SEEKONK, Mass. — Coming into the 2017 Pro Stock season, Tom Scully Jr. is at the top of the list when it comes to championship favorites. Last year, Scully finally was able to capture his first title in a consistent season while he captured some victories along the way.
The plans for the West Warwick, R.I. driver are fairly simple — he wants to collect back-to-back crowns in Seekonk’s toughest class. However, it’s not going to be an easy task for the veteran.
With a field of fellow veterans breathing down his neck, Scully will have to be on top of his game for the entire season if he wants to duplicate last year. The list of challengers for him begins with Angelo Belsito, the 2015 division champion that came onto the scene in April of 2014. Since then, Belsito has captured more than a handful of wins and has been the car to beat many Saturday night’s at the track. From Auburn, Mass., Belsito and Scully have been the drivers that have dueled it out for the title the last two years. In 2015, it was Belsito holding him off on the final night of the season. Last year, it was Scully clinching the crown while pulling away from Belsito in the final few weeks.
Hot on their tail, six-time Pro Stock champion Fred Astle is returning to action with Everett’s Auto Parts in his No. 30. Astle, who went to victory lane a few times in 2016, has been one of the top contenders in the division for a few decades. Despite not winning the Track Title in 2016, Astle won the NASCAR State Title narrowing outpacing Scully Jr. His partnership with Everett’s Auto Parts has helped him keep his career alive and he has not lost a step to the young guns the division has to offer. Winning is a must for Astle.
David Darling, a four-time champion of the class, returns with Johnson’s Landscaping and his No. 52 team for another run at the crown. After struggling at the start of last season, Darling came on strong in the final months and was a challenger for consistent top five finishes and wins. Although his last title came in 2013, Darling has finished inside the top five in the point standings every season since. Expect him to be right back inside the top five in the final championship tally.
After years of consistent point standings finishes, it is finally time for Mike Brightman to rise to the top? The Acushnet, Mass. driver finished fourth in the standings last year without visiting victory lane, but finished inside the top five plenty of times. The former Late Model champion has been looking over his daughter Emily as she begins her adventure behind the wheel, but has also been able to produce one of the top cars in Seekonk’s toughest class.
The Casper brothers are set to return for another season as well. Kevin will be back with Phil’s Propane, the proud supporter of the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series at the Action Track of the East. Kevin visited victory lane in 2016 in route to his 10th place finish in the championship standings. His brother Kyle, who has a new car for the 2017 season, is still searching that first career division victory. Both drivers will be back with a vengeance in hopes of capturing their first career championships at the highest level Seekonk has to offer.
Team V Racing, which has been a staple at Seekonk for years, is returning to action once again with two top cars. Former Late Model champions Bobby Pelland III and Ryan Vanasse are back and ready for action. Pelland had his best season in a Pro Stock yet last year, finishing ninth in the championship standings and coming close to visiting victory lane. Vannase had an off year, missing some races after being involved in a crash that destroyed his No. 11 Ocean State Oil machine. While Pelland looks to capture his first win and ride his momentum, Vanasse looks to rebound.
Former champion Rick Martin will be back for another year in his No. 14, while Ryan Lineham makes a return with famed car owner Rollie Lindblad in No. 48. Rookie contenders for this season include Nick Johnson, who is entered behind the wheel of No. 6 after winning in the Late Models last season. Other expected entries for the season include Kevin Folan, former champion Dick Houlihan, Bob Hussey, Danny Cabral and many others.
What will define the 2017 Pro Stock season?
CREDIT: Seekonk Speedway/Kyle Souza