Tom Scully, Jr. of Saunderstown, RI, took over the lead from Bridgewater’s Dick Houlihan on lap 5 of 40 in the caution-filled early stages of Saturday’s Pro Stock feature
He then determinedly pointed his nose toward the finish line and did not surrender, to the pursuing Houlihan or even after division champ, Fred Astle powered up behind to challenge on lap 12. Mike Brightman got by Astle for a try on lap 18 and hounded him to the finish, but none could pass.
Houlihan opened outside polesitter Kevin Casper, brother Kyle Casper (both of Somerset) was low on the second row with Tom Scully, Sr. on the outside. As the green fell, Houlihan ran to the front, as Kyle got into the back of Kevin, spinning him in turn 2. A big pileup on the backstretch sent Phil Meany, Paul Reichert, Kevin, and Ken Spencer to the pits for repairs.
On the second start, Houlihan again went to the front, but Rehoboth’s Dave Darling attempted a 3-wide pass around Tauntonian Scott Dion, getting into Dion and bringing out another caution.
Houlihan went to the front once again with Kyle pulling into second behind him. Tom, Jr. took over third and Brightman went to fourth. Astle and Scully, Sr. followed. But Tiverton’s Mike Medeiros had his new Pro Stock snap out from under him in turn 3, with just a single lap completed.
Houlihan again went to the front over Kyle and Tom, Jr. nabbed second. Astle got under Kyle for third and Scully, Sr. held fifth. But Wellfleet’s Bob Hussey got loose in turn 4 and Kevin got into him, bringing yet another caution.
Tom, Jr. took the lead on the restart, which he would not relinquish. Astle and Brightman got by Houlihan on lap 10 before Spencer and Jason Ferreira got together in turn 4. Spencer retired to replace a flat tire; Ferreira had to be pushed from the infield to start his motor.
Houlihan got the jump on the outside, but Tom, Jr. took it back. Astle got underneath into second and Brightman followed into third. Scully, Sr. went into fourth on lap 16. Tom, Jr. held off Astle on his rear bumper until Ferreira slid up against the turn 2 wall on lap 19. The flatbed had to be called to remove Ferreira’s car when the boom wrecker blew its clutch and had to be pushed to the infield.
On the restart, Tom, Jr. and Astle fought over position, with Tom taking the lead. Brightman got underneath Astle for second and Astle fastened his nose to Brightman’s rear bumper. Tom, Jr. had some freedom as Brightman and Astle dueled over second. Scully, Sr. moved up behind to work on Astle’s rear bumper.
Tom, Jr. crossed under the checkers a half second ahead of Brightman, with Astle, Scully, Sr. and Dave Darling rounding out the top five.
Jon Gambuti of Point Pleasant, NJ leapt from the third row to the lead as the green flag fell on the ATQMRA’s return to Seekonk – and all the field saw of him for the rest of the race was the back of his three quarter midget, all the way to the finish line. Current points leader, Robin Johnston of Wayne, PA, forged his way from seventh to second by lap 7, but could not overcome Gambuti’s speed and handling, finishing 1.566 seconds behind the leader.
Big names were on hand for the event, including Liquid Lou Cicconi; the Ashton, PA driver who can make anything with wheels and a wing go supersonic was joined by NASCAR modified champ Mike Stefanik for the event, and perennial NEMA midget multichamp, Randy Cabral – all familiar with the confines of Seekonk’s famed bull ring.
Gambuti surprised front row starters BJ MacDonald and Buddy Sload and second row sitters Frank Fischer and Ryan Tidman when he exploded past them into the lead from his slot low on the third echelon. By lap three, he was running away from the field, with just Ryan Tidman giving chase. Tidman, who has set numerous track records around the circuit, was unable to match Gambuti on the evening.
Cicconi had started eleventh, and was working his way quickly through the field to third on lap 19, bringing the crowd to the edge of their seats with the fastest car on the speedway. On lap 18, a dead vehicle on the backstretch brought out a single file restart, which saw Liquid Lou restarting fourth, behind Tidman. Gambuti roared away, followed by Tidman and Cicconi, dueling for second. Tidman took second and Cicconi suddenly went backwards, dropping from third to twelfth in a single lap.
Matt Janisch came up to wrest third away from Tidman on lap 20 and go after Johnston in second. They battled over the final 5 laps to the finish, with Tidman able to hold Johnston off. Tidman and Ian Cumens rounded out the top five.
Somerset’s Tyler Thompson made it two wins on the new season, in a tension-filled nail-biter, as he had wily Ryan Vanasse on his tail for the final 14 laps – the same Vanasse who had won four of the previous six races on the season. Thompson drove like a man possessed as Vanasse threw his entire arsenal at the leader. For the first time in the season, Thompson broke the reigning champ’s charm on the speedway.
Dylan Estrella of North Attleboro and Middleboro’s Randy Burr started at the front with Fall Riverite John Paiva and Cranston’s Bobby Pelland III behind them. Thompson was in the fourth row and Vanasse in the fifth. Estrella nabbed the lead, and Burr fell back parallel with Paiva. Acushnet’s Matt Breault leapt up for a three wide involving Pelland and Burr for second spot coming out of turn two. Burr went forward into second, Pelland nabbed third and Breault kept fourth. Ron Barboza, running out of Fall River, got sideways, sending Jariah Roderick into a spin on the backstretch. Both went into the pits on the caution and returned.
Estrella took the lead and went out to a five-car lead on the jockeying field by the fifth lap, followed by Burr, Pelland and Paiva. Breault looped in turn 2, bringing out another caution. Roderick went dead high in turn two during the yellow flag period, and a red flag situation ensued. The fire brigade was called out, but there appeared to be no fire. However, track crews liberally applied speedy dry under Roderick’s fuel cell, indicating a compromised bladder. He was towed to the pits.
