Moving Out: Local Racing Icon Brad Lafontaine Selling Northeast Race Cars & Parts

Brad Lafontaine Saturday at Seekonk Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

SEEKONK, Mass. – Seekonk Speedway was the track where racing became a passion for Brad Lafontaine as a child and it was the track he built his first race car to run in 1977. 

Saturday at the historic facility in Seekonk, Mass., Lafontaine’s career in racing came full circle. 

Lafontaine’s business – Northeast Race Cars & Parts – has become an institution of the Northeast short track racing scene. 

Saturday Lafontaine worked his final race as the owner of Northeast Race Cars & Parts at Saturday’s Haunted Hundred at Seekonk Speedway.

Lafontaine told RaceDayCT exclusively that he is selling the business he began in 1992 to longtime local racing crew member Shane Hopkins. Lafontaine, who has kept the transaction mostly under wraps, said the sale is expected to be finalized by Nov. 1.

The 65-year old Lafontaine was manning his familiar Northeast Race Cars & Parts mobile retail trailer Saturday at Seekonk. 

“It’s kind of fitting I guess,” Lafontaine said of working his last race as the owner of the business at Seekonk. “I started here and I’m ending here. I’ve got mixed feelings about getting out of the business and all that, but the time comes and you have to make a decision. I’ve got other things going on. I’ve got an auto recycling yard, I’ve got a big snow plowing business, I’ve got apartment houses. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on all the time, so it makes it tough. The stuff here, you’ve got to watch it, you’ve got to be around.” 

Lafontaine, who is renowned locally as a car builder and former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour crew chief, will be inducted into the NEAR New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on Nov. 10. 

“Started at Seekonk Speedway when I was a little kid,” Lafontaine said. “I built my first car for Seekonk Speedway when I was 16 years old. After that I started an Auto Recycling yard in 1977 and I got out of racing for a few years, then somebody I was sponsoring gave me tickets to the Seekonk banquet and the next thing you know I’m at the bar telling everybody I’m going to build a car. I came back in 1979 and I’ve been in it since.” 

Lafontaine said he will continue to help customers in the chassis repair side of his business. 

The Northeast Race Cars & Parts trailer Saturday at Seekonk Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

“My [son] was on me because I have so much stuff going on all the time,” Lafontaine said. “I’m not getting any younger. I’m 65 now. My kid was telling me ‘You’ve got to get rid of some stuff before you end up dropping dead on us.’ 

“We were tossing around what we wanted to do. Back and forth. I ended up making a deal with Shane Hopkins to buy the racing part of it, the parts part of it. He doesn’t want to do the repairs and I have too many good, loyal customers out there. So I’m taking the jigs back to my shop at my house and we’re going to do the repairs there. We’ll do the repairs and we’ll push it all through Northeast Race Cars, which will be Shane. He’s only two miles down the road from me. So it’s going to be a good fit I think.” 

Lafontaine said the business will move to Hopkins’ shop in Harrisville, R.I. Hopkins has offered to keep current parts department manager Scott Nordman with the business. 

“Nothing should change because he wants to do all the same stuff that I’ve done,” Lafontaine said. “I’m going to help him along. … Shane is going to be new at this and he’s going to need me around so I figure I’m going to be around the race tracks for a while. Like I’ve told him, it’s hard being at all the tracks all the time yourself and I won’t mind doing some races for him, so you’ll probably see me in the trailer doing some races for him.” 

Lafontaine has served as a crew chief for some of the best drivers in the history of the Whelen Modified Tour, including seven-time series champion Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher and Jeff Fuller. 

He began as a series crew chief in 1989 with Fuller and won his first event as a crew chief on Oct. 29, 1989 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. He went on to win a series championship as a crew chief for Fuller in 1992. He also was the crew chief for Christopher when he won the Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2008. 

As a crew chief, fortunately, I got involved with a lot of good people,” Lafontaine said. “I ended up being a crew chief on a Modified Tour, I started in 1989. I took some years off in between. I always felt that you needed to be on top of your game a little bit so that you knew what you were selling to your customers and so you could related to your customers when they were having a problem. I would always like to [crew chief] for a year or two and then get out and concentrate on business.” 


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Comments

  1. Shawn monahan says

    I am a fan, Brad has always treated me well. All the best to Brad and well wishes to Shane.

  2. ” I’ve got an auto recycling yard, I’ve got a big snow plowing business, I’ve got apartment houses. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on all the time, so it makes it tough.’

    Selling a business and still gonna be working his ass off just not enough to kill himself. Amazing.
    Congratulations and good luck to the new owner.

  3. Best wishes to both Brad and Shane, as well as everyone involved. Racing is a tricky business, and to be successful in it requires allot of time. Glad to hear Shane is up to the challenge.

  4. Craig Pianka says

    I’ve been in and out of racing all my life.. Brad sponsored my very 1st street stock right from the start…Back when most of your parts came from a junkyard. You just let me in your junk yard and take whatever I needed. I owe you a lot. you always gave me solid advice and helped me constantly. Ty Brad… The racing world appreciates all you have done… Craig Pianka

  5. Craig Pianka says

    I’ve been in and out of racing all my life.. Brad sponsored my very 1st street stock right from the start…Back when most of your parts came from a junkyard. You just let me in your junk yard and take whatever I needed. I owe you a lot. you always gave me solid advice and helped me constantly. Ty Brad… The racing world appreciates all you have done…

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