SEEKONK, Mass. — Story by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Seekonk Speedway photo —
The 2014 Seekonk Speedway Late Model season saw a classic battle between Bobby Pelland III and Dylan Estrella right down to the wire.
Gerry DeGaspere Jr. had picked up the title for most of the past seasons, but struggled throughout the year with various issues that kept him from having a shot at the crown. Below, we take a look back at the entire season-in-review, as well as the drivers who did end up on top.
Race One: Opening Day
Bill Bernard and Jeramee Lille brought the Late Model field to their first green flag of the season in May. Bernard was able to jump to the lead from the start and never looked back. He led all of the 30-lap feature in dominant fashion. Little hung around the top five at the start of the feature, but contact between he and Gerry DeGaspere Jr. sent him spinning into the infield close to the halfway point. Bernard was able to hold off challenges from Bobby Pelland III and Gerry DeGaspere to collect the Opening Day checkers.
Race Two: May 10
After a rough to start to the season on Opening Day, Jeramee Lille rolled from the pole in week two with Ron Barboza Jr. to his outside. Dylan Estrella started fourth, but waisted no time climbing to the front. He slid under Lille and grabbed the lead right at halfway and was not going to be challenged. Estrella grabbed his first win of the season by almost two seconds on Bobby Pelland III, who was followed by Gerry DeGaspere Jr. in third, Lille in fourth and Charlie Rose in fifth.
Race Three: May 17
Week three in the Late Models saw Bill Bernard become the first repeat winner in 2014. Bernard took over the lead from Brandon Dion on lap 12 and brought Dylan Estrella with him to the front. The two battled hard for the lead in the final ten laps, swapping it multiple times. When they came off turn four to the checkers Estrella slipped just a little bit, allowing Bernard to hold on and take the win by a half car length. Bobby Pelland III collected another top three, with DeGaspere Jr. hanging on for fourth and rookie Nick Lascuola rounding out the top five.
Race Four: May 24
Brandon Dion and Charlie Rose brought the fourth race of the season to green but Dion quickly started sliding back. An ill-handling race car sent him to the rear and handed the lead to Rose, who battled hard with rookie Nick Lascuola until the halfway point. Lascuola was able to slide around Rose by lap 17 and started gapping the field in route to what looked to be his first career victory. Unfortunately for Lascuola, something broke in the rear end of the Champion Spark Plugs ride and sent him to the pits for the night. On the ensuing restart, Dylan Estrella held off a hard-charging Bobby Pelland III to grab his second win of the season. Pelland and Gerry DeGaspere Jr. completed the podium.
Race Five: May 31
Gerry DeGaspere Jr. between the third different Late Model winner of 2014 on the final Saturday night of May after moving by Nick Lascuola on the outside lane towards the end of the feature. Lascuola seemed to be in control after taking the lead from Brandon Dion early on, but a late-race caution closed the gap back up. Vanasse Jr. slid right by Lascuola to take the lead on lap 23 and put a gap on him to the finish. Lascuola came up short on the first win but settled for second, with Dylan Estrella joining the two on the podium.
Race Five: June 7
The first June race for the Late Models was a classic battle between two long time friends and teammates. Bobby Pelland III got to the lead on lap 12 and quickly brought Ryan Vanasse with him. The two then took part in a side-by-side battle for many of the late laps, coming right down to the checkers. Vanasse had a bumper advantage going in turn three in the final lap, but a little slip coming off turn four allowed Pelland to grab his first win. Vanasse finished .058 back in second, with Bill Bernard, Dylan Estrella and Charlie Rose completing the top five.
Race Six: June 14
The Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series kick-off in mid-June and saw Ryan Vanasse take his new ride to Victory Lane in only its second race. The race was the longest on the season for the Late Models, clocking in at almost 40 minutes for a 50-lap feature. Vanasse got to the front by lap 20 and absolutely was the dominant car. Once all the dust cleared from the accidents, Vanasse drove away on a late-race sprint and beat Gerry DeGaspere Jr. by four seconds at the checkers. Roland Wheeler hung on for a surprise third, with Bobby Pelland III and Eddie LeClerc completing the top five.
Race Seven: June 21
Jeramee Lille nabbed his first checkered flag of 2014 in the seventh feature of the year by leading all 30 laps in a green-to-checker race. Lille drove away from the outside pole spot but his car turned tight after halfway, allowing Dylan Estrella to close the gap. Estrella tried every lane to get by him, but was forced to settle for the second spot. Bill Bernard continued his good start to the season with a third, with Nick Lascuola and Bobby Pelland III finishing fourth and fifth.
Race Eight: June 28
Dylan Estrella cleared multiple accidents and drove himself to the front of the Late Model feature en route to his third win in week eight. Estrella drove away from a side-by-side battle between Nick Lascuola and Bobby Pelland III to grab the checkers. Pelland and Lascuola put on a great show for the fans, with some clean and hard racing right to the wire of the 30-lap main. Gerry DeGaspere Jr. collected another top five by finishing fourth, with Vinny Arrenagado notching his best career finish in fifth.
Race Nine: July 12
After a week off for Independence Day weekend, Ryan Vanasse made it two-for-two as part of the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series. Vanasse and Bobby Pelland III had another classic battle, going side-by-side and racing hard to the checkers. A late race restart saw Vanasse work by Pelland and open up a little over a second gap at the finish. Nick Lascuola settled for third spot, with Dylan Estrella and Bill Bernard grabbing the top five. The 50-lap feature was the shortest long distance race the Late Models had in 2014, clocking in just over 17 minutes.