Estrella and Breault faced off again, with Pelland and Paiva behind them. Thompson was low in turn 3, now, and Vanasse held the outside. At the green flag, Vanasse rocketed 3-wide around Paiva, who backed out as Burr fell off the pace, giving the lead to Estrella once again. Pelland took over second; Thompson gained third with Vanasse on his tail. Gerry DeGasparre, Jr. of Pawtucket followed. Pelland began working Estrella underneath, as Vanasse went to the high side around Thompson. Barboza spun into the grass, bringing out the caution.
Thompson and Pelland faced off on a couple of restarts and were running through turn four when Pelland spun, collecting DeGasparre and Estrella. Thompson inherited the pole, but this placed Vanasse on his outside. Thompson entered the starting box very slowly, then jumped on the accelerator, pulling ahead of the speedy Vanasse, but Pelland and Estrella made contact and spun, calling another restart. This brought out a single file restart. Thompson made the most of it, going to the lead as Vanasse began to try both high and low to get by. Thompson was able to rebuff each attempt, as the crowd edged to the front of their seats. At the same time, points leader DeGasparre began to edge past competitors toward the front.
The action was red hot all the way to the checkers, with Thompson coming in just .35 ahead of Vanasse. Estrella came up with a hard-earned third place with DeGasparre and Breault rounding out the top five. Feature action, was again a reversal of Thompson and Vanasse’s finish in the first heat race, where Vanasse had edged Thompson for the win.
Joe Kohler of Johnston, RI, took the ride of his life with another neophyte, Justin Travis from East Taunton, bit down solidly on his rear bumper. Kohler took the lead from Swansea hotshoe, Scott Cestodio going into lap 5; Travis settled in on his rear bumper on lap later and that’s the way they stayed, biting and clawing for the lead for the remainder of the 25 laps. Cestodio crossed the stripe in third with Sparky Arsenault a half second behind him; Ryan Lineham, second in points thus far, rounded out the top 5. Travis had bettered Kohler in the preliminary heat by 38 thousandths of a second, as the duo had found themselves locked in combat all afternoon.
Cestodio had led from the pole, battling from the green with Rehoboth’s Chris Rioux. Rioux had stayed right alongside; holding Cestodio low in the turn for the advantage coming out, but Cestodio struggled into a narrow lead on the backstretch and had it all to himself at the first crossing of the stripe. Tim Eaton made a play to get under Rioux, but in battling back, Rioux got into Eaton’s right front and the two spun in turn two. This set up a restart with Kohler on Cestodio’s high side. Travis was on the latter’s bumper with Smithfield, Rhode Islander Craig Pianka on his shoulder.
The trio came out of the lap 3 restart running hard, Cestodio nosing ahead of Kohler with Travis all over his bumper. On the ensuing lap, Chris DeMoura’s wheel bearings let go, and his left rear wheel, with axle attached, jumped out of the rear end, bounced off the wall between turns 3 and 4, then hit Vincent Arrenegado Jr’s car. The chaos that followed in front of the pit exit sent four drivers off track for repairs. DeMoura, of North Dighton, had to be towed from the track.
Cestodio and Kohler came out with Travis and Arsenault at their backs. Kohler was running hard, but Cestodio held him into lap5, when Kohler began to edge forward. Travis tried to get under Cestodio as Arsenault made a bid for third. Kohler came away with the lead with Travis on his tail, Cestodio and then Arsenault, who had Pianka trying to work underneath.
Kohler and Travis moved out to a comfortable 10-car lead as the laps wound down, with Travis using every trick he knew to catch and pass Kohler, but could not get by. Cestodio, Arsenault and Pianka battled over third behind them.
With five circuits remaining, Lineham, who had been working up from the rear of the pack, was able to take over fifth place from Pianka.
The final lap became a wild finish for the leaders. First, Frank Duquette and then Arrenegado looped in front of them. The pair was able to avoid the spinning cars in turns two and four and came home under the checkers still debating the lead between them.
It took Fall River’s Ed Gannon a couple seasons to get his first feature win, but it only took a couple more races to nail down his second. It was an outstanding feature race that went without caution from green to checker and saw a plethora of excellent side-by-side racing and passing. Ted Berube from Somerset followed Gannon into second and did not let up on the pressure to the finish. New Bedford driver Lenny Guy ran hard, earning a well-deserved third place, and consistent Dan Leach, out of North Dighton, placed fourth, keeping him solidly in the top 3 of the standings. Leader Mike Cavallaro rounded out the top five.
Portsmouth’s Rob Andreozzi led off from the pole, escaping Leach, who got wide on the first turn. Gannon ducked under into second and Andreozzi slid up the track a bit, but Gannon couldn’t take advantage. Berube moved under Leach into third and Guy held on to fifth, with Cavallaro coming quickly into sixth.
Gannon looked under Andreozzi twice on lap 5, but had the door shut, while Berube closed in. Meanwhile Guy was working under Leach. Gannon finally got under Andreozzi on lap 8, and Berube followed on the next circuit. Guy finally mastered the pass on Leach on lap 10 with Cavallaro following him. Holbrook driver Barry Shaw retired to the pits on lap 13.
Gannon was moving rapidly with his 4-cylinder, and began encountering lapped traffic on Lap 13, but had a 5-car lead. He cleared the traffic as Berube was coming into it, increasing his lead.
By lap 22, he had a full straightaway lead and completed the final 3 laps going away. Berube claimed second, 3.857 seconds back and Guy was 6.186 off the pace in third.-