Dave Darling’s victory skein wove itself a little longer as he finished in the lead on the final Pro Stock points race of 2017. It had been established last week that he had the points for the championship, but that did not slow him down one iota and he gave his usual performance of charging to the front to celebrate in Victory Lane.
It shouldn’t overshadow a fine performance by Bobby Pelland III, who took the lead from Dick Houlihan on lap three, then held it until Darling wrested it from him 31 laps later. It had been a spirited challenge at high speed with neither driver yielding an inch.
A lap-one caution – one of only two in the feature – saw the front of the field rolling the dice and Pelland went by front row-sitters Houlihan and Mike Brightman into the lead. It took some hard driving on Pelland’s part but Brightman finally settled into second while Astle was under Houlihan, followed by Tom Scully, Jr. and Darling. Scully then went to fourth.
Lap six saw Darling stick his nose under Scully. A lap later, he had Scully on his bumper and he was looking ahead to Astle, who was riding Brightman’s bumper. Both Astle and Darling got under Brightman and Scully followed just as Kevin Folan went around out of turn four. The lineup had Pelland with Brightman outside then Astle and Darling. On lap ten, Darling drove around Astle then Brightman into second place, coming out of turn four. Pelland had a five car lead.
On lap 14, Astle went under Brightman and Scully followed so that lap 15 saw Pelland leading Darling, followed by Astle, Scully and Brightman. Darling began alternating between attempts to work around Pelland and dropping onto his bumper. On lap 18, he stayed outside and pushed forward with Pelland battling every second. In the pack, Ryan Vanasse got under Brightman into fifth.
Lap 21 saw Darling looking under Pelland, who fired up and ran back to the front in turn two. The field was stretched out single file, and ran in this fashion for several laps. Jake Vanada took the opportunity to pass under Brightman and they ran side-by-side. Mighty Mike held him off.
The field had been closing together, and by lap 31, Pelland, Darling, Astle and Scully were running nose-to-tail with Vanasse a few cars back and closing. Darling was unloading his entire bag of tricks on Pelland as the laps wond down. He finally looked under on lap 34 and they ran side-by-side with Darling finally grabbing the front in turn two of lap 35. They came across the stripe into lap 36: Darling, Pelland, Astle, Scully, Vanasse, Vanada and Brightman.
Over the last couple of laps, Scully began nosing under Astle and they brawled all the way to the finish line with Astle holding him off for third. Scully was fourth and Vanasse completed the top five. Sixth went to Vanada, followed by Mike Mitchell, Rick Martin, Kyle Casper, Houlihan, Brightman and Nick Johnson.