With eight-time track champion Dave Darling not committing to running a full-time Pro Stock slate at Seekonk Speedway in 2023, the championship battle appears to be wide open. Heading into the second year of the Drive For The Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuel, if we learned anything in 2022, anything can happen. And with a strong contingent of drivers expected to battle for glory during the season, the champion in 2023 will have gone through a lot to hold the trophy high in the air on September 30.
Darling – who has dominated most of the last decade in the division – says he isn’t planning on running all of the races. How many will he run? It all depends, and it’s unknown exactly. Will he run enough to make the playoffs and contend for the title? Will he miss the playoffs all together and leave the door wide open for someone to slide in?
Mark Jenison picked up his first career Pro Stock title last year, scoring the big win on the final night of the Drive For The Cup, also capturing the Late Model title on the same night. Jenison is coming back to the Pro Stocks in 2023 – looking for a repeat – and with the speed the car had late in the season last year, look out for Mark to be a factor all year.
The next contingent of drivers looking to compete with Jenison includes calculated veterans who know how to get the job done. Former track champions Tom Scully Jr., Mike Brightman, Ryan Lineham, Bobby Pelland III, Rick Martin, Dylan Estrella, Tommy Adams and Kevin Casper are all registered and intend to race. Not all of these drivers are Pro Stock champions – but some are – and all of them have at least one championship in a NASCAR Saturday division.
In the case of Radical Rick Martin, a few championships later, he’s coming back to the Pro Stocks with a point to prove in 2023. Last year, he made the Final Four drivers, and won the Sport Truck title. Can the 2023 season mark yet another Pro Stock title for him? What about Tom Scully Jr? Last year was certainly up and down for him, with the big win a week after the sudden passing of Tom Scully Sr., and a Final Four appearance. If Scully decides to run the full calendar and races with the same speed and tenacity we are used to from him, look out for a run at a second track title.
Brightman was arguably one of Darling’s closest contenders throughout most of the 2022 season – beating him in a Triple Crown race, winning multiple other times, and making the finals with a shot at the title. Brightman has made it clear during the winter his goals are to win the Pro Stock championship in 2023. If the speed returns in the No. 27, it should be an achievable goal if the cards fall correctly.
Ryan Lineham, Bobby Pelland and Dylan Estrella are all former Late Model champions, entering this season with a bit of different recent backgrounds. Lineham is coming off a mixed slate in the Sportsman and Pro Stocks last year, and has registered to do battle in the Pro Stocks again in 2023. Pelland ran the full schedule last year, winning a race, and just missing the Final Four. Estrella, coming off a year touring with the Granite State Pro Stock Series, is returning to his home roots looking to bring Everett’s Auto Parts back to the top in the leading Seekonk division. Watch out for all three of these impressive contenders to be threats for wins all year, and a major threat for the title if they can make the Final Four.
Former Seekonk Sport Truck champion Kevin Casper intends to return to Seekonk this season as well in the Phil’s Propane No. 88. Casper may have taken some time off from Seekonk and did some touring himself, but look out for the team to be up to speed quickly.
Tommy Adams is another former Seekonk Late Model champion who won his first Pro Stock race in 2022. The speed under the hood of the 56 in the Pro Stocks was great last year and he will be a threat going into a new season. He will be joined by the likes of teammates Colbey Fournier and Kenny Spencer. Fournier ended last year in Victory Lane in the finale, while Spencer struggled in the No. 0 as a former track champion himself.
Other contenders include Daryl Stampfl, a veteran of racing, Ryan Souliere, a newcomer to the division last year, former Sport Truck regular Kenneth Lavallee, Rookie contender and former Pure Stock winner Mike Rotondo driving the famed Rollie Lindblad No. 48 and many more. Look out for Late Model driver Jeramee Lillie to also compete more in the Pro Stocks in 2023.
Names like Ryan Vanasse (former Late Model champion, planning a partial schedule), Danny Thibeault, Billy Joerres and others will also be names to watch entering the 2023 campaign.
The Pro Stocks will open their 2023 season on Sunday, May 7, as part of Seekonk Speedway’s 78th season opening weekend. On Saturday, May 6, the annual Car Show & Go returns to the Action Track of the East, while opening day roars the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series divisions to life at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 7. Tickets for opening day and all Seekonk Speedway 2023 events are available today at SeekonkSpeedway.com.
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