DAVID DARLING & PAUL LALLIER ADD ANOTHER TROPHY
SEEKONK, Mass. — While two veterans added another championship trophy to their resume this season, Seekonk Speedway also welcomed two drivers to the head table for the first time in NASCAR Whelen All American Series competition.
Third-generation driver Ryan Kuhn, of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, captured the Late Model championship, adding to his family legacy, while starting to build his own resume. In the Sport Truck division, Josh Hedges used four feature wins, including a checkered flag on final points night, to capture his first title in the Division IV class.
Kuhn followed in the path of his father, Jimmy, a successful racer in his own time. With consistency throughout the season, including accomplishing three straight feature wins at one point, one would have thought Kuhn would have pulled away in the standings. However, the battle went down to the final few laps of the season, with Kuhn defeating 2017 champion Ryan Lineham by just 10 points.
After dominating the Legends Cars division, he moved to the Late Models in 2016, and won the championship in his second season.
“It feels amazing, it means more than anything to me,” Kuhn said. “I’ve worked so hard these last couple of years. We definitely fixed a lot of the setup from last year and it really helped into this year.”
While the championship chase went down to the final laps in the Sports Truck division, Josh Hedges wasn’t going to be denied. Following a disqualification on the final night for a fellow competitor, Hedges ended the season up by 12 points on Mike Duarte, who won his first championship in 2017.
“Hats off to Rob Murray, without him, this truck wouldn’t be like this,” Hedges said after winning on the final night. “For the last three years, he’s taught me everything I know about these trucks. I just can’t thank all of my guys enough for their help.”
The Division I Pro Stock drivers found themselves chasing David Darling once again this year. Darling, who picked up his second straight championship, added his name to a short list of drivers who have six or more titles at the third-mile. He joins Seekonk Wall of Fame member Vinnie Annarummo and current competitor Fred Astle Jr., with six championships, while Gerry DeGaspere Jr., who competes in the Late Model division, leads with seven.
After winning eight races last season and dominating the division, Darling found himself in the middle of a tight battle with eventual Rookie of the Year Jake Johnson heading into the final few weeks. After being involved in a few wrecks just before the finale, Darling was forced to race for the win on the final night, without having the luxury of riding around seeking points.
In Darling style, he finished second in the finale, while Johnson wrecked. With a 30 point gap in the final standings, Darling captured another title driving the same No. 52 Johnson’s Landscaping Pro Stock he has driven since day one. With the support of crew chief Jeff Belyea, and longtime crew chief Ronnie Pond, Darling hoisted another trophy.
Even though it may have looked easy for the second straight year, Darling knows the difficulty surrounding competing for checkered flags at the cement palace.
“That’s the goal every year,” Darling said. “These guys work hard. It takes a team, and there a lot of days in the shop, especially if you wreck. You have to try to figure out how to go faster, and get the car more consistent. It costs money, and time, and there is definitely a lot to it. It is definitely complicated.”
Joining in with Darling, Paul Lallier added another championship trophy to his name in the Sportsman division, one that will be his last. Shortly after clinching the trophy, an emotional Lallier announced to fans that he will not be competing for points going forward, and will just run select events.
Lallier had to hold off Scott Bruneau, a multiple-time champion in his own right, in order to win. He beat Bruneau by just 18 points in a division that saw various different winners, but a constant battle between Lallier, Bruneau, Sparky Arsenault and Kyle Casper throughout the season.
“At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t even going to run the whole year, but my son talked me into it,” Lallier said. “I really appreciate everyone all of the years I have been here. I was so nervous going into the race, I had never been in that close of a points race. I just wanted to end my career on top.”