Tom Scully, Jr. and Ryan Lineham waged an extended battle at the front of the field to kick off the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown event for Pro Stocks. But it was an extended feature, going an extra 25 laps beyond the normal forty. When an extra lap race comes up, thoughts turn to Dave Darling. This season, people have been thinking more often as it seems hard for the competition to keep the six-time champion out of victory lane.
This week, Darling started twelfth, He seemed to take his time sorting his way through the field toward the front, and arrived in the lead on lap 46, spoiling Scully’s extensive run at the front – 41 of the 65 laps. Scully was by no means finished at this point. These days, however, it’s a big night to say that you made it so; that Darling didn’t win as usual.
The drama wasn’t finished on the evening by any means. Last week’s victor, Dylan Estrella had started three cars back of Dave D, and had been avidly pursuing him through the field. He roared up into second to take a shot but Darling was too far ahead and there were too few laps.
The Rocket – Ryan Vanasse – was feeling out a new car on the evening. He figured it out soon enough to sit in third, laps four through twenty-seven. He was back to fourth through the middle of the feature, then back to fifth, but maneuvered his way back to third for the checkers.
But Darling was in Victory Lane at the end, and Estrella had claimed second just ahead of Vanasse. Scully and Fred Astle rounded out the top five, but Astle was found wanting during tech inspection and Ryan Kuhn was elevated to the number five spot.
It took two tries to get the field started by Lineham came off the pole door-to-door with Scully, Jr. then took the lead in turn two. Vanasse got underneath and into third from starting fifth. At the end of lap one, it was Lineham, Scully and The Rocket working under Radical Rick Martin. Martin went to third and behind Vanasse, Kuhn was door-to-door with Kevin Casper.
The field had quickly strung itself out and there were some high-speed laps until Austin Blais got under Astle for the pass and Darling was waiting to see the results while sitting on their back bumpers. Kuhn went to fifth. At the same time, Scully dropped under Lineham and into the lead. Lineham tired to reply with a drop-under move but Scully anticipated and kept the door closed. Vanasse moved into third.
But Lineham wasn’t going away and was all over Scully’s bumper. Vanasse was surveying the battle with Martin behind him, followed by Kuhn, Blais and Darling. Dave snugged up on Austin’s bumper then looked underneath. They were side-by-side and Darling surged ahead. Astle took his place underneath and then seized the position. Blais was stuck on the outside as now Estrella came high-balling underneath.
The single file field took some more fast, single-file laps until Estrella nosed under Astle and went to sixth on lap 19. Darling then passed Kuhn into fifth.
Now Darling challenged Martin for position. He locked it up on lap 25 and began to reel in Vanasse. Lap 27 and Scully continued to lead Lineham followed by Vanasse, Darling, Martin and Kuhn. Estrella was leading Astle up behind Kuhn as /Blais pursued Fast Fred.
Estrella now surged ahead, and was past Martin into fifth. He got onto Vanasse’ s bumper then went underneath and claimed Fifth. Thirty-five laps remained.
Darling had third and was looking over Lineham and Estrella was looking over a twenty-car gap to Darling. Both were concocting strategies. Vanasse wanted his position back and Astle, Martin, Blais and Kuhn were running close together, watching ahead.
Blais put Martin between him and Kuhn while Astle deprived Lineham of second. With 29 to go, Darling was staring across 25 carlengths of empty track to Scully. Estrella came around Lineham as Ted Urquhart took a glancing blow against the wall but continued. Darling was closing the gap. By lap 43 he was just five cars back. There was a straightaway back to Estrella who was being pursued by Lineham. He was at Tom’s bumper with 20 laps remaining then went under to claim the lead after a bit of wheel-to-wheel. He began building a lead.
Shortly there was contact which sent Estrella across the grass in turn four, but he continued to run onto the track as the yellow came out. In the lap nine restart, he was alongside Darling headed for the green. Scully and Vanasse followed with Astle and Kuhn in row three.
Dave grabbed the lead again coming through turn two and Estrella dropped in while Scully and Vanasse dueled for third. Vanasse won out and captured third while Astle, Kuhn, Lineham and Martin kept pace.
Darling pulled out to a three car lead as the field again went single file. Estrella continued at flank speed and Vanasse kept pace ahead of Scully.
The final pass of the race saw Casper duck under Martin into ninth and Bobby Pelland III followed him through with three to go. Three fast circuits and Darling was charging under the checkers with Estrella grabbing second. Vanasse, Scully and Kuhn rounded out the top five. Lineham ran in sixth and Mighty Mike Brightman, Casper Pelland and Martin completed the top ten.