Race Ten: July 19
The halfway point of the Late Model season saw Brandon Dion and Eddie LeClerc bring the field down to Tim Bolduc’s green flag. LeClerc rolled the outside lane on by Dion and pulled away, but quickly was faced with a challenge from Charlie Rose Jr. Rose and LeClerc battled hard for the field between laps 15 and 25, but Rose could not hang on and ended up backsliding on the outside and handing over second spot to Bill Bernard. Dylan Estrella hung around until late in the 30-lap main but pounced with four laps to go and took over the lead from LeClerc. Estrella rolled away and brought Bobby Pelland III with him to complete the top two. Bernard was able to hang on and finish in third spot.
Race Eleven: July 26
A late July thriller saw a rookie battle a returning veteran. Ray Parent drove his #17RI Amtrol machine into Victory Lane after using the outside lane to pass rookie contender Nick Lascuola. Nick rolled off fifth on the 13-car Late Model field and drove himself to the lead just before the halfway point. He opened up a small gap and once again looked to be en route to his first win, but a late-race caution set up the battle of a lifetime. Parent and Lascuola went door to door for the final laps but Parent was able to edge out at the line and score the win in his first and only regular season appearance. Lascuola drove across the line second, with Dylan Estrella and Bobby Pelland III completing the top four.
Race Twelve: August 9
After Mother Nature gave the Speedway a week off on August 2nd, Dylan Estrella returned to his winning ways by dominating the second half of the 30-lap main event. Estrella rolled from deep in the field but quickly was too the front by halfway and drove away to the checkers at the end. Nick Lascuola continued his streak of strong runs but came up just short of a win again in second spot, followed by Jeramee Lille in third, Charlie Rose Jr. in fourth and Bobby Pelland III coming on late to round out the top five.
Race Thirteen: August 16
The annual Crab Manchester Memorial 50-lap Late Model feature took place in mid-August and saw Ryan Vanasse roll back into Victory Lane. The race was a fast-paced feature and saw Vanasse come to the front, slide by Jeramee Lille and absolutely drive away. Vanasse made it three-for-four in his new No. 0 T Moreshead Landscaping machine. Lille was able to hold off a challenge from Bobby Pelland to finish in second spot, with Pelland third, Nick Lascuola fourth and Dylan Estrella notching a fifth place finish.
Race Fourteen: August 23
The 14th race of the Late Model season saw a thrilling battle right to the checkers. Eddie LeClerc and Charlie Rose battled hard near the halfway point but they were quickly joined by Nick Lascuola to make it a three car battle. The beating and banging was vicious at points, but they all somehow made it through until Rose and Lascuola made contact, sending Rose completely sideways. He grabbed a fistful of steering wheel and managed to get the car back going straight. Dylan Estrella had been hanging around in fourth but pounced on lap 27 with a three-wide daring move to take the lead. Estrella got cheers from the crowd with what was one of the moves of the season in the Late Models. Bernard and Bobby Pelland III made up the rest of the top three at the finish.
Race Fifteen: August 30
The third and final round of the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series saw Charlie Rose Jr. roll his No. 7 into Victory Lane for the first time in 2014. Rose started fourth in the main event but quickly was to the lead by the end of lap one. He drove away during the first half of the race, but a group of caution flags closed the field back and up and allowed Ryan Vanasse to make a run to the outside of Rose. Ryan seemed to slow with 15 laps to go, however — backing up to fourth and never able to make another challenge. It was later deemed he had a tire going down and a shock problem at the finish. Rose held off a challenge from Nick Lascuola to pick up the win, with Bobby Pelland III climbing up to third spot late.
Race Sixteen: September 6
The penultimate race of the Late Model season saw Dylan Estrella once again carry the checkers. He rolled the inside lane to the lead from his top five starting spot and got to the lead on the third circuit around the speedway. Estrella was able to gap Bobby Pelland III a little bit, but Pelland closed the gap back to the bumper in the late laps. He tried everything he could to slide by but came up short. Behind the top two was Gerry DeGaspere Jr. in third. Austin Blais finished fourth in his debut and Vinny Arranagado finished fifth.
Race Seventeen: September 20
The final feature of the 2014 season saw Dylan Estrella make it back-to-back wins to end the season (much like Kevin Harvick did in the Sprint Cup ranks). Estrella got to the lead fairly quickly and drove away from the field en route to the win, his eighth in 17 races. It was a dominant showing, but Estrella came up short in the title chase as Bobby Pelland III collected his first career Late Model championship. The feature wins leader for 2014 ended the year second in the season standings. The final feature of 2014 saw Jeramee Lille finish second.
For Pelland, the Late Model title was a dream come true and a complete success. The division saw lots of great racing even with a low car count and continues to be Seekonk’s second top division.
The 2015 Late Model season is shaping up to be exciting, with Austin Blais and T.J. Moreshead as two of the rookies preparing to duel it out for the Rookie of the Year Crown come Opening Day.
Most feature wins: Dylan Estrella (8)
Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series Champion: Ryan Vanasse
Late Model Driver’s Champion: Bobby Pelland III