Number Eight: Dave Darling Makes Seekonk History As First Driver With Eight Track Titles

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Dave Darling (Photo: Courtesy NASCAR)

Eight was the lucky number for Dave Darling at Seekonk Speedway on Sept. 18. The driver of the No. 52 Johnson’s Landscaping Pro Stock captured an eighth-place finish in the 40-lap feature, which was enough to clinch him a record eighth track championship. Competing in the top NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series division at Seekonk, Darling also sealed the NASCAR state champion for the state of Massachusetts.

In 75 years of racing at Seekonk, a third-mile Massachusetts oval located just 15 minutes from Providence, Rhode Island, no one had accomplished the feat of winning eight titles before. It was the fourth consecutive championship for Darling in the class, and it came on the heels of eight victories in 14 races, along with top-five finishes in all but three events.

“This isn’t how we envisioned the night to go,” Darling said after being involved in a first-lap wreck on the final night and riding to eighth at the end. “Car was awful after that, but hats off to the crew. We had a great season. We all wanted to win on the last night, but eight championships, it is just unbelievable. Four in a row is crazy. I can’t thank everyone enough — my family, my dad for all of his support, my mom, my kids. Everyone.”

This season, Darling had to hold off rising star Ryan Kuhn, a member of the Alan Kulwicki Driver Development Program. Kuhn finished second in points, 52 points back, but at times the season seemed a lot closer than that. Kuhn didn’t go to Victory Lane like Darling did, but was consistent — inside the top-five himself in all but a few races. It was the victories that allowed Darling to flex his muscles, once again.

And that’s nothing new for him.

Over the last four championship runs, Darling has more than 25 wins, catapulting himself into title glory. Darling also won titles in 2013, 2012, 2007 and 2006. His first Pro Stock victory was in 2003, with his most recent coming this year. All of the titles have come with Ronnie Pond as part of the team, with about half coming with Pond as crew chief.

Darling won the title from 2017-2019, but during 2020, Seekonk didn’t compete in NASCAR Saturday action due to COVID-19. Jeff Belyea joined the team in the middle of the stretch, joining Ronnie Pond, and the two made an epic combination, one of the best in track history. Darling followed up a year off by returning to title form this year with eight wins — it was like he didn’t even have a break.

“It’s definitely emotional to get number eight. I have been waiting a year for it,” Darling said. “It was a long year and this was probably one of the more stressful championships. Even though the points were not tight, we just didn’t want to have a bad week to put ourselves in a bad spot.”

Luckily for Darling, when chaos struck on the final night, it didn’t matter. All he had to do was take the green in the 40-lap Pro Stock feature and the championship was sealed up.

“You can have the fastest car but on any given night anything can happen,” Darling said. “You try to be patient and make your own luck to some degree. It was definitely one of the more stressful years. Ryan (Kuhn) had a great season — so if we didn’t have the season we had — he’s been finishing top-five effort week and it could have been real close.”

For now, the celebration is well underway for the Seekonk, Massachusetts driver. With dedicated sponsors and team members, he will spend the winter months as champion again. But this time, he’s re-written the record books forever.

“I can’t thank everyone enough, to write the history books here is amazing,” Darling said. “I came here as a kid. It’s all of the people that make it happen. It’s the fans, the families of the crew… Jeff Belyea, Kevin, Kevin, my dad, Ronnie, Tom, Gary… some of them have been here for all eight. Their family allows them to do it every Saturday night, and we are thankful for that. It’s a grind, and a team effort.”

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  1. Who builds his chassis these days?

  2. Congratulations Dave & Crew, I remember when he was 16 or 17 watching Him drive in trucks, He was going three wide and making all kinds of nice moves, I took notice of Him and with his Dad a Modified Car Owner with Championship with Coby , when Coby was hitching rides to break into the Tour. Many of US at Seekonk thought Dave would Graduate to the Modified Tour after Having great Success at the Cement Palace. Dave is a great shoe and seems to be Happy in His Jobs in the Family Empire of Real Estate , Hotels and Seekonk Grand Prix ,, So Seekonk is where He chose to apply His silky smooth Driving Style. He doesn’t force His passes as he comes up thru the Field. Very rarely using his bumper, He puts the pressure on then gets super bite low off the corners and makes the majority off his passes off the turn to get inside position before the next turn, His PATIENCE is his STRONG SUIT , Takes his time and doesn’t force things, Yes of course once in awhile he uses the bumper at a Bullring such as the Konk, Also He does jump up on the Outside groove when needed and is Fast up top also… I just WONDER if HE did jump in a MODIFIED Where it would have taken Him, I would bet He would have been VERY successful in DAD’S Modified also… He showed TALENT from the get go & Continues to IMPRESS weekly …. Maybe He will Retire after His 10th Championship & give the Young Kuhn a Chance to grab the Brass Ring …!!

  3. I love Seekonk but when one driver is so dominant the show becomes a little stale. Darling is so good there, he is on another level. It seems young pro stock drivers start out at Seekonk show a lot of promise, then move on to Pass or Granite State after a year or two. I thought Jake Johnson may have something for him but he moved on. Kuhn if he stays running weekly may be able to pry that championship away from Darling within a few years. Many have tried few have succeeded.

    Not sure what is going on with their late model car count. It has really taken a hit this year. I am wondering if Seekonk late model drivers found a new home last year when they were not allowed to open by the State of Massachusetts. There Street stock sportsman racing is probably one of the best weekly divisions in the Northeast. I still think they need a division of modifieds to get a crowd there for their weekly shows. Even a SK Light division would be a welcome addition for open wheel fans. Love the Konk and I am really looking forward to the PASS ACT Tri Track show in October. Aside from the World Series the Haunted hundred is my favorite race card of the year.

  4. CSG,,,,, Could’nt agree more…. SK or SKlites at SEEKONK would be Perfect on Saturday Night, Can you Imagine Rocco , Williams , Owen, Christopher, Under the LIGHTS at Seekonk Weekly !!!! That would be awesome. Modifieds at one time RULED THE ROOST at the Cement Palace…Until they priced themselves out in the late 70’s early 80’s and Anthony switched over to the GREAT IDEA of PRO STOCKS, BOOM they took off and raced at every track in New England…. SK Mods would add an element of Excitement to Seekonk and Bring some FRESH FACES and great RACING…..

  5. The time for Seekonk to bring in a modified division would have been when Waterford was shuttered. I think they could probably do an SK light division with some success but would that be enough to entice some mod fans to go to Seekonk more frequently. I know people that used to drive right past Seekonk to go to Waterford on Saturday nights. The track is great for modifieds. I would love to see it. What do they have 2 modified races a year. Its just not enough.

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