DARLING SNATCHES FEATURE WIN, TRIPLE CROWN
DARLING SNATCHES FEATURE WIN, TRIPLE CROWN
Dominant Dave Darling toiled through the 75-lap Pro Stock feature, waiting for opportunity. At the finish, he made his own, driving the doors off his Pro Stock and squeezing past stubborn Tom Scully, Jr. for a win that could only be measured by the timing system: a paper-thin three thousandths of a second. Scully was loathe to yield the lead he had held since midrace, but Darling had been persistently working his way up through the pack and now was primed for the charge. He could already claim ownership of the first pair of Phil’s Propane Triple Crown features.
He had been dueling with Ryan Vanasse over second since midpoint on the feature, through restarts on laps 35 and 45. On the latter restart, Scully and Vanasse came off the front row with Darling behind them. Scully had the led by a fender and Vanasse wound up down the backstretch and they found themselves door-to-door. Darling was clinging to Scully’s bumper as Craig Weinstein navigated under Dick Houlihan for fourth.
Scully surged ahead, leaving space behind him and Vanasse dropped in. Darling went to the outside, trying for second. Scully pulled out all the stops, but the duo behind him could not be shaken off his tail. And Weinstein and Houlihan lurked two lengths further back. The group was a blur of speed as Darling got alongside Vanasse. And on lap 58, Scully’s car bobbled, got sideways and he was forced to make a huge save. In the turbulence of the moment, Vanasse was forced to fall back and Darling went wide to avoid a wreck. Scully regained control and retained his lead as Vanasse and Darling regrouped. Darling gained the advantage, dropping into second ahead of Vanasse. All that remained was Scully to complete the triple crown Sweep.
A fifteen-lap firefight displayed itself as Darling would try underneath to have the door slammed in his face, then go outside to have Scully hold him off. They hacksawed alongside, then Darling would drop into the draft to begin looking underneath once again. He stubbornly sought high and low to be rewarded by Scully’s denials of his feints.
With ten to go, Scully, Darling and Vanasse were a line that seemed to be a single, articulated car, circling the oval as a blur. Weinstein and Houlihan were now closing. Eight laps remaining and Darling gave Scully’s bumper a poke. He looked to the inside and SLAM! Scully shut the door on him. He went to the outside and Scully rewarded the bump by taking him uptrack into the third groove. Vanasse was unable to capitalize underneath, and the trio roared on.
With three to go, they were wheel-to-wheel down the back and across the stripe. Lap seventy-three saw Darling wind it up once again and this time, he surged past and into turns three and four. He eased down, partially shut the door, flashed under the white flag and settled to the low groove. Scully powered up down the backstretch and they were in a dogfight through turns three and four and the runnerup continued to close. And the pressure was doubled down the stretch to the checkers, but Darling was able to hold on for the narrow victory with Vanasse on their rear decks for third. Weinstein and Houlihan rounded out the top five.
It took three tries to start the race, as Billy Joerres’ car went dead between turns three and four on the first circuit and a fals start by Dave Hutchins on the second attempt brought out a third complete start to the feature. Bob Hussey and Mike Brightman finally came off the front row and they went door-to-door into lap three before Hussey bogged, allowing Brightman to leap to the front. Scully made his way past Hussey two laps later, and Vanasse followed him to third.
Fred Astle was trying to work past Kevin Casper when Casper lost the grip, bringing out a lap four caution. Hussey was outside Brightman on the restart and as Brightman leapt to the lead, Scully, Vanasse and Houlihan all got under Hussey,w ho settled into fifth. Spencer, Weinstein, Darling and Astle followed. Darling and Astle were seesawing side by side for postion.
On lap 19, Weinstein was into Hussey’s back and he spun on the backstretch. Scully, on the outside, ran side by side with Brightman, who was able to claim the front out of turn four as Vanasse got under Scully, who shut the door on a charging Houlihan. Weinstein then inserted himself under Houli.
Now Vanasse was working Brightman’s outside, and they seesawed until Brightman pulled away and Scully reclaimed second. Darling had now passed Houlihan into fifth behind Weinstein. Spencer got under Kevin Folan behind Houlihan. But they got together and spun in turn four. Spencer, incensed, came back to argue and then bumped Folan before they returned to the field.
Brightman and Scully dueled on the restart, but two laps later, Manny Dias and Cory Cleary spun together, bringing a lap 29 caution. Again they battled away from the green with Vanasse and Darling on their tails. But Brightman’s back came around, spinning him in the turn.
Now, Scully and Vanasse were the front row for the lap 30 restart, with Darling and Weinstein behind them. It was the beginning of 45 laps of combat between the lead quintet. On the restart, Scully went to the front as Darling got under Vanasse. The latter saluted the pass by crossing under Darling back into second uintil Folan’s turn two spin brought another caution. They line up as before, except Houlihan was outside Darling in row two with Weinstein low in the third.
They were away again, with Vanasse powering the outside. But Darling was under into second on lap 40 and sticking his nose under Scully only to have the door closed on him. They raged on for ten laps until Cleary spun on lap 45 after Dick Benoit came loose and made contact. Elmer Wing was found to be leaking oil and had to retire.
It was a drag race down the frontstretch on the restart with Scully gaining a fender and 30 laps remained of jungle combat between the five leaders.
In final analysis, the top ten was completed by Dave Hutchins, Sr., Kevin Casper, Hussey, Astle and Spencer.