SEASON PREVIEW: Wide Open Late Model Title Chase Should Be A Thriller

By Souza Media/Kyle Souza

With more than 30 cars registered for the season, and drivers coming off a year of no racing due to COVID-19, the Late Models will return as one of Seekonk’s most exciting classes in 2021. And the battle for the championship is literally wide-open.

No one knows who is in the best position to earn the 2021 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Late Model championship, but if the past is any indication, a few drivers come to the front of the discussion. The most recent division champion, Tommy Adams, has to top the list, because he proved in 2019 he could do what it took to find his way to the head table. He’s charged through the ranks of the Sportsman, to the Late Models, and proved he could contend for wins weekly and collect enough points to be at the top.

Behind him, three drivers rise to the front of the field as contenders, and all three finished top five in the championship in 2019. Vinnie Arrenegado may have ended up third, but you can argue that he had the fastest car on a consistent basis. He went to Victory Lane, finished inside the top-five, and proved he could be the top car. However, the mechanical failures and wrecks that resulted in DNF’s didn’t let him earn the title. Watch for him to be back with a renewed mindset of full-time consistency and points chasing.

Gerry DeGasparre Jr. has to be another favorite. The seven-time track champion, who is battling with Pro Stock front-runner David Darling in search of becoming the first driver to win eight championships, is no stranger to success. He has been winning championships since the middle 2000s, and although he slowed down a few years ago, he found a new breath of success in 2019 — back to Victory Lane, and back to contending for the title on the final night. He ended fourth, but is coming back looking to advance that three spots.

Mark Jenison earned his first Seekonk win in 2019, and has the No. 22 registered for another run at what will likely be a part-time schedule, as he makes the move to the Pro Stocks.

Two former Sportsman front-runners are making the move up to the Late Models, and they happen to be family members. Paul Lallier, a two-time Sportsman champion, and Tyler Lallier, a winner and near-champion in 2019, have both registered for Late Model action in 2021. Paul has some previous laps behind the wheel of a similar car, but it will be a new venture for Tyler at Seekonk.

Former Late Model champion Ryan Kuhn has registered, returning to Seekonk for a part-time schedule in the Late Models and Pro Stocks. Veteran Mark Hudson, who has been running Seekonk and touring New England for many years in the Late Models, is expected back. Look for Nick Johnson and Nick Uring, two regulars, to be back as well.

Former Sport Truck champion Mike Duarte begins his second year in the division, while defending Rookie of the Year Paul Newcomb is set to return, looking to build on a strong year that included a victory. Look for former Sport Truck champion Chase Belcher to be back competing for Everett’s Auto Parts in the No. 35. In the same Everett’s Auto Parts group, Bobby Tripp, a veteran of racing at Seekonk, is coming back for another campaign.

Ryan Lineham, a former division champion, will run at least a partial schedule for Richard Sprague, as the combination looks to go Pro Stock racing at Seekonk. Jake Johnson, who has been up and down the east coast, will return to Legends Cars on Fast Friday, but also compete in select Late Model events.

Names like Nathan Tracy, Ryan Souliere, Dane Saritelli, Tony Macrino, Rey Lovelace, Jacob “Rowdy” Burns, Steve Potter, the Lambert brothers and more are expected to compete in 2021. Add registered drivers Derek Gluchacki, Keith Caruso and Kevin Bowe, along with former Sportsman competitor Ryan Flood, and you have a roster over 30 cars.

Two other names are coming back: Charlie Rose and Josh Hedges. Rose has registered the No. 91 for the campaign, while Hedges, who is a former Seekonk Sports Truck champion, will make the regularly scheduled move to Late Model competition at Seekonk with help from Steve Blais.

The Late Model season will include the return of the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series, a three-race series with extra laps and cash on the line, and its own champion, along with three Diamond Anniversary Races at 50 lap distances. The Diamond Anniversary Races are sponsored by Everett’s Auto Parts, while for 2021, Triple Crown races will shift to 45 laps each.

Seekonk’s 75th anniversary season of racing is scheduled to kick-off on Sunday May 2, under capacity restrictions due to COVID-19. For more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit seekonkspeedway.com and follow the track on social media channels.