Gerry DeGasparre Jr. grew watching some of the best of the best at Seekonk Speedway.
He spent his Saturday’s watching modifieds legends like Richie Evans, Jerry Cook and Bugsy Stevens. He remembers seeing fans react positively and negatively to wins by the Bodine brothers.
"I got to watch those guys every Saturday night," DeGasparre said. "Seekonk has more talent come out of that place than people could ever imagine."
Even with all those big names who have been in victory lane at Seekonk, DeGasparre’s name is up there with the best of the best.
DeGasparre has won seven championships in his 27 years of racing in the late model division at Seekonk – a NASCAR-sanctioned third-mile asphalt oval track in Seekonk, Massachusetts – tied for the most in track history. He also has more than 50 wins, placing him in the top 10 all-time as well.
He didn’t miss a single weekly race at Seekonk from 1993-2018. When racing returns to Massachusetts, this year will be his 27th full-time season.
DeGasparre didn’t come from a racing family, but both of his parents were fans who would take him to the track every weekend. After getting hooked on racing as a kid, DeGasparre said he tried to venture into the sport on his own, but admits he failed in his first attempt. That’s when his father, Gerry Sr., jumped in and helped fund his career.
He’s driven for his dad since 1993.
"Great people. Great cars. Great sponsors. The best owner you could ever ask for," DeGasparre said. "I’ve been fortunate in so many different ways that we’ve always been able to surround ourselves with great people. It couldn’t get any better"
The elder DeGasparre helps on the team’s crew during races, and the team has had many of the same crew members since its inception three decades ago.
In his nearly 30 years at Seekonk, DeGasparre has built quite a following. His wife, Tracie, and daughter, Bryce, go to races each week, as does his mother, who has an entire section of fans, and his step-parents.
"It’s huge," DeGasparre said.
While he’s never taken himself as a crowd favorite, the proof is in the hardware.
"My daughter takes my most popular driver trophies to school and shows them off, so obviously we have a huge following," he said. "We’ve always had a huge following. We’re very fortunate and I’m very honored for that. Fans are everything.
"It’s huge to me. I’m a people person and I love people, I love the crowds, I love the cheers. And you love the boos too because not everybody has to be a fan of mine, just be a fan of the sport. Come out every week and support local short track racing."
One of the close friends DeGasparre has made through racing at Seekonk is Dave Darling, who also happens to be his biggest competition on the way to history. Darling drives in the track’s pro stocks division, and recently also won his seventh track championship to tie DeGasparre for most all time.
The two are close friends off the track, going to the same events together and having daughters who are also close friends. But they also joke about the competition between them for supremacy at their home track.
"He’s on top of his game right now, let me tell you," DeGasparre said of Darling.
Would DeGasparre say the same thing about his own team?
"We’re coming back," he said.
DeGasparre admits the team struggled for about five years before last season. They still won races and finished in the top gibr in points, but other teams also got better.
The team was back in the thick of a championship last season, running for a chance at a title on championship night.
"I say we were off a little bit and everybody says we were off a little bit… But after winning seven championships in 10 years, anything besides that I guess to everybody else meant that we were on a huge decline.
"It’s safe to say we’re definitely back," DeGasparre said.
He and Darling will both have to wait another year to battle it out for No. 8. Due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Seekonk has told drivers they won’t be running for points championships in 2020.
But come 2021, DeGasparre will be back at the track where he fell in love with racing as a kid, hoping to continue to add his name to its history books.
"If you’re not competitive and you’re not having fun I don’t know how anybody can do it," he said. "I’m a very competitive person so I like to win races, I like to be up front, and when you’re doing that you’re having fun.
"It’s the stuff kids dream of that I was lucky enough to live."