SEEKONK, Mass. — Story by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Seekonk Speedway photo —
The 2014 Seekonk Speedway Pro Stock field was one of the best the track has seen in recent memory.
Before the season started, multiple different drivers were thrown into the hat as possibilities to win the track championship, but obviously only one of those could come out on top. Here, we take a look back at each step on that journey to the season-long title.
Opening Day 2014: May 4th
Rookie contender Angelo Belsito was fastest in time trials to start the afternoon and ended up carrying the checkers at feature’s end. Dave Darling and Freddy Astle were racing for the lead when Astle spun on lap 35, sending both of them to the tail of the pack. Belsito was able to hold off a charge from Ryan Vanasse to the checkers, but was not able to pass the post-race technical inspection — handing the win to the Rocket. Vannasse set the stage right away that he would be a season-long threat.
Race Two: May 10th
Mike Brightman held off a late charge from Dave Darling to grab his first win of 2014 on May 10th. Brightman and Rick Martin brought the field down to the green flag but Brightman was immediately able to pull away. He put a few car lengths in-between he and new second place driver Dick Houlihan. Brightman led all of the 40-lap feature and beat out Darling to the finish. The racing throughout the field was hot and heavy and the close-contact action made for a great battle right to the finish.
Race Three: May 17th
Week Three saw heartbreak for Kyle Casper. Casper and Rick Martin battled hard for the lead for the better part of the first half of the race, until Casper slid around and set his own pace. It seemed that Kyle had the race won until a late race collection of caution flags changed the story. Casper was forced to settle for second when David Darling used the outside lane to grab the lead on lap 37. However, Casper also fell victim to post-race technical inspection, handing the second spot to Rick Martin.
Race Four: May 24th
David Darling took his #52 Johnson’s Landscaping ride to Everett’s Auto Parts Victory Lane for the second straight week on May 24th. Ryan Lineham and Kevin Casper were at the front for the first half of the race after starting on the front row, and held their own after Freddy Astle and Mike Brightman slid by to the top two spots. The crucial turning point in the race was on lap 37 when Astle and Brightman made contact, sending Astle spinning and Brightman to the rear for the assist. Darling was able to cruise on by and to the win with Kevin Casper second and Lineham finishing third.
Race Five: May 31st
After a tough few weeks with finishes in the back due to problems, Tom Scully Jr. sat in Victory Lane when the fifth race was over. Scully rolled from the pole position and became the second driver during the season to lead all 40 laps and win from the pole, joining Mike Brightman. Scully held off challenges from Ryan Lineham early and Ryan Vannasse and Mike Brightman late.
Race Six: June 14th
After a week off for the Valenti Modified Racing Series coming to town, Ryan Lineham drove the Linblad Chassis #48 Pro Stock into Victory Lane for the first time in many years at Seekonk. Right from the drop of the green flag, the race saw Lineham and Freddy Astle go toe-to-toe. Astle had driven that same #48 for years and it was a dream for Lineham to battle with Fred to the finish of a feature. They traded the lead back and fourth multiple times until Astle’s car had a mechanical failure and was forced to the pits. Lineham grabbed the checkers, with Joe Kohler jumping up for second spot.
Race Seven: June 21st
The Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series 65-lapper for the Pro Stocks headlined the night on June 21st and saw Fred Astle grab revenge. Astle started from the pole and lead all 65 laps in route to his first win of the season. The first half of the race went completely under the green flag save for a minor incident between Tommy Ellis and Dave Darling. Astle was able to put a large gap on the rest of the field for much of the race until a late race caution closed the field up and set up a green-white-checkered finish. Astle rolled the bottom grove and outran Mike Brightman and Kevin Casper to the checkers.
Race Eight: June 28th
Continuing a trend of classic finishes in 2014, Ryan Vanasse and David Darling put on a show in late June. They gapped the rest of the field by a few seconds and traded the lead back and forth for the better part of the feature event. Darling started fifth and got to the lead before Vanasse, but Ryan rolled the inside on by Darling on lap 21 and lead the rest of the way for the win with Darling close in his tracks. Much like earlier in the season, Vanasse fell victim to post-race technical inspection and it handed Darling another win. Freddy Astle was able to rebound and finished second.
Race Nine: July 12th
Freddy Astle found himself in Everett’s Auto Parts Victory Lane in mid-July for the second time in 2014. Astle started mid-pack but quickly found himself cutting through traffic and taking over the lead on lap 23. Astle inherited the lead when Ryan Vanasse and Craig Weinstein made contact, sending both of them to the tail of the field. Astle did not go unchallenged however, since Dave Darling was right there on his bumper to the finish. Darling tried every move possible but came up short, finishing second. Ryan Lineham, Kyle Casper and Bobby Pelland III completed the top five.
