When the green flag drops on the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Seekonk Speedway Pro Stock season on Sunday, May 1, it’s a safe bet to say that most of the storylines will be on David Darling.
The eight-time Pro Stock champion made Seekonk history last year — becoming the first driver to win eight titles in the 75-year history of racing — and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Everyone knows the story — fast car, strong crew, great driver — and all of those pieces together have allowed him to smash through the competition for many years. But, is there anyone who could be there to try to take him off the top in 2022? With a new points system in place, the Drive 4 For the Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuels, drivers will have their best chance in many years to knock him down.
The playoff system will be three races in September, where the field will be cut from 8 drivers, to 6, down to the final 4. In that final championship race, the driver that bests the other three in the feature will be the champion. Does his favor Darling, who wins so often every year, or someone else, who can defeat him in one race? Will he even make the final four? There are multiple drivers looking to knock him down.
You have to look first at a few former track champions looking to make their mark. Tom Scully Jr., a former Pro Stock champion, comes to mind. Scully has been there to race with Darling for many years, and always finds his way to the front of the point standings by the end of the year. In this new format, all he needs to do is make the final four to have a shot. Can he be the one to win that finale and take the crown back?
Surely the fan favorite, Rick Martin is up near the top of the list. Coming off a historic year where he won his 100th race in dramatic fashion by inches over Scully, Martin is looking to become a threat for the title this year. In the familiar No. 14, Martin will be looking to get into the final four and drive his guts out with hopes of hoisting another track title.
How about Ryan Vanasse? Mike Brightman? Ryan Lineham? Kenny Spencer? Colbey Fournier? Mark Jenison?
All of these drivers will have a shot. Vanasse, refreshed after a year of a partial schedule, will drive the No. 11 and look to become a Pro Stock champion. He is no stranger to the front of the points battle — as a former Late Model champ — and he’s been to Victory Lane in the Pro Stocks before. Could 2022 be the year the Rocket blasts to the front of the title battle?
Mike Brightman went back to Victory Lane in the last few years and seems to have a re-energized kick in his step. That familiar No. 27 — also a former track Late Model champion -- has been there week in, and week out, for so many years. Will a fresh start to the 2022 season mean he could be the one?
Kenny Spencer and Colbey Fournier, working out of the same shop, are looking to rebound in the new year. Last year wasn’t the one either of them wanted — but for Spencer — a former track champion — and Fournier — a former Pro Stock winner and Modified regular — does the new format fit them best? Consistency should get them into the first round of the playoffs, then, the game is on. All it takes is a few strong runs to make the final four, and be in contention.
Mark Jenison is a former Seekonk Late Model winner, looking for his first Pro Stock checkered flag, and that is surely on the top of his goals list for the new year. Ryan Lineham, registered to drive for Richard Sprague again in the No. 10, seems to always be there when it matters most. He was inside the top-three so many times in 2021, just couldn’t grab that checkered flag. Can he do it this year?
Names like former Fast Friday regular Dave Simpson, Bob Hussey, Billy Joeress, Daryl Stampfl and Mark Henshaw Jr. are also expected to compete. Dylan Estrella, a former regular, will scale back to a part-time schedule, along with former track Late Model champion Ryan Kuhn.
But there are two other names, both former Late Model champions, to watch: Bobby Pelland and Tommy Adams. Pelland went to Victory Lane last year in his return to Seekonk on a part-time schedule, and we will find out how many races he runs this year. Will a consistent schedule get him into the playoffs to chase his first Pro Stock title?
And how about Tommy Adams? It was just a few years ago he won the Late Model title, then took some time off. Now, he’s got a new car on order, and it appears this former Seekonk standout will look to grab wins at the top level. Are there other drivers we are missing who will show up to battle?
The Pro Stocks will have regular 40 lap feature races, along with the three events in the Everett’s Auto Parts Triple Crown Series, set for 60 laps each. The American Racer Pro Stock 75 also returns this season.
The Pro Stock season opens on Sunday, May 1 at 2PM, along with the other three Seekonk Speedway NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series divisions. Tickets are available in advance online at SeekonkSpeedway.com and will also be available at the gate on race day.
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