Two weeks, two weeks of racing in the books, two FANTASTIC nights of racing in the books. I know, I know, you think I’m biased, and maybe I am to a point. But I do know that the racing the fans have been witness to over the past two weeks have been some of the best you can get.
Yes, we’ve talked about the Late Model race a week ago on modified night, but they followed it up with another wheel to wheel race for the lead. This time it was Ryan Kuhn and Ryan Lineham doing the wheel to wheel battle. Kuhn led much of the race, but the defending champion was able to get by with only a few laps remaining to pick up the win. Vinny Arrenegado started mid-pack and was able to get up to third by the checkered. He was right there at the end for the second week in a row.
Over the past year plus, the Late Models have been one of the races to pay attention to week after week. Them, along the with Sportsman, this, to me, is the best racing in the northeast, if not further beyond.
Speaking of the Sportsman, it was another exciting night of action. In the end Paul Lallier was back in form and found himself in Everett’s Auto Part Victory Lane. Joe Kohler led the early portion of the race and was having a great run, but faded in the end back to fourth. Dick Benoit wound up second with opening day winner Scott Bruneau working his way into third by the end of the 30 laps.
Josh Hedges was fast opening night, but was penalized to the back after a restart. This week, there was no slowing him down, as he dominated the Sport Truck main event. Josh jumped out front early and never looked back. Mike Duarte and Barry Shaw Jr finished second and third for the second week in a row.
Opening night winner Bobby Tripp found himself fourth with early leader Ed Gannon III fifth.
The Pro Stocks finally got their opener in after sitting idle for five weeks. There were a lot of people wondering which group would show up to race. Would it be the over anxious group that would be aggressive and pushy with no take? Or would it be the group that would climb up on that wheel and give the fans a show to remember?
Well, after 65 laps, we found our answer. It was the latter, as while there were a couple of cautions, they weren’t for anything serious.
Ryan Vanasse was the first to jump out front, and led the early portion of the event, and was looking strong. It wasn’t long after before Dave Darling showed his mettle and moved to the front of the field. From there, he took off and opened up a good lead. Ryan would end up with mechanical gremlins that would put him several laps down.
Running second early on was Rick Martin. It was good seeing the veteran run well. Rick ended third at the end of the 65 laps. One of his best runs in a quite a while.
While Martin was holding onto second, Kevin Casper and Dylan Estrella were racing side by side for third and fourth for much of the middle portion of the race.
This as Kevin’s first race since July of last year, and you could tell he was excited to be back at it. It was a good run for Kevin, as he held on to fourth at the checkered.
Then there was the race for the win. Over the last 20 laps, it appeared as Dave Darling would pick up right where he left off. He got out front early and appeared to be well on his way to victory. The defending champ was quick all night and was smooth out front, as he always is. Over the final fifteen laps, rookie contender Dylan Estralla, who had also been quick, started reeling in Darling, and with eight laps remaining, the former LM champ dove to the inside off the second corner and moved under Darling. It was the move that put him out front, and had the crown on their feet.
It isn’t very often that Darling gets passed, especially for the lead. It reminded me of Howard Cosell screaming “Down Goes Frasier”. Now, Dave is anything but down, and he did admit to having engine issues which slowed him up over the final laps. I can tell you this now, if that’s how he runs with engine issues, watch out when he’s 100%.
It was a great win for the Everett’s Auto Parts driver. Dylan told me at one of the open practices he’s not sure why he waited this long to get into a Pro Stock. My guess was he was waiting for the right opportunity and timing to make the move up. There has been no denying his talent.
Dylan started off in our Mini Cup division about a dozen years ago. He won two championships there, driving for Jeff McCure. then moved up to the Sport Truck division, where he missed the championship by two points. He missed a night of racing for his Sr. Prom. His truck owner, McCure did win the owners title that season, as Dick Houlihan drove the truck that night.
He moved into the LM division with Jeff, and after a couple of seasons, teamed up with Bill Bernard. Together, they won two championships there.
Now, at the age of 26, he is looking for his next conquest. What a way to kick off his rookie season in the Pro Stocks.
He has one contender right now for Rookie of the Year, that being former Legends champion Jake Johnson. Jake started in the back of the field and worked himself into fifth by the final rundown.
This is going to be an exciting year to watch the rookies battle. Once Austin Blais gets back into the mix, he missed last week due to engine issues, it will be one of the best rookie battles we have had the opportunity to witness.
Friday nights action was just as exciting in all divisions as well.
