by Kevin Boucher
In the last eight years, there have only been 2 drivers to carry the championship trophy. Fred Astle Jr won 4 consecutive, and those were bookended by a pair of titles by Dave Darling at each end. Could this be the year that Stranglehold is broken?
The Pro Stocks celebrate their 35th birthday this season, and it should be as good as any we have ever had.
With the consistency and adaptability that the reigning champ has shown over those eight years, it is almost impossible to bet against him. Over the eight year period, he has finished no lower than 3rd in the final standings. In my recollection, I cannot remember any driver having that kind of success over such a long period of time in the top division. Can he keep it up for another year? I can’t see how he can’t. His team has remained the same, with Gary Johnson as owner and Ronnie Pond making the as needed changes to keep the car right where Dave can drive it, which is just about anywhere on the track.
There will be several challengers who are up for the fight, including the six time champion, Astle. Over the winter, a new Distance car was put together with a new Ford crate engine, which is getting more popular with some of the teams. They haven’t retired the old girl just yet, as with four titles, the McCallum chassis might just be brought out if needed.
Ryan Vanasse also has a new chassis to compete with, and coming off a disappointing 2013, he and the Team V Pro Stock will be looking to rebound to the success they had in 2012, rolling off a handful of victories, and finishing second in the standings.
Tom Scully Jr finished last year right where everyone wants to be, in Everett’s Auto Parts Victory Lane. Tom started last year a little sluggish, but at the season wore on, he got stronger, and became a weekly threat to win. Could this be the year everyone gets a little NAPA Knowhow?
Two time champion Dick Houlihan teased everyone last year with rumors of retirement. Well, don’t pull out the rocking chair just yet. Dick was having so much fun driving Len Ellis’ classic that he just had to come back for more. With two wins last season, and a runner up finish in the points, this might just be the season that the Ellis/Houlihan team finds themselves back at the head table in January, this time together.
Kevin Casper’s season last year was cut short due to engine troubles. A new Ford power plant for the Phil’s Propane Fusion has put the team literally back on track. They were hoping that last year would be a coming out for the team in the Pro Stocks. It just might be this year.
2014 will see the return to full time Pro Stock action for one of Seekonk’s most popular and successful drivers. Rick Martin has discarded the Sport Truck after racing for championships there for the past five season, and will focus on winning his fifth Pro Stock crown, which would be his sixth overall at The Action Track of the East. This season just might be a Radical one for Rick.
Bobby Pelland III is coming off his Rookie of the Year campaign, which can only mean one thing. He’s ready to fight his way to the top. He has shown that type of competitiveness in the Street Stocks and the Late Models. Now, it’s time for the Pro Stock drivers to look at this third generation racer.
Todd Annarummo is returning to a full time fight for the crown, driving Paul Reichert’s Ford. If anyone knows how to get to the front, it’s an Annarummo. Todd has been winning at Seekonk for over 12 years, going back to the Sport Trucks, the Pro Stocks and Modifieds. He knows his way around this 1/3 mile oval.
Mike Brightman is looking to shake that monkey off his back and return to the form he and his team has been accustomed to in the past. The former LM Champ lost his lucky rabbit’s foot, horseshoe and four leaf clover all at the same time. After an off season to regroup and stay away from the black cats, this car might be Mighty once again.
Kenny Spencer is sporting an all new look this year. A new number, new car, new style body might put a little more spark in his step. Like Brightman, Spence is trying to shake the bad luck that has hampered him.
Kevin Folan, Mike Mitchell, Kyle Casper and Tom Scully Sr will be looking to get back to the winners circle as well. Throw in rookie contenders Angelo Belsito, who is moving up from Legends, Mike Sullivan, the return of Ron LaPerche, and more, and this should continue to show why Seekonk Speedway is The Action Track of the East.