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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Late in the 2015 Seekonk Speedway Pro Stock season, Tom Scully Jr. was in the middle of an intense championship battle with young rising star Angelo Belsito.
After a fight right down to the final laps, he came up short of winning the championship. But it was nothing that Scully wasn't used to. For the better part of the past decade, he had felt the same frustration each year.
In 2008, he came just two positions away from defeating Fred Astle Jr. for the title and ever since then, it seemed as though a championship was just a fleeting dream that would never actually be within his grasp.
But in 2016, it finally all came together for the West Warwick, Rhode Island, driver. The 36-year-old only had to roll onto the track and take the green flag for the season finale to hoist the trophy as champion for the first time in his career. In a competitive Pro Stock class, Scully scored two feature wins during the course of the season.
Just before the season started, Scully teamed up with Don Parsons and Anytime Realty as primary sponsor, with the first-year combination producing a title together by season's end.
"It gave the whole team a different look this year," Scully said. "Color-wise and how we approached things was kind of different. We had a new car this year and it was like a brand new beginning. With the same people, they all just needed a refresh."
Everything almost went away on Aug. 20, when Scully was running inside the top five and contact between his car and another sent him hard into the outside wall and destroyed his No. 2 Anytime Realty car. The team sent the car to Jeff Taylor at Distance Racing Chassis right away, hoping to get it fixed for the following week.
"We lost the point lead that night and at that point we didn't really know what was going to go on," Scully Jr. said. "We didn't know if Jeff was going to be able to take the car in and we were pretty stunned with the whole thing. Luckily, he took the car and we worked every single night up until 2 a.m. to work on it and get it ready."
The following Saturday night, in a double-points 65-lap feature race, Scully Jr. took the same car that had been destroyed a week prior and parked it in victory lane. After battling David Darling for the final half of the race, Scully had just enough to hold him off and score the win in the extra-distance main. The win gave him back the points lead and from there, he never looked back.
Over the final few weeks of the season, it was all about getting top five finishes and just doing enough to hold the championship advantage he had. The last thing Scully wanted to do was put himself in a position to give it away.
"(Our) consistency has always been there, it was usually just those one or two bad nights before this year," Scully added. "You're going against a lot of veterans, a lot of champions and a lot of upcoming drivers. I've been trying to win championships and hadn't because of Fred Astle and David Darling for years ... they have been the roadblock. I've been right with them, but I hadn't been able to take the title because they were more consistent in other years."
As Scully looks ahead towards the 2017 racing season that is already approaching, the goal is the same it always was -- win races and chase the title. He will be returning to the division full-time and going for a second straight crown.
But for now, the celebration of the 2016 championship is on. Over the last few years, his mom Debra has been fighting illness and the team has rallied behind her. They have made racing more about the enjoyment of being at the track together and have been fighting for wins as a result.
Now, Scully finally has the ultimate prize he has been searching for.
"We've been trying to win a championship there for a long time. My mom is going through a stage where you have to be thankful for what you have right now because you never know what can happen," Scully said. "The exclamation point of the championship is forever engraved in our lives."
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars are among the many showcases for Whelen products.
Tom Scully Jr. took home the Pro Late Model title at Massachusetts' Seekonk Speedway with two wins, 10 top fives and 15 top 10s in 16 starts this year. Courtesy Seekonk Speedway