Doug Coby may have even surprised himself on Saturday afternoon at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT). The two-time and defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion laid down a fast lap of 18.679 seconds around the 5/8-mile oval to claim his first Coors Light Pole Award since August 5, 2011 at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT).
Piloting a brand new LFR chassis, Coby set fast time in the only practice session of the day and followed it up by topping the 35-car field during time trials. He’ll now look towards completing the weekend trifecta by winning the season-opening Icebreaker 150 on Sunday afternoon.
“I think we’ll have a good car for tomorrow, too,” said Coby after his qualifying run. “It’s a new LFR chassis so we’re still dialing it in. We’re trying some stuff and I’m happy with it so far. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow for 150 laps, but we at least know it will go good for two laps.”
One year after winning the Tour championship, many people may wonder why Coby would make a wholesale change such as changing chassis manufactures. If it isn’t broke, why fix it? Coby offered up an answer to that question after qualifying.
“We had to because everybody else was loading up,” Coby stated. “Bobby (Santos) knows from experience on the Tour that when you win a championship you get the bulls-eye on your back. There were six of us that could have won a championship last year.
“You can’t just sit back and think that what you have one year is going to be fast the next year. We still ultimately don’t know if we have a car that’s going to win races this year, but that’s why we made our change just to try it. But so far so good one day into the Tour season.”
Bobby Santos, who has claimed 16 NWMT poles since 2010, put in a strong qualifying effort and will join Coby on the front row when the field takes the green flag.
“We had a good qualifying run,” said Santos. “I wasn’t too positive after practice, but we made some good adjustments for our qualifying run and I’m happy.”
Maybe the biggest surprise of the day came when Corey LaJoie, who is making just his second career start with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, qualified third. The five-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East winner was very excited about his qualifying effort and coined this weekend as “a new experience” for him.
“It’s pretty cool to be behind Doug and Bobby,” said LaJoie, who is most known for his success driving full-bodied race cars. “Those are two of the fastest guys pretty much every week it seems like. To get to drive the 15-40 Connection LFR chassis is really cool because I didn’t have much going on this year and Rob (Fuller) let me drive this thing. It’s probably one of nicest cars here and it’s a privilege. To be third right out of the box is pretty cool. I have some things to learn from these guys tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it. I’m just going to soak it all in.”
While LaJoie soaks it all in, Coby plans to celebrate a little bit with his team before they get back to business for the big show on Sunday afternoon.
“They’re going to be pumped up to win a pole,” Coby said of his Mike Smeriglio Racing team. “I haven’t won a pole since before I won my first championship, so it’s been since 2011 that I haven’t won a pole. That’s pretty crazy, but winning a pole and winning races are two different things.
“We come here to win races. It’s just nice to have a fast car today. The guys can drink some beers tonight and have some fun.”
A full replay of Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage from Saturday at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park can be viewed by clicking here.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
NWMT Icebreaker Qualifying Results
|13||22||Tommy Barrett, Jr.||18.942|
|26||63||Tom Rogers, Jr.||19.186|
|33||82||Danny Watts, Jr.||19.754|