BY DANA ROWE
Dave Darling has been lying in wait since the season opened to make his statement, and at last he has, in true fashion. He pried his way up from a ninth place start to take on Fred Astle, Jr. for the lead, then hold off Freddy and early leader Ryan Vanasse down to the checkers. Darling charged in under the checkers with a twelve-car lead over Astle, who was a third of a second ahead of Vanasse. Jake Johnson and Tom Scully, Jr. battled home to round out the top five.
Vanass beat Mike Mitchell off the pole for the lead and went out to a two-car lead. Astle pushed in under Mitchell from low in the second row. Vanasse was on rails, going quickly to an eight-car led over Astle, Dylan Estrella and Mitchell. Kevin Casper was pursuing in fifth.
Estrella began looking under Fast Fred and they got side-by-side to match race for three laps. Casper was working under Mitchell at the same time. Kevin Foan then spun in turn two to bring out a lap nine restart.
Vanasse and Astle lined up with Estrella and Mitchell behind them. Casper matched up with Nick Johnson in row three and Darling now appeared on the low side of row four with Scully on his shoulder.
Vanasse grabbed the front coming across the stripe and Astle stayed outside to challenge. Estrella drove in underneath and they were wheel-to-wheel. He pulled ahead and Astle dropped in behind. Casper snared fourth with Darling on his bumper. But Mitchell went around in turn four. Scully immediately headed pitside.
On the restart, Estrella got past Astle, but two laps later, Fred turned the tables, going past him and Vanasse into the lead. Darling followed hin through into second and Vanasse grabbed third, followed by Estrella. Vanasse and Darling swapped control of second place over the next few laps and lap 25 saw Vanasse nose back into the lead. But Astle grabbed it back again and then Darling forged past them both to take command at the front.
Todd Annarummo had been running behind Estrella since lap eleven and the pressure paid off on lap 34 as he was able to take over in fourth, behind Astle. Estrella slipped to fifth ahead of Mike Brightman, Jake the Jet Johnson and Scully. Angelo Belsito’s spin in turn two with 16 laps remaining set up another restart.
Darling and Astle went side-by-side before Darling nosed ahead in turn two, grabbing the lead in turn three. Vanasse took the opportunity to drive in under Astle while Estrella and Annarummo followed up. Brightman and Johnson were door-to-door. Jake got past brightman and then Brightman took it back. Darling, at the front, had gone out to a ten-car lead.
Johnson stayed on Brightman’s bumper as Annarummo challenged Estrella and made his way past. Jake now got by Brightman and went after Estrella’s spot. He got underneath to run but suddenly Estrella flew up and bounced off the backstretch wall. It was the end of Estrella’s night, with five laps remaining.
Darling and Vanasse lined up but the start was called back as Vanasse was too eager in the starting box. Second try, Darling took the lead in turn two and Astle nosed in under to steal second. When Vanasse came loose, Astle took full advantage of the wiggle to seize the runnerup spot. Vanasse dropped into third and Johnson grabbed fourth with Scully and Brightman behind him. The field ran to the finish line in this order: Darling, Astle, Vanasse, Jake Johnson, and Scully. Brigtman captured sixth, ahead of Annarummo, Nick Johnson, Belsito, Daryl Stampfl, Folan and Casper.