SEEKONK, Mass. -- The first ever Seekonk Speedway Drive for the Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuels kicked off this past Friday with five exciting knockout bouts, each with a field of playoff hopefuls digging deep to keep their championship drives alive.
Let’s take a look at how the racing on September 9 unfolded and review who’s in and who’s out of the Drive For The Cup as we head for the final two rounds.
SEEKONK GRAND PRIX BANDOLERO BANDITS
Of the six drivers earning a seat at the table for the playoffs in the Bandits, just five were present for competition last week. Darren Krantz Jr., the regular season win leader, did not attend Round One of the playoffs, automatically ousting himself and his No. 31 Bandit out of championship contention.
With just one driver per week being dropped in the playoffs for each of the Bandolero divisions, the five remaining playoff drivers could grid up at ease, knowing they would all survive and advance to Round Two.
The automatic bye didn’t change the mentality at all for Milania Shilosky, however. Shilosky stormed off to snatch the lead from Bryson Robidoux with an outside pass on Lap 4 and never looked back. Despite a few cautions throughout the 15-lapper, Shilosky rolled onto pick up another feature win and sailed through to Round Two in the process.
Ryan Vanasse Jr. battled hard early with his cousin and fellow playoff driver Collin, and steered his No. 11 machine out of harm's way, as he came home second behind Shilosky. Behind Vanasse Jr., Nick Uhrig Jr. drag raced with Bryson Robidoux to the checkers, coming up just short, finishing the night in fourth. Sam Macedo held it together despite an early race incident with Parker Davis, and continued on to finish seventh. Fifth out of the playoff drivers was Collin Vanasse, who got caught up with Allyha DeSomma on the final lap, eventually being scored ninth overall.
With Krantz out early, will Shilosky continue to rack up the wins? Can Ryan Vannase Jr. get his name to the top of the pilon again? Or will Macedo, Collin Vanasse or Uhrig Jr. strike true when it matters most in Round Two this Friday night?
SEEKONK GRAND PRIX BANDOLERO OUTLAWS
The new Drive for the Cup format dealt its first major dose of Upset City once the Bandolero Outlaws took the stage.
Playoff favorite Chase Silvia gridded up fourth and was challenging for the lead soon after the drop of the green flag. By Lap 2, Silvia had the inside position on Brent Robidoux for the lead, and then one lap later, disaster struck.
Unwinding off Turn 2 on Lap 3, Silvia’s Outlaw stepped out just enough for him to get into Robidoux on the outside, sending the two sliding and Silvia spinning. At that moment, Silvia’s playoff hopes began to walk a tightrope.
Brent Robidoux and Bradley Strickland inherited the front row on the next restart, and had Adam Harrison, Andrew Gomes, and Joey Lemay hot on their heels. All five drivers clamored their way forward, distancing themselves from Silvia to secure their spot in the next round. With laps winding down, Silvia’s early contact clearly cost him speed, and ultimately, a spot in Round Two of the Drive for the Cup.
Bradley Strickland crossed the checkers first, followed closely by Andrew Gomes, and Adam Harrison rounded out the top three, with Brent Robidoux coming home fourth. Lemay scored sixth overall, but more importantly, fifth out of the six playoff drivers, sending himself to Round Two, with Silvia eliminated.
EVERETT’S AUTO PARTS SPORT 4’S
Drama unfolded for two Sport Four playoff contenders early in the evening, as both Tyler Duhancik and Justin Leduc were faced with adversity during practice.
Duhancik’s No. 48 machine found itself on the tow hook after an incident tore up the right rear end of the car, incapacitating the vehicle for the rest of the evening. Come post time, Duhanick had found himself a backup ride in Mikey LeFort’s No. 19, breathing life back into his playoff run.
Leduc on the other hand was not so fortunate, and missed the feature, ultimately being cut from the Drive for the Cup.
With Leduc’s DNS (Did Not Start), that means just one more driver would be evicted from the playoffs in the feature. The first driver to land in the hot seat was Taylor Bowser, as she dealt with a Lap 1 spin and restarted at the rear. Next was Duhancik, as he had issues getting a handle on his new ride early on and restarted from the rear soon after.
Spins are easy enough to recover from, as Duhancik and Bowser would ride on to secure their shot at the Cup in Round Two. Wrecks, however, can be detrimental. Unfortunately for playoff driver Dan Hayes, this was the case after being involved in a Lap 2 pile up including Jacob Budznya, Sam Mattera, and Matt Pion – playoff driver Stephanie Breneau checked up just enough to narrowly escape.
Hayes’ wreck prematurely paved the end of his playoff road. With just six playoff drivers running, Round Two for the playoffs was immediately set.
