For much of the race, it was the DAV fans at Seekonk have grown to expect: Dave Darling making his usual charge at the front. Getting to the clear air and running away. It’s the way he’s won so many championships and extra-laps races. But the low car count kept he race running hot. In the few cautions some drivers pitted and got new rubber.
Toward the end, Dave was still on the tires he’d entered the feature with. And when Kevin Casper challenged him late in the feature – Casper was in the same boat.
People weren’t noticing Wayne Helliwell. The Dover, New Hampshire driver isn’t often on the radar in southern New England. And he ran a more sedate race than many of his competitors. At the end, he still had enough glue in his tires to stick to the track. Even though he, too, had not stopped for new shoes.
But late in the race, Darling could be seen to be fighting a slippery car. Kevin Casper had more stick and it got him underneath and to the front with eleven laps remaining.
When Bobby Pelland III spun with six laps to go on the pylon, Kevin and Dave were the front row. Helliwell was in row two with Ryan Vanasse. Wayne was right behind Darling. Everybody was watching the battle about to transpire between Casper and Darling.
They fired up out of the starting box and Darling got his nose ahead. They went hard and a little wide into turn one. Kevin seemed to be a little loose as did Dave. It seemed unthinkable as it happened, but Darling came loose, running almost in the third groove. His nose pointed down and he came down a lane, right in front of Casper, who drove across his nose. End of story for both drivers.
Those are only the salient features: there’s a lot more to be said than that about what the factors were.
But the rest of the story is this: Helliwell is an experienced, second-generation racer with an armload of wins and a bagfull of championships. And he’s raced at many tracks.
Perhaps that’s the recipe for stepping into the breach with six laps to go when the previous leaders are suddenly absent.
Cut to the chase: Casper started on the pole and Darling was behind him in the second row. Outside were Joe Squeglia at the front and Radical Rick in row two. Drop the flag, Casper takes the lead and Darling drives in under Squeglia while Vanasse takes his place when he clears.
Five laps in and its Casper, Darling, The Rocket, Squeglia and Pelland. Helliwell has Tom Scully between him and Pelland.
Eight laps in, Darling goes by Casper into the lead and Vanasse follows into second. Casper is third, followed by Squeglia, Scully Helliwell and Pelland. Over the next 22 laps, the order remains unchanged. Helliwell motors along between Scully and Pelland. Darling, at the front, is doing as everyone expects and what he excels at: Pulling rapidly away and generating a considerable lead. In fact, for the event, Darling sets the best lap speed at 94.334 mph.
25 laps in, Darling has an eight-car lead over Vanasse and Squeglia is beginning to look under Casper for third.
A third of the race down and Darling has most of a straight on the field. The lineup behind him is the same, but Pelland has passed Helliwell. For the next 30 laps, the field remains strung out single file. Then there is one change: Helliwell passes Pelland. Six more laps and he’s past Scully, running fifth behind Squeglia.
Craig Weinstein comes up and begins to challenge Pelland for position. In the process, Pelland spins out on lap 70. He and Weinstein pit as well as Bob Hussey and Squeglia. Darling and Vanasse line up and Darling runs to the front. Casper gets under Vanasse and takes over second. Martin gets under Helliwell and passes him going into lap 90. Darling still leads but Casper is just three cars back. With 50 laps to go, Casper begins to close on Darling. Helliwell has remained in fifth since Martin passed him – ten laps back. Hel’ll remain there for a total of 25 laps. Until lap 125.
That’s two laps after Hussey spins and nearly everybody pits for new rubber. All except Darling, Casper, Vanasse, Martin – and Wayne Helliwell, Jr. 27 laps (9 miles) to the checkered flag. Do these five have enough stick left to make it. Depends on how hard each has run his tires.
On the restart, Darling leaves the pole and takes the lead over Casper. Vanasse noses under Casper. Martin and Helliwell follow. Another lap and Casper is back in second and Vanasse is third. Next circuit and Helliwell moves under Martin for some door to door and once more around, he has taken fourth in turn one. Martin settles in front of Weinstein who is being chased by Pelland.
Casper moves to make a pass on Darling, who can be seen to be wrestling with his car. But Brightman spins, bringing out the caution flag on lap 133. Darling has been at the front since lap 10. Helliwell has been in 11 passing situations. He is currently running fourth.
Darling and Casper line up again. Helliwell is behind Casper. Darling takes the lead again, Casper drops in. Vanasse is under Helliwell and behind therm, Pelland passes under Martin and Squeglia follows.
With eleven laps remaining, Casper gets under Darling and after a brief struggle has the lead. Darling drops in, but does not attempt his signature move of dropping under. Behind him come Vanasse, Helliwell, Pelland and Squeglia. Casper begins to draw out a two car lead. With six remaining, he has eight cars on Darling, who is falling back when Pelland spins out and Brightman spins to avoid him. It’s lap six. The complexion of the race is about to change.
Darling will make a big attempt to get his lead back on the outside. He almost does, but his tires don’t hold between turns one and two. He is eliminated by the wreck. Casper is able to return.
One more caution remains after Vanasse and Helliwell restart side-by-side and come across the line after a lap just .001 seconds apart. The restart with three laps remaining. They trade some paint coming out of the box but Helliwell pushes into the lead through turn two. Squeglia follows with Martin on his outside. Two laps later, Helliwell is under the checkers, four tenths ahead of Vanasse. Squeglia scores third, two tenths behind Ryan, and Martin is 22 hundredths off Squeglia’s pace and Pelland is fifth, a half-second later.
Sixth goes to Jake Vanada, followed by Scully, Casper, Weinstein, Hussey and Brightman.