Two years, two new champions for the Late Model division. After Dylan Estrella dominated the division en route to two consecutive titles in 2015 and 2016, the last two years have welcomed two new drivers to the head table — Ryan Lineham and Ryan Kuhn. With both of their upcoming season plans still up in the air, it looks like Seekonk’s Late Model division is shaping up to be a battle of a few Rookie of the Year contenders against some polished veterans.
Leading the veterans list is seven-time division champion Gerry DeGasparre Jr. Even though he hasn’t been at the head table since 2013, Gerry is no stranger to competition at the third-mile. The struggles to find speed over the last few years have been real — but DeGasparre isn’t planning on giving up anytime soon. At an early glance, he appears to be the top veteran that drivers are going to have to defeat if they want to win the title.
He’s joined by Jake Johnson — a former Late Model regular who moved to the Pro Stocks last year. Johnson is planning to take a step back and compete with the Late Model regulars, which could end up in a title run if it starts off well. Johnson rolled to Victory Lane twice in Seekonk’s premiere division last year and has no fear on the track.
Two former Sport Trucks champions are coming full speed. Josh Hedges, the defending champion, and Mike Duarte, the 2017 champion, are both planning to test the waters of the Late Model class in 2019. Hedges purchased a car in the second half of last year and ran it towards the end, showing speed right off the truck in the Hedges Racing machine. Duarte, who purchased a car from former competitor Mike Teague, is looking to gain some experience in hopes of winning races in the near future.
Behind them, former Nick’s Pit Stop Legends Cars regular Derek Gluchacki isn’t going to be waiting around. Gluchacki has experience from last year’s D.A.V. Fall Classic, where he rolled to Victory Lane in his first start in the division. His family purchased a car driven by defending Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series champion Ray Parent and it’s one car that doesn’t lack preparation. He will certainly have a learning curve to follow throughout the season, and there will be struggles, but if the D.A.V. is any indication, he won’t need many more laps before he has it figured out.
Making the jump from the Fast Friday Seekonk Grand Prix Bandolero division, Tyler Tomassi is coming for glory as well. Tomassi won races in the Bandolero class, and came up just short of the Outlaw title last year. After purchasing a ride late in the 2018 season, Tomassi was able to get behind the wheel once before the winter came around. He certainly will have some work to do before he is contending to win races, but don’t overlook the rising star when picking a favorite to grab checkered flags.
Former Sport Trucks champion Chase Belcher and upcoming driver Mike Toner are also registered so far. Names like former Sportsman winner Corey Fanning and longtime racer Paul Newcomb are ready to give the division a chance as well.
The 2019 Late Model 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 Late Model feature of the season will be a Power 5 race, scheduled for 35 laps.