While the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on the world of Late Model racing in Canada, the 2020 season wasn’t a complete wash. The APC United Late Model Series contested a five-race season, while the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour held two races.
The American-Canadian Tour saw their whole season run in the United States and no Canadians elected to compete. Most of the tracks in Quebec elected to close for the season, and the ones that did open kept it close and ran their local Sportsman tours instead of any national series.
With the APC United Late Model Series and Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour being the only series running, here are the top 10 Canadian Late Model drivers from the past year.
- Gary Adriaensen
Capping off a great season with Rookie of the Year honors, Gary Adriaensen put on a great showcase his first full time season in the series. Logging back-to-back top 10 finishes and a best finish of fourth in the season opener, the rookie would come home seventh in points after a lackluster 20th place in the finale. Look for him to come back stronger than ever next season.
- JR Fitzpatrick
A slightly controversial pick, Fitzpatrick missed the round at Sunset due to conflicts with the NASCAR Pinty’s Series race at Jukasa. However, the former series champ didn’t disappoint in his four races. Two fourth-place finishes highlight a great season, that despite being incomplete was sold and consistent. While his 2021 plans are unknown should he come back to the APC Series that same consistency will surely follow.
- Matt Pritiko
The defending champ from 2019 was unable to go back to back or win, but his season was nothing to scoff at. Despite a 21st in the season opener, Pritiko would bounce back scoring four consecutive top 10s with a podium at the season finale in Jukasa. Pritiko’s Global Warranty team would finish sixth in points when the dust settled.
- Treyten Lapcevich
The younger Lapcevich brother, Treyten just couldn’t seem to break through to victory lane this season. Despite coming close at Sunset and Sauble, Lapcevich struggled during Jukasa race number two which caused him to slump to fifth in the standings. However, a strong showcase in the Pinty’s Series subbing for Alex Tagliani at Sunset, as well as his consistency in the APC Tour, make him worthy of the fifth spot.
- Shae Gemmell
For Gemmell, three top-five finishes and a podium at Sauble would highlight his season. Logging a pole earlier in the season, Gemmell was always running up front with the leaders week in and week out. Keeping pace with the top three was challenging, but Gemmell always seems to find a way. Despite struggling at Sunset with a 20th-place finish, Gemmell scored back-to-back fifth place runs to help end the season on a high note.
- Pete Shepherd
Pete Shepherd came back to the APC Series after running part time in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series for Dave Jacombs. Easily the best driver to not see victory lane, Shepherd served as a teammate to the championship winner Jo Lawrence. Finishing no worse than seventh all year, Shepherd logged three podiums with a best finish of second in the finale. Shepherd is a favorite to collect his first win next season, should he return.
- Cole Butcher
Cole Butcher is one of the Maritimes hottest competitors. Despite only having a limited number of races to compete in, the COVID pandemic didn’t stop Butcher from having a great season. Winning the Jim Hallahan 250 at Scotia Speedworld in memory of the late Jim Hallahan, Butcher put on a clinic in the events he ran this season. With two additional podiums finishes and a sixth-place finish in the Snowball Derby, Butcher will carry immense momentum into 2021.
- Ashton Tucker
Another dominator out east, Ashton Tucker picked up a pair of wins at Speedway 660 in his home province of New Brunswick. A sensational season saw Tucker log an additional three second-place finishes during the six events he ran. While his name may have flown under the radar this season, make no mistake Ashton Tucker is the real deal. Come the 2021 Pro Stock Tour season, Tucker will look to add his name to a long list of champions.
- Brandon Watson
The only person not named Jo Lawrence to win an APC race in 2020, Brandon Watson was incredible all season long. Claiming the checkered flag at Sauble, Watson was neck and neck with Lawrence all year. He finished runner-up three times, but an unfortunate seventh-place in the finale dampened a near perfect year. Missing out on the win at Sunset after him and Lawrence crashed coming to the line, Watson’s 2020 was easily one to remember.
- Jo Lawrence
With four wins, five podiums and an average finish of 1.2, is there any questions that Jo Lawrence was the Late Model racer in Canada during the 2020 season? Scoring maximum points nearly each week, Lawrence followed up his 2019 Rookie of the Year honors the best way he knew how: winning the championship. In a season with little room for error, Lawrence nearly completed the clean sweep of all five events, scoring four poles as well a leading the most laps of any driver this season, Lawrence intends to be back for 2021 to become the first driver to repeat as champion.
Honorable mentions: Josh Stade, Jake Sheridan, Ryan Kimball and Shawn Chenoweth
-Story by: Alex Gallacher, Speed51 Canadian Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo