Saturday’s Eastern Propane & Oil 100 once again showcased the exciting style of racing that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour puts on every time they arrive at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. But unfortunately, the best part of the race — the finish — didn’t include the dramatics that fans have come to expect at The Magic Mile. The race ended with a yellow flag and checkered flag waving from the flag stand.
NASCAR officials called the race official under caution with a potential overtime finish looming due to necessary wall repairs and a time restraint associated with the upcoming NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the track.
Race winner Ron Silk was pleased to take down a hard-fought victory but was still disappointed for the race fans that didn’t get to see the finish. Many other top contenders were even more disappointed, including race runner-up Doug Coby.
On Monday morning, both Silk and Coby appeared on Speed51’s Morning Bullring to share their thoughts on the finish, and discuss what steps could be taken in the future to avoid the Modified being cut short on a busy weekend at NHMS.
One suggestion that Silk mentioned would be to adjust the schedule to an earlier post time for the Modified feature.
“I’d be all for starting it earlier,” Silk told Speed51. “We get there at 7 a.m. when the garage opens on Saturday, so we’re sitting around for five or six hours before the race. I’d rather just start it earlier.”
Another area of concern that Silk identified was the length of yellow flag periods, which he believed to be unnecessarily long when he compared them to many of the tracks that the tour visits.
“I think something else that could speed things up is whenever we have a caution at Loudon it takes a lot of laps to clean it up, and it really shouldn’t. It’s a mile track,” Silk stated. “I think there are lots of ways to save time. I don’t think there’s any way around the TV time, but there are things that can be done to expedite everything else.”
Silk strongly expressed how the disappointing finish was ultimately the result of the amount of yellow flag periods and the time spent behind the pace car. The 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion felt that a contributing factor was the amount of cars that were in the race, with the tour starting all 38 entries after originally capping the field at 36 on the entry blank.
“We just had more cautions than normal; ten cautions for 45 laps is too many,” he said. “I think it’s great that everybody gets to start the race, but there were two more cars than there should’ve been in the race. When I first started racing on the Tour, I went home if I didn’t qualify. It happened three or four times that I didn’t make the race. It stinks when it’s happening to you, but two of those cars that were let in crashed on the second lap.”
Ultimately, it was a number of factors which played into the unfortunate ending. Silk believes that eliminating just one of those factors may have saved the finish for the drivers and fans.
“We had that PJ1 stuff down on the track, which was a little bit tricky and it was 100 degrees. So the track was slick. We don’t spread out like a lot of the other divisions that race there. That many cars, racing on a track that slick, things happen and it’s the way it goes sometimes. But, it’s too many cautions, that’s the real reason. The problem wasn’t the hole in the wall; it was just that it took too long to end the race.”
After being very vocal after the race on Saturday, Doug Coby voiced similar opinions Monday morning. But, what most made him upset was that even if the race had to be called early, he feels that the drivers, teams, and fans should have known about it ahead of time.
“There’s just got to be a scheduling buffer; there should be something built in. I talked to Brandon Thompson [Managing Director of the NASCAR Touring Series] about this in a phone conversation just to clear up some of the comments that I made on social media. There needs to be a Plan B, C, and D when we’re at the big tracks, because this stuff doesn’t happen when we go to the smaller tracks that we race on three or four times a year. It only seems to happen on the big stage when we should be promoting the best of what we have to offer.
“Regardless of the race which had ten cautions and how we used up a lot of time, I don’t think that should necessarily be a factor. Things should have been discussed earlier I guess,” Coby added. “The truth is some races take longer than others, some have cautions, some have none. There should be a plan in place for what were to happen with a worst-case scenario.”
Although the five-time Whelen Modified Tour champion believes it’s unfair to the competitors and fans to cut a race short, he knows that the Tour is ultimately placed in the supporting role at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. He also knows that there may be no true way to ensure more time to complete a race during the busy weekend. However, in the future, he believes there should be a more transparent plan in case things do go awry.
“It affected my decision making,” Coby said matter-of-factly. “If I had known we would’ve gone red-checkered if there was another caution, I wouldn’t have pushed the 85 (Silk) for a couple of laps to try and get away and then settle things on the last lap. I think I had a good enough car that if I were the leader, I would’ve been able to make some different decisions.”
You can listen all of the interviews with both Ron Silk and Doug Coby from the latest episode of the Morning Bullring by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Rick Ibsen