In the Bandelers Bandits, Devin Deshais moved quickly through the field and picked up his second win in a row. He and his machine are as quick as anyone else out there, if not a tad quicker. Watch out for this youngster.
In the Outlaw class, Connor Sousa got back to where the car was the week before, when he was caught up in an accident, and powered past the pack into the lead, and into Everett’s Auto Parts Victory Lane.
The Pure Stocks saw some exciting side by side racing for the lead over the final dozen laps. Mike LeFort picked up his first win, dancing with AJ Manuel over that time frame, as they swapped the lead back and forth. Manual picked up the lead for a couple of circuits, but was not able to deny LeFort for his first win. Opening day winner Dave Westgate was a very close third.
The Pure Stocks took a page out of the LM book, and raced three wide for the lead over the final few laps. Bill Chouinard, who was sidelined on opening night due to mechanical gremlins, set the pace early, but was pressured throughout by Tom Blackwell, who ran along side the former champion for much of the 25 lap race. Blackwell was able to get by and lead a handful of laps, but was not able to close the door.
As they raced wheel to wheel, opening night winner Doug Benoit was closing in, and with just a few laps left, slipped between Chouinard and Blackwell, and took over with only a couple of laps remaining. This move kept Doug undefeated in the opening two rounds.
When the Legends came out, it was their turn to put on a show, and they didn’t disappoint. It’s always great to see a first time winner, and we got to greet another, as Jake Matheson from NH, who has been making the trek to Seekonk for the last couple years, had to hold of a very fast Derek Gluchaki for the win. Derek was running his first race of the season, after missing opening night due to an illness, but hadn’t lost a step when it came to being out on the track.
Every move that Derek would try to make, Jake had a counter for it. Derek hounded him for over the final ten plus laps, but was Jake was smooth, and wound up taking his first Legends win at Seekonk.
I will say this, the racing that we have seen over the first two weeks of competition has been second to none. That goes for all divisions, both nights. What a way for a person to spend their entertainment dollar.
Think about it. A movie costs what, $12.00 a ticket now? It’s been a bit since I’ve gone. Go with someone and now it’s $24. Family of four? FIFTY bucks. That’s with a couple of kids, going to see the new movie that everyone needs to see.
On a Friday night, adult admission is just $7.00 SEVEN!! Two and a half hours of good hard action with a great view from anywhere.
Saturday nights regular admission is only $14.00 for and adult. Oh, and kids 12 and under, they’re free. That’s right, FREE!!! Three hours of excitement. It’s better than a movie. Besides, no one shushes you when you talk to your friend. Want to get up and stretch your legs? Go ahead. There are quick moments between the races to visit the facilities. And the best part? There’s always a twist in the plot. You never know what the outcome is going to be. Sometimes the good guy wins, sometimes the bad guy wins. You never know what will happen. And there’s a different villain and good guy in each race. Now, does that sounds better than a movie to you? It sure does to me.
** I have a challenge for everyone out there. Bring a friend to the track with you this week. Someone who hasn’t been here in quite a while, or better yet, someone who hasn’t been here at all. You know the one I’m talking about. You’ve mentioned what you do on a Saturday night, and they say they’ve never been, that they’re not into the NASCAR thing, that it’s kinda boring. Tell them that they are correct; watching it on TV for 200-500 laps can get very boring.
But, being at a short track, where the races are quick, that they turn the 1/3 mile oval between 12 and 15 seconds a lap, that there are 4 different classes of competition and they run 25-40 lap races on a Saturday, or 15 to 25 laps on a Friday night, and still get out in plenty of time to catch their favorite band or have a drink with some.
It’s about the whole atmosphere. The sounds, the smell, the feel of the rumble, the sights, the colors, the whole thing. Who knows, they might just run into someone they know, or better yet, know a driver from somewhere, hear of a driver from their hometown and start to root for them. If they start asking questions, you know they’ve been bitten. Maybe just a little at first, but the more we can teach them, the more likely they are to return.
When that happens, they can return the favor and bring another friend. And so on, and so on, and so on.
Let’s make it happen. Bowman Grey can pack 10,000 people a week into their tight speedway. And that isn’t a joke. I will say this, their atmosphere is due to a lot of the on track drama that is created and that has been publicized. I don’t want that to be there reason here. I want it to be because of the awesome job that our drivers have been doing out on the asphalt for the last two weeks. They’ve all earned the right to race in front of a packed house. Let’s do this for them.