When the dust settled on an unpredictable and somewhat chaotic Starrett 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway, five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby had claimed his first win since late August of 2017 at Seekonk Speedway. Friday’s win put an end to a streak of tough luck and tough questions that hounded the Mike Smeriglio-owned No. 2 team since the start of 2018.
But even after being promoted to the front row after qualifying third, when Chase Dowling and Rowan Pennink were penalized to the rear after qualifying, the dark cloud seemed to still be hanging over Coby. On Lap 13, while racing to the inside of Justin Bonsignore for the lead, the two made contact in turn three, sending Coby into the infield grass. Somehow Coby was able to save the car and get back on track, but he still lost valuable track position.
“He crowded me just enough and I got the left-sides kind of in the dirt, and I was like, ‘Uh not going to be too good here.’ It was one of those things where we both like to lead, we both like to dictate, and we know how each other races. It’s probably stupid on Lap 13 for me to tuck my nose in there and not try to watch his car, and stupid for him to not just let me go. I’m 180 points or something out of the points lead. All I know is that we both like racing each other and when you don’t wreck it’s no harm, no foul,” Coby told the media afterwards.
Still possessing a strong race car, Coby and crew chief Phil Moran began spreading their pitstops for tires early. A one-tire-per-pit-stop rule was in effect Friday, but teams had four tires available throughout the night.
Eventually Coby used a green flag run to tear through the middle of the field after a rash of early yellows. After working back up to fifth, another yellow on Lap 117 brought the top four of Rowan Pennink, Woody Pitkat, Eric Goodale and Ronnie Williams to pit road when the pits opened for their final fresh tire.
It left Coby with the lead and a buffer zone of racecars behind him.
“With this one tire per stop deal you don’t know who’s on what schedule. I don’t know why with 28 to go the cars in front of me, I think I was fifth, all pitted. I think they were all probably pretty good. I wouldn’t have done that. It’s still Stafford, and it’s still track position. When you all take tires at the same time you’re all just going to race each other. I had a really good car when we took our tires and I came through the field and thought maybe I used my stuff up and then they gave me the lead.”
Despite winning a fifth overall and fourth straight championship in 2017, Friday’s win at Stafford puts an end to what Coby feels is an even longer streak of bad luck.
“Put it this way, people are actually happy for us. It’s like with all the bad luck we’ve had, in really two years. We won the championship last year, but we had a tough season. We had a lot of wins get away from us and a lot of stupid stuff happen, so its really been two years of crap luck. Some we made on our own and stupid things, like Loudon like a Cup driver knocking my right-front off in the pits. You can’t make this stuff up.”
Through it all, Coby never lost faith in the MSIII squad, also knowing that the competition had been doing their own homework. Now Coby believes that they are doing what they need to do to get back in the mix.
“We’re a tough team, I said it through the championships, through the wins, and now through the non-wins and trying to claw back into a respectable points finish this year. We got a tough group of people. We were on top for a long time, not that we settled in, but it makes these other guys dig so hard to get you and we had to stick to our traditional stuff, we couldn’t rock the boat too much. Now we’re rocking the boat, we’re trying some stuff. We have a lot to gain on the 15, 51, and the 6; I think those three cars are pretty superior everywhere and we’re just a tick off. But tonight we were pretty good.”
Behind Coby, Woody Pitkat also broke out of a year long slump with a second-place finish, with Eric Goodale, Rowan Pennink and Timmy Solomito rounding the top five.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour resumes action this Wednesday night at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park with the Budweiser 150. Stay with Speed51.com for more.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 150
Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs, Connecticut
|22||44||Bobby Santos III|
|27||78||Walter Sutcliffe, Jr.|