Dave Darling won the opening day race; he snared a proliferation of the season’s features, won many of the extra-laps races, grabbed the Pro Stock Championship – and then he capped it off by winning the season’s-ender, the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial. But wait! As Ryan The Rocket Vanasse pursued Darling as he has done all season long, visitor Joe Squeglia came past Nick Lascuola into third and began upsetting the applecart. He brawled with Vanasse lap after lap, finally nailed second, then went after the leader.
Just before the midpoint of the 150-lapper, on lap 70, Squeglia dropped under Darling and stole the lead. Dave attempted to reply with a drop-under move, but his opponent held him off. They ran nose-to-tail for several laps and then Squeglia began to edge away. The lead went to four cars and then five. Darling made some serious darts toward his antagonist’s bumper but was unable to make them last.
Until. Lap 111 saw the first caution in 78 circuits and Darling, running second, bolted for the pits. He was the first, but not the last as much of the 22-car field made the run-for-the-rubber, leaving Squeglia, Derek Griffith, Vanasse, Jimmy Renfrew, Lascuola and Devin O’Connell still circling under caution – still cirling on hundred-lap plus tires.
Darling quickly returned and fell into fifth place behind Renfrew.
Squeglia and Griffith line up for the restart, ahead of Vanasse and Renfrew with Darling under Bobby Pelland III in row three. Travis Benjamin and Lascuola backed them up. They managed two laps before Mighty Mike Brightman spun on the backstretch and pitted under caution. Vanasse immediately went for tires as well as Tom Scully, Jr.
Now Squeglia had Darling on his shoulder while Benjamin and Renfrew followed with Pelland and Eddie MacDonald behind them. Griffith and Vanasse made up row four.
Squeglia bolted out of the box and Benjamin got under Darling but Dave put the new rubber to use and powered ahead. He worked the outside, put Benjamin behind him and took on Squeglia. Now his grip on the outside allowed him to power to the front, dropping in on turn two of the 116th circuit. Squeglia followed with Benjamin on his bumper. Pelland led Griffith behind them, followed by Lascuola, Renfrew and MacDonald working under Vanasse.
Darling quickly went to a three-car lead on lap 117 and five cars on lap 119. Lap 120 saw Benjamin get under Pelland into fourth, Lascuola was sixth and Vanasse was moving, now, pulling in behind Lascuola. Fred Astle, Jr. had come past Renfrew to follow Vanasse.
Darling was taking total advantage and within three laps had pushed the five car lead out to a half-straight. The field was again stretched out after Vanasse got past Lascuola into lap 125. But MacDonald spun on the front stretch and almost nosed into the wall just before the starters stand, but stayed off it by a matter of inches.
Darling had Squeglia on his shoulder again, with Benjamin and Griffith behind them. Pelland and Vanasse were side-by-side in row three. The leaders came out of the starting box trading paint before Darling ran to the front while behind them, the field was still side-by-side. Two laps later, Darling owned a three-car lead. Benjamin grabbed third and Vanasse pulled ahead of Pelland onto Griffith’s bumper. Lascuola was below MacDonald behind them. The field then quickly went single-file and Darling took an eight-car lead while Squeglia held five lengths over Benjamin.
Larry Gelinas and Jake Vanada rubbed together and Gelinas went into the turn four grass. Pelland dived into the pits to upgrade for the push to the finish. The restart again featured Darling and Squeglia and this time, Dave roared away out of the box. Benjamin got under Squeglia in the vacuum and into second while Vanasse followed him under.
Lascuola then took advantage to access fourth. Lap 136 saw Darling three cars up on Benjamin who had Vanasse at his back and Lascuola still debating fourth with Squeglia.
Two laps later, Vanasse was on Benjamin’s bumper, trailing Lascuola and Griffith. But Brightman was suddenly up at the wall in turn two and went to the pits. Darling and Benjamin now faced off, but Benjamin got loose in the box allowing Darling to escape into the lead on turn two. Another lap and he had a two-car lead and Vanasse was coming in under Benjamin. Benjamin tried to drop under but was rebuffed.
Now Vanasse had new rubber to Darling’s oldish tires and he began to close the gap. Benjamin was being scanned by Griffith, while Lascuola, Squeglia, Pelland and MacDonald followed with ten laps remaining. Vanasse continued to whittle away and on lap 142, he was just a half-car back. Griffith was troubling Benjamin for third.
Darling lost some speed just as Astle came to a halt near the pit entrance, up close to the wall. He exited the competition, but his predicament had come as a bit of serendipity for Darling.
Like it had come down all season long, Darling and Vanasse lined up at the front ready to battle it out as they had season-long. Benjamin got his third spot back and Griffith took to the outside. Lascuola still clung to fifth and Pelland was at his shoulder. They ran door-to-door out of the box around into turn four before Darling got to the lead, which he turned into a two-length margin in the next lap. But Renfrew spun down the back stretch.
They lined up for lap 145 and did it all over again. This time, Darling nosed out of the wheel-to-wheel run in turn two. But The Rocket battled back and they hacksawed the lead between them until lap 148 and starter Tim Bolduc was displaying the twin sticks. As Darling moved further ahead, Vanasse again tried the drop-under but could not complete the move. He ran to Darling’s bumper as they crossed under the white flag headed for the checkers. It was a drag race to the finish with Darling just .171 seconds ahead of Vanasse and Griffith .6 seconds back of Vanasse for the podium finish. Benjamin was sixth and Lascuola rounded out the top five.
Pelland was sixth, followed by Macdonald, Wayne Helliwell, Vanada, Squeglia and Renfrew.