The unpredictability of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour got cranked up another notch Wednesday night at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) in the latter half of the Budweiser 150.
After breaking away from the rest of the field with Justin Bonsignore in close pursuit, Doug Coby’s big lead turned into a fight to get back to the front following pit stops on Lap 87.
Initially it was Craig Lutz who leaped to the front after the stops, but another yellow on Lap 111 brought some lead lap cars to pit road again, including Bobby Santos who had saved the last of his fresh tires. Santos powered past the likes of Lutz, Coby and Bonsignore by Lap 129, with the No. 36 Dave Sapienza owned Modified pulling away. But another restart with eight laps to go led to chaos and heartbreak for Santos.
Electing to restart on the outside, Santos failed to come up to speed, while Lutz spun the tires on the inside. Behind on the outside of row two, Coby shot the gap between Santos and Lutz, nearly going three-wide and taking advantage of Bonsignore being trapped on the inside behind Lutz.
After a final restart with two laps to go, Coby beat Bonsignore back to the checkered flag for his fourth win of 2019 on the Whelen Modified Tour. The win for Coby coming after a pair of stormy ends to the last two races on the Tour.
“It’s a good win. We didn’t have the car to win tonight. Santos’ car was going to win, and Justin and the 46 (Lutz) were certainly good too. We took advantage of a chaotic restart and snookered away a win,” Coby said. “I think we had two taken away from us, so this kind of makes up for one and gives us one back. A nice job by my team tonight, they gave me a great car.”
As for how Coby was able to shoot the gap, it came down to the five-time Whelen Modifed champion staying on his toes in the final laps.
“When somebody messes up in front of you, hope you have enough room, and you crank it to the left and hope nobody is going to turn you. That’s kind of what I did. The 46 (Lutz) spun the tires first, then the 36 (Santso) missed the shift, and there was just enough room. I didn’t spin the tires too bad or miss a shift.”
While Coby is never one to give up until the bitter end, he was prepared to accept at one point that the night might not be his.
“Those are three of the best drivers on the Tour. Bobby is one of the best drivers in the country. I was on damage control with 20 to go or whatever. I didn’t think I had anything for them, but they were racing hard and I was close enough. I was hoping Santos would’ve walked away, so it would’ve been an okay points night. Certainly, much better to come away with a win and put a gap on everybody.”
Overall, Coby continued his championship performance, extending his lead in the points race. For Bonsignore, it was another case of being oh so close while attempting to score his seventh straight victory at Thompson.
“We were really close tonight, probably better than we had been speed wise,” Bonsignore stated. “It’s tough when you’re that close. It just didn’t work out tonight. We were going to get beat on pit strategy, and that restart got a little wild. Doug was just in a better spot.”
Bonsignore entered the night with a chance to extend his already record six-race winning streak at ‘The Big T’ to seven. While disappointed this was the night it had come to an end, Bonsignore knew it was only a matter of time, and that he still nothing but pride for the how well the No. 51 team has performed in Northeast Connecticut.
“It’s just like in baseball, you’re not going to win every single game, it’s tough,” he said. “We were prepared for it to happen, we were probably more prepared as it got more and more, at this point it is what it is. We had alternator issues all night, and we still finished second. We didn’t drop out of the race, we finished second to the best car this year. I’m disappointed, but I’m still proud of our team and everything we accomplished.”
Craig Lutz took advantage of some hard racing on the final restart between Jon McKennedy and Jimmy Blewett to finish third, with McKennedy and Timmy Solomito rounding the top five.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour concludes the summer stretch on August 31 at Oswego Speedway in Central New York State.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Budweiser 150 Unofficial Results
|23||36||Bobby Santos III||143|
|29||78||Walter Sutcliffe, Jr.||13|