by Kyle Souza
The 2018 Seekonk Speedway Pro Stock season is shaping up to be a battle of the rookies against the veterans.
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 against some tough competition.
The list of veterans that 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. An offseason of searching speed and a strong core of a crew could definitely pave the way for both of these drivers. They both went to the winner’s circle last season and both have a shot at taking Darling off the top of his game.
Behind them, the list of contenders includes veterans like Rick Martin, Kyle Casper, Kevin Casper, Bobby Pelland and Mike Brightman. The Casper brothers have been to Victory Lane before, with Kyle winning his first feature last year. Martin is a former multiple-time track champion, while 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.
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. Can he return to dominance?
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?
The list of rookie drivers looking to chase the veterans is also something to watch. 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.
Estrella has shown he could get the job done in the Late Models, but the Pro Stocks is a completely different game. Can he score his first win in his rookie season? 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.
What about Kevin Folan? Can he grab his first win? Does veteran Dick Houlihan return for another season? Does someone else rise to the top of the class?
The 2018 Pro Stock season will see multiple 40 lap features. However, they will also include some extra distance events. There will be five, Propane Plus Power 5 races at 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.