Playoff driver Henry Lavallee took down his second win of the season, successfully fending off Crystal Murray, who finished second. Duhancik came home fourth, followed by Jarrod Freitas fifth – both ahead of the cut line and into the next round. Bowser recovered nicely to finish eighth overall, and Stephanie Breuneau, while exiting early on Lap 11, claimed the sixth and final Round Two berth, having completed nine more laps than Hayes.
HELGER’S SOUTH COAST POWER EQUIPMENT PURE STOCKS
The Pure Stock division was not without its own pre-race drama! Co-points leader Sam Lincoln blew the rear end in his No. 34 machine prior to post time. Thanks to donor Josh Badach and his No. 88 car, a swarm of Pure Stock drivers and teammates went to work swapping rear ends, and finished the job successfully minutes before the call to pre-grid, keeping his playoff run alive.
Seven out of eight playoff drivers were in attendance Friday, with Jordan Threlfal being the odd man out, attending his wedding. Seven contenders took the green, and the last to cross the finish line would be eliminated.
The score was settled well before checkers waved, however, as Mike Rotundo was forced to retire his No. 12 Pure Stock due to mechanical failure on Lap 7.
So just like that, our playoff field for Round Two was set. Doesn’t mean these drivers weren’t still going to give it their all to try and win the night now, does it?
Lincoln jumped out front early and led just about every lap then on, but it was Greg Perry who led the one that mattered most.
Perry started 10th - furthest back out of his fellow playoff challengers - and raced his way up to fourth in time for a Lap 7 restart. Perry restarted on Lincoln’s bumper late after battling fiercely with Mike Henriques, Jim Reilly, Danny Massa, Nick Brightman and Jeremy Lambert. In a 10-lap shootout, Perry chased down Lincoln, with Henriques hanging on the outside. As grip faded for the No. 34, Perry made his move to the inside at the wave of the white flag, and when they came back around, it was Perry in the lead by a frame rail.
A fantastic race between a group of great friends, considering one of the cars was in pieces moments before. Watch for things to heat up in this division as next week we cut our six playoff drivers down to our Final Four this week.
NICK’S PIT STOP LEGENDS CARS
It was anyone’s guess who the last two playoff drivers to cross the finish line would be when the Legends rolled out. In fact, the Legends division was the only eight-driver playoff field to have all eight drivers start and finish the race on Friday. And boy, did the battle come down to the wire.
Fast forward to just under half distance to go: Nick Bulkeley on the inside and Devin Deshaies on the outside battling for the lead. As the playoff drivers were running, Mason Tessier and Josh Parsons sat in the dreaded cut zone. With the leaders rounding Turn 4, Deshaies and Bulkeley came together, sending Bulkeley into a spin! Caution was out, Bulkeley sent to the rear.
On the ensuing restart, new leader Deshaies fired off, yet found himself spinning and facing backwards before even taking the green. Caution again!
Just like that, Bulkeley and Deshaies shuffled back into the drop zone, with Tessier and Parsons now safe, but driving for their lives.
Back under green, Deshaies mounted a charge from the rear, not wasting any chances to pass his way towards the front. Hard battling with Richie Helger Jr. resulted in a spin for the Helger machine, bringing out the caution. With six laps to go, all eight playoff drivers lined up nose to tail, wheel to wheel, four rows deep, from third to tenth.
This finish would not be boring.
Green waved and Tessier hung on the outside for dear life as Bulkeley and Deshaies began to slide by. Further ahead coming to the white flag, playoff driver Reese Bogue shuffled up the track, allowing Parsons to work on the inside - with Bulkeley in tow! Playoff driver Brendon Hammann was to his outside, biding his time. Rounding Turn 2 for the final time, Bulkeley tried sticking the inside on Bogue with all his might, but around he went! Playoff hopes for a spinning Bulkeley dashed in an instant. Hammann, Deshaies, and Tessier sped on by, drag racing to the checkered.
Coming off Turn 4, Tessier remained last in the line, and he too, was eliminated from playoff contention.
P.J. Evans went on to take the checkered for his first win of the season, Isaiah Newcomb and Brandon LaBalle rounding out the top three. Jake Silvia crossed the line forth, with Parsons, Bogue, Hammann, and Deshaies following in order.
Round One of the Fast Friday playoffs had it all, from stunning upsets, to nail-biting battles at the drop zone. As the playoff field continues to pare down, the intensity is sure to spike.
Make sure you take your front row seat to the thrilling action when it all kicks off this Friday, September 16 at 7:00 P.M. You are not going to want to miss this.
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