DARLING DOMINANT IN DAV WIN
Rehoboth’s Dave Darling took the lead of the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial Pro Stock race coming off turn 4 of the eighth lap and clung steadfastly to his position for the remainder of the hundred circuits of Seekonk Speedway’s one-third mile bullring. He had started third, behind polesitter Russ Hersey, visiting from New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway. Hersey nabbed the lead off the green flag from Warwick driver Ryan Vanasse (who started the outside pole) and led through the first eight revolutions. Hersey clung to Darling’s rear bumper for the remainder of the race, providing a difficult affair for the winner. Darling’s margin of victory was just a half-second over Hersey.
Tom Scully, Jr. of Saunderstown, RI, finished third with division champ Fred Astle out of Westport, MA, on his bumper. Acushnet, MA driver Mike Brightman finished fifth. Returning drivers featured prominently in the top ten. Somerset’s Dave Hutchins, Sr. followed Brightman across the stripe. Hutch began the season with the division, but had taken most of the season off. Dick Houlihan of Bridgewater, MA, returned from retirement to drive the Ellis Racing 41 over the last few races and came home seventh. Tom Scully, Sr. joined his son in the fray and spent early parts of the race in pursuit of Hussey. Scully, Sr. claimed eighth on the day. Likewise Tiverton, RI driver Ray Parent, who also began the season, dropped out of the running then returned with a couple weeks remaining with a new car. Parent’s ninth place on the day rounded out returnees in the top 10. Tenth overall went to Pro Stock regular Jake Vanada of Berkley.
Hersey, starting alongside Vanasse, jumped quickly to the lead at the green. Darling had started immediately behind him, and moved up under Vanasse and into second. Hutchins eased under Vanasse and Vanada from his spot outside the third row and Dean Pettey, making just his second start on the season, followed into fourth. Vanada nabbed fifth spot. Darling chased Hersey through the first seven laps, when they began to lap Steve Desmaris, who was struggling with his car and headed for the pits.
But Desmaris’ car stalled in the pit tunnel, blocking the exit and brought out the first caution of the race. Darling lined up outside Hersey at the front with Hutchins and Pettey behind them. Vanasse and West Warwick’s Jeramee Lillie were row 3. At the green, Hersey and Darling went at it, door-to-door. Darling powered into the lead through turn four and crossed the stripe in front, not to be headed again in the remaining 92 laps.
Lap 10 saw Parent smoking badly from his left rear wheel well, down the front stretch, coming to rest near the wall between turns 1 and 2. At the same time, Vanasse and Lillie were together in front of the turn 4 pit entrance.
The restart saw Darling go to the lead again. Back in the pack, Kevin Casper, Vanasse and Lillie got into a 3-wide situation with Casper on the bottom and Vanasse in the middle. As the latter attempted to back out, he nosed into Lillie, and the duo got loose, catching Casper, who spun to the infield in turn 4. Lillie was able to continue, but Vanasse headed for the pits. Casper had to be taken off on the hook. A lap had not been completed, so the restart was again on the 10th lap. Parent returned from the pits at this point, lucky to not be a lap down on the field.
As action resumed, Pettey tried to squeeze down to the groove, then backed off. Lillie caught him from behind and around he went. Pettey sat in turn 4 facing oncoming traffic, but all cars managed to get around him and he didn’t receive a single hit. Another restart had Darling leading Hersey. Hutchins tried to get his nose underneath for second, but had to fall back. Lap 11 found Tom Scully, Jr. rolling to a stop in front of the pit entrance, bringing out yet another caution.
Astle had improved his position from 12th to 6th in the early going.
Again, Darling went ahead with Hersey biting his back bumper. Hutchins made the underneath move stick, grabbing second away from Hersey. Houlihan began attempting the same move but was denied. By lap 15, the field was stringing out with Darling, Hutch, Hersey and Houlihan followed by Lillie, Mike Brightman, Astle, Vanasse and Ken Spencer. Houlihan continued to push at Hersey and finally took over third on the lap.
