By Sam Tulley
SEEKONK, Mass. -- The NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series served up a night to remember last Saturday.
With all four divisions returning to their regularly scheduled race distances, there was surely no shortage of exceptional racing on display. From first-time winners, to split-second margins, not to mention the ever-intensifying playoff points battles, August 13, 2022 was surely a night to remember at Seekonk Speedway.
That said, let’s dive in to see where things stand in the point standings across all four divisions, and take a close look at who’s in and who’s out with just two weeks remaining before the playoff field is set. The inaugural Drive For The Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuels is set for September.
Chaz’s Auto Body Sport Trucks
The Chaz’s Auto Body Sport Trucks kicked things off Saturday evening with a feature win for the history books.
A lap two restart allowed Jake Vanada to start outside of Tom Scully III on the front row. Green flag waved, and Vanada failed to launch with gusto, allowing instant challenges from Darryl Church, Amy Arsenault, and Mike Duarte. While Vanada battled to overtake Arsenault as well as hold off a hard-charging Duarte and Barry Shaw, Scully had his hands full with Church knocking on the back door for the lead.
Over the next several laps, Duarte would storm his way to the number two spot, with Vanada following him through for third and Shaw in fourth. Approaching 10 laps to go, Vanada put it all on the line with a look to the inside of Duarte into turn three. A slight tap on Duarte’s left side rear quarter panel, followed immediately by a couple of strong knocks to the rear from Shaw caused Vanada to lose a bunch of momentum. Vanada narrowly avoided a spin and was able to settle in for fourth.
As the laps winded down, the battle at the front raged on between Scully and Duarte, but Scully kept collected and quick, emerging victorious for his first ever Sport Truck win.
The first place finish was exactly what the young driver needed to accomplish in order to build his lead over Vanada in the points standings. With the gap now back to 19 points, Scully can go into the next couple weeks with just a bit more playoff confidence. It’s up to Vanada to average 10 points a week more than Scully, which equates to finishing at least 5 spots ahead for the next two weeks, if he wants a shot at the Drive For The Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuel.
Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsman
The Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment Sportsmans went into the night boasting the thinnest margin between bubble drivers, as just 3 points separated Adam Pettey in eighth, and Tyler Almeida on the outside looking in at ninth. Colby Lambert, the next driver to the good of the bubble above Pettey, looked to pad his 23-point advantage.
The big shake up of the night however was the absence of Steve Axon, who sat sixth in points, 36 points to the good of Pettey on the bubble. Solid finishes by Almeida, Petty and Lambert would surely cause Axon to plummet in the standings.
When the green flag flew, Pettey rolled off sixth and Almeida 12th. A couple of early-race cautions would allow Almeida to eventually restart ninth. The two drivers ran nose-to-tail in sixth and seventh early on. Pettey worked quickly to put cars between him and Almedia, squashing Almeida’s hopes of erasing his deficit in the points standings. Meanwhile, polesitter Lambert led several laps early on before being overtaken by the eventual top three, Petty included.
As the laps wore on, Petty battled up front with eventual winner Chad Baxter and runner-up Scott Serydynski Jr., ultimately coming home in third, just ahead of Lambert in fourth. Tyler Almeida came home with a much better points night than one week prior, coming home in sixth.
Running through the numbers, Axon was clearly the biggest loser on the night, sliding three spots points in the standings, now sitting on the outside of the chase in ninth by seven points! Almeida assumes the bubble, now trailing Pettey by nine points and Lambert by 28 points.
While Almeida may be inside the cutoff for now, he’ll certainly have his hands full trying to best Axon the next two weeks should the former track champion be present to take the green.
Hot off the heels of the fantastic Sport Truck feature, the Seekonk Speedway Late Models stormed the third-mile for a 35-lap affair that dazzled all in attendance.
As far as the points battles in play, Paul Lallier was looking for a bounce-back performance after his 19th-place finish one week prior. When Saturday’s Late Model starting grid was finalized however, Lallier could rest assured that Josh Hedges, immediate challenger for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs, was not in attendance for competition. This means that really any points earned by Lallier on the evening would all but lock him into the top eight with just two weeks remaining after this one.
Lallier rolled off eighth and finished 11th after some heated on track battling, including an exciting three-wide moment in between Vinnie Arrenegado Jr. and Richie Murray into turn three. Coming home 11th would ordinarily not be an incredibly successful points night, but ended up being more than sufficient compared to Hedges’ goose egg for not racing. Hedges’ absence allowed Lallier to grow his lead back up to 58 points, essentially guaranteeing Lallier a ticket to the Seekonk Speedway Drive For The Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuel in September.
The Seekonk Speedway Pro Stocks capped off the thrilling night with 40 laps of competition. Kenny Spencer and Rick Martin would be looking to eek eachother out as just five points separated the two drivers sitting on either side of the playoff cutoff, Spencer with the under.
The two started on the front row. Spencer looked strong to start and was poised to buck the trend of mechanical gremlins plaguing his 2022 campaign. Anything Spencer could do to put cars between him and Martin would be a huge help in closing up the five point gap.
Early on, Spencer got exactly what he needed when Martin was spun by Colby Fournier and sent to the back of the 17-car field, leaving Spencer to restart again from the pole. Best case scenario, right?
After leading several laps off the restart, the same bad luck that found Martin would befall Spencer when a hard-charging Mike Brightman got into Spencer’s No. 0 machine, sending the two to the rear of the field. Now Spencer would have to restart from the tail of the field! This set up for some interesting hard-charging to brew over the course of the remaining laps.
The race found itself in a long green flag stretch after an early spin by Tommy Adams brought on by a battle with Dave Darling for the lead. Martin and Spencer were joined by Brightman, Fournier, Adams, and Daryl Stampfl mid-pack as they sliced and diced for the remainder of the feature.
Martin and Spencer found themselves nose-to-tail as laps ran out, and leader Dave Darling was quickly closing up on the rear nearly a lap ahead. Martin and Spencer remained on the lead lap and battled to the end, with Martin finishing just ahead in 11th, and Spencer in 12th.
Advantage to Martin as his performance on the night earned him just one more point than Spencer’s, growing the gap to six points for that final seat in the playoffs.
Saturday’s display of racing surely produced one for the memory scrapbooks, yet with playoffs just around the corner, things are only just beginning to heat up. Three of our four divisions still have a playoff spot that is very much up for grabs, and major points can be gained or lost in the blink of an eye in the next two weeks.
See for yourself who will punch their ticket to the first ever Seekonk Speedway Drive For The Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuel. The battle continues this Saturday, August 20 at. 6:00PM.
For tickets and more information on Seekonk Speedway, visit seekonkspeedway.com.
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