Race Ten: July 19th
The second Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series 65 lap feature saw Tom Scully Jr. collect his second victory of the 2014 campaign. Scully once again rolled near the front of the pack after struggling for the two weeks prior and took over the lead quickly on lap three from Kenny Spencer. Scully burned his tires up just past the halfway point getting everything he could out of the car, but Kenny Spencer could not take advantage. He tried a bump coming to the checkers, but was forced to settle for second. Mike Brightman was a solid third, with Angelo Belsito and Craig Weinstein completing the top five.
Race Eleven: July 26th
Angelo Belsito officially collected his first Pro Stock win in late July after cutting through traffic and hanging on late. Belsito used the outside lane to come from seventh starting spot to the front, but it was not easy once he got there. Belsito slid under leader Kevin Folan on lap 34, but was chopped off and sent sideways coming off turn four. Somehow Belsito hung on, kept driving straight and took the lead over from Folan off turn four the next lap. Folan tried a bump and run but came up short. He ended up making contact with David Darling coming to the white flag which sent both of them backwards. Craig Weinstein climbed to second at the finish, with Ryan Vanasse, Kenny Spencer and Rick Martin completing the top five.
Race Twelve: August 9th
After Mother Nature cancelled the August 2nd show, the Pro Stocks resumed action in August with David Darling winning round three of the Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series. Darling dominated the second half of the main event after taking the lead from Tom Scully Sr. on lap 30. A late-race caution coming from contact between Scully Sr. and Craig Weinstein bunched the field up once again, but Darling drove away to his fourth victory of the season. Ryan Vannasse came up short with his efforts and finished second, with Tom Scully Jr finishing third. Mike Brightman clinched the 2014 Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series title with a fourth place finish.
Race Thirteen: August 23rd
Angelo Beslito grabbed his second career Pro Stock checkered flag in late August after showing everyone how to use the outside lane coming through the field. Belsito climbed from his ninth place starting spot up on the outside lane and sliced his way to the lead in only 19 laps. He drove away from the rest of the field in a fast-paced feature event. Kenny Spencer hung on to finish second, with Tom Sully Jr., David Darling and Mike Brightman completing the top five.
Race Fourteen: August 30th
David Darling grabbed his fifth checkered flag of 2014 on the final Saturday night in August in a race that saw multiple yellow flags. Coming off turn four to complete lap one Bobby Pelland III spun in front of the field after contact and collected multiple cars who went smashing into the outside wall. Kyle Casper, Angelo Belsito and Kevin Folan were all sidelined for the remainder of the night. Once the race got back underway Darling charged to the front and drove by Dick Houlihan in route to another win. He gapped the field by over a second at the feature’s finish, with Mike Brightman climbing up and finishing in second spot.
Race Fifteen: September 6th
Rookie contender Angelo Belsito nabbed the checkers once again in the first race of September. Dick Houlihan and Kyle Casper brought the field to green but Casper went sliding backwards on the outside. Belsito came quickly through the field and easily moved by Dick Houlihan and Ryan Lineham just past the halfway point before driving away with the win, making it known he will be a force in 2015. Houlihan and Lineham settled for second and third, with Mike Brightman and Tom Scully Jr. rounding out the top five.
Race Sixteen: September 20th
Ryan Vannasse capped off the Pro Stock season just how it started back in May, carrying the checkers. Bob Hussey and Kyle Casper brought the field to green but before they could get a lap in Hussey over-drove turn three and sent Casper into the outside wall. Once the smoke cleared, Vanasse and Tom Scully Jr. battled right to the wire with Vanasse edging him at the stripe on lap 40. Kenny Spencer finished in third spot and collected the 2014 Pro Stock track championship.
Even though David Darling had a division-high five wins and a division-best average finish of 5.56, Spencer was the one who was crowned champion. Darling’s struggles in the double point features cost him a shot at season’s end. It was Spencer’s first career Pro Stock championship.
Most Feature Wins in 2014: David Darling (5)
Most Laps Led: Freddy Astle (130)
Best Plus/Minus Positions Gained: Angelo Belsito (+68)
Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series Champion: Mike Brightman
Overall Points Champion: Kenny Spencer
A huge thanks to Phil’s Propane of Tiverton, Rhode Island, who sponsored the 2014 Phil’s Propane Triple Crown Series and will continue the sponsorship in 2015!
For more information on the Seekonk Speedway, visit www.seekonkspeedway.com.