By lap 20, Rick Martin had come into fifth and was threatening Hersey.
The leaders came into lapped traffic on the 25th circuit with the top 4 intact. Martin was pressing from fifth, followed by Brightman, Astle, Lillie, Vanasse, Spencer and Ron Smith. The field strung out and followed a pace line until lap 32, when Vanada, running twelfth, spun in turn 4, bringing out the caution.
On the restart, Darling went back to the front. Hersey took third from Houlihan. Spencer spun on the thirty-fourth lap in turn 3, bringing out the caution. Hutchins and Hersey then spun on the backstretch as cars locked up their brakes for Spencer. Since the yellow flag had already flown, the pair was not considered accident cars and were able to continue in their second and third slots.
Hutchins and Darling battled door-to-door at the green for an entire lap, but going into turn one on the next go-around, Smith spun up to the wall between turns one and two, coming to rest with his driver’s side against the wall. His 95 car was taken off by wrecker, ending his day.
Again it was wheel-to-wheel between Darling and Hutchins, until Darling gained the front at the starting line a lap later. Brightman edged Hersey for third, but a wild, 3-wide run between the pair and Hutchins saw Hersey come out behind Darling. Hutch fell back to third, while Astle used the moment to jump past Brightman to third. Elmer Wing III then had his right rear tire go down, marooning him in turn 2.
The lap 40 saw Darling to the lead on the backstretch. Astle went to the high side on Hutchins and they battled, with Astle winning the battle on lap 46’s first turn. Brightman went under Hutchins for third and Scully, Sr. moved him back to fifth with another underneath move. Hutchins then spun on lap 49’s second turn and Lillie, avoiding, spun to the infield just past the curve with a flat left rear after a collision with Vanada. Both Vanada and Lillie went to the pits for repairs.
Darling again had the pole with Hersey on his outside. Astle and Brightman were on their bumpers and Scully, Sr. and Martin made up row 3. Scully, Jr. and Parent followed. Darling went to the lead over Hersey with Brightman and Astle battling for third. Martin tried under Scully, Sr., but had to fall back. On lap 54, Darling had a car on Hersey and there was a 4-car gap back to Brightman and Astle.
By lap 62, the lead duo had a straightaway lead over the field. Astle went to the outside of Brightman for the pass two laps later and Scully, Sr. pulled up to the latter’s bumper. A raging battle ensued, but Astle was unable to power past the stubborn Brightman. Scully held on, awaiting an opportunity. The duel slowed the chase trio down and by lap 70; Darling and Hersey were a half lap ahead with only each other to worry over. Brightman, Astle, Scully Sr. and Jr., Martin and Hutchins followed in a group.
Into lap 79, Astle stayed on Brightman’s shoulder, refusing to give up his attempt at the third spot. Scully, Jr. had moved in behind the duo.
As the leaders approached Houlihan to put him a lap down, Lillie spun in front of him. All three were able to avoid the spinning car as the yellow flag waved. It took three attempts to make the restart on lap 83. Vanada spun in turn three on the first attempt, and then the next restart was called back when Hersey jumped early at the line. Darling again took the lead when the green stuck. Astle tried to run under Hersey but was denied. Scully, Jr. followed into third with Brightman, Martin, Vanada, Houlihan and Scully, Sr. behind.
With Martin trying to run under Brightman on lap 95, the two got tied together, with Martin’s right front wheel climbing over Brightman’s right rear and stopping atop the rear quarter. The pair came out of turn 4 and down the front stretch trailing a fogbank of tire smoke until Martin’s car dropped back to the pavement in the first turn.
On the restart, Scully, Jr. finessed his way past Astle for third behind Darling and Hersey.
The final 6 laps unwound with no change between the leaders, and Darling claiming the trophy at the checkers.