SEEKONK, Mass. — Story by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Chapman Family photo —
When the news broke about a month ago that Mike Chapman, a great friend and great racing mind in the New England region had suddenly passed away, it immediately put tears in my eyes.
How rare it is when someone can have such a massive effect on so many people — but that is exactly what Chapman did for the New England racing community.
Chapman hailed from East Wareham, Mass. and was heavily involved in the early days of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and for a time, in the ARCA Racing Series as a crew member as well.
He worked with many different teams in New England in the past and also held the position of Competition Director at the famed Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Conn. Mike also had the honor of being in the spotter’s stand at Daytona International Speedway during his career.
Most recently, Chapman was the Race Director at the Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, Mass. Chapman came into the Speedway with a new mindset and was ready to do work — and work he did.
Even though sometimes crews and drivers did not agree with his calls (as the case with every Race Director), everyone had a level of respect for him. Chapman was someone who walked around the pits with a lot of people going up to him just to say hello.
“I first met Mike when he was on Jimmy Kuhn’s crew. We spoke quite often through the years, mostly about Modified racing in general,” well-respected racing columnist Kevin Rice told Race Chaser Online.
Many people looked at Chapman as someone you could talk any type of racing with. He knew just about every division and every type of car that was out there, including how to handle the track clean up crew.
“Both he and Kuhn were very supportive of my efforts to help Modified racing. Mike always had an energy of what was best for short track racing at heart. That was clear from our conversations. It’s a shame that he was taken from us so soon,” Rice said.
Chapman was not a driver himself, but was extremely close to it nevertheless. He also enjoyed both shrimping and fishing in Florida, probably his favorite state — because it did not have any snow and had the boat.
“I worked for Mike, dating back to his days with VMRS, and again at Thompson when he introduced me to the folks over there. In fact, I am not sure I would be in the position I am today had he not done so,” Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park General Manager Josh Vanada said. “More than that, though, we had become close friends while working together. Few wanted to see what was best for this game as much as he did.”
“He was a man of deep conviction and integrity, and always did what he thought was right. That’s something that I always admired about him.”
Chapman is survived by his wife, Lisa; his son, Stephen; his daughters, Cynthia and Diana; his mother, Elizabeth; his sister, Kathryn (Cornell); and two grandchildren, Sadie Marie and Dustin.
Chapman was a man that will never be forgotten in the New England racing scene. This season, drivers and fans will compete with heavy hearts but will also remember Chapman for his kind efforts and hard work.
From all of us at Race Chaser Online, our thoughts and prayers are with the Chapman family and the New England community during this time.
And to Mike, godspeed friend. Your contributions to the sport of auto racing in the northeast will be forever appreciated.