprague said. “Every year I ask if we have to continue racing — it’s thousands of dollars. This year I was like holy moly — we’re actually going out there and doing this. I wasn’t at the track all of this year, running with Tyler Tomassi on the Granite State Pro Stock Series. We watched the race monitor every single week on our way home.I couldn’t wait until the end of the night just to hear how they did or Chad’s excitement… or Richard’s excitement. That’s what it’s all about for me. Whenever they started telling me about the national points, I asked what the heck that was. It’s really cool.”
“Really, I met Chad at Thompson and we started working together at our job and we became both good friends quickly,” Richard Sprague said. “We started by building that Pure Stock and we’ve been going together ever since. Chad had sold all his stuff and it worked out.”
And as they continue to celebrate their title, those around them who have seen their dedication and drive all year are thankful to be part of it.
“Chad is one of those guys who is every teammate or car owner’s dream, because not only can he drive, he’s a great mechanic and fabricator,” former Seekonk Sportsman champion Ryan Lineham, who drives a Sportsman and a Pro Stock for Sprague’s team, said. “Personally, I grew up racing in the Sportsman class, and watching what they were able to accomplish winning a national championship in such a competitive division — it’s a phenomenal accomplishment.”
Seekonk Speedway’s 2022 schedule will be released over the winter months. For more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit SeekonkSpeedway.com and follow the track on social media for the latest updates.