Last year, David Darling added a new crew chief and ran circles around the competition, scoring wins in half of the races. Going forward, there is nothing pointing towards him slowing down. Darling is now a five-time track champion and will be looking for a sixth title — but he will head to the track to battle some tough competition.
The list of veterans set to join Darling is led by Tom Scully Jr. and Ryan Vanasse. Arguably, both of those drivers had championship capable years in 2017, but couldn’t find a way to defeat Darling on the track. An offseason of searching speed and a strong core of a crew could definitely pave the way for both of these drivers to make a run. Both went to the winner’s circle last season and both have a shot at taking Darling off the top of his game, especially Scully, who is a recent champion. Vanasse is a former Late Model standout and champion who has made a name for himself in the Pro Stocks.
Behind them, the list of contenders includes veterans like Rick Martin, Kevin Casper, Bobby Pelland and Mike Brightman and Kyle Casper.
The Casper brothers have been to Victory Lane before, while Martin is a former multiple-time track champion and Brightman has been successful before as well.
In the middle of that group, Bobby Pelland is one driver who stands out. Pelland has a championship in the Late Models, but has yet to visit the winner’s circle in the Pro Stocks. He finished top five in the standings last season and definitely could have won the final two or three races if things would have gone his way. Look for Pelland to grab his first win during the 2018 season with a brand new car under his belt to get the campaign underway.
Another name adding his team to the mix once again will be 2015 division champion Angelo Belsito. After a few years of a part-time touring schedule, Belsito has decided the Seekonk schedule fits his team best. When he ran full-time in the past, he was the car to beat. In fact, the battle between Belsito and Darling is shaping up to be a heavyweight fight between two of the fastest Pro Stocks to visit Seekonk in the last decade.
How about a name like Fred Astle? The former champion has been successful for years at the top level of Seekonk’s Pro Stocks, but fell off a little bit last season. Can he get back to top form and jump back to the fight for the title?
The list of rookie drivers looking to chase the veterans is also something to watch going into the new year. Two-time Late Model champion Dylan Estrella is making the move to the Pro Stocks for 2018, driving a car Everett’s Auto Parts purchased from Kenny Spencer. He has been fast during an open test session, as well as the first open practice of the season.
Estrella has shown he could get the job done in the Late Models, but the Pro Stocks is a completely different game. He is joined by the likes of Jake Johnson and Austin Blais, two former successful Late Model drivers who are planning to run at least select events in 2018. Nick Johnson is also looking to make a name for himself this year, while Ryan Kuhn is expected to run at least some events.
What about Kevin Folan? Can he grab his first win? How about former winner Todd Annarummo, who is switching from modifieds and returning to Pro Stocks this year?
The 2018 Pro Stock season will see multiple 40 lap features this year, but there will also be five Tomassi Law Associates Power 5 races at a distance of 45 laps. There will also be the return of the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series, a three-race series with 65 lap feature events.