The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season kicks off Saturday night at Caraway Speedway (NC), but there’s a good chance the battle for the win will come down to two of the best from the Northeast that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has to offer.
The last NWMT champions, Doug Coby (2014) and Ryan Preece (2013), are both headed south to Sophia, North Carolina this weekend. While Preece has already done a lot of racing, and winning, in 2015, this weekend will be the first time that Coby will hit the track this year since hoisting the championship trophy at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) in October.
Not only will Saturday’s race be Coby’s first of the year, but it will also be his first career start at Caraway.
“I’ve never seen it,” Coby told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’ve never been there, but from what I’ve heard it’s just a typical southern short track. I’ve seen videos of it. It doesn’t look like there’s anything too crazy going on there so we’ll see how it goes.
“We tested down at Southern National Motorsports Park in the fall. I don’t want to say it was a similar track, but it’s a similar idea where the harder you go you really abuse your tires if you’re not smart.”
Coby and his Mike Smeriglio-owned race team are headed to Caraway with a new package compared to what they used to win the championship up north in 2014. The team is making a transition from their Troyer race cars and built motors to the LFR Chassis and NASCAR spec engines for the 2015 season.
“We made the decision as we were contending for the championship last year that we’d be switching over,” said Coby. “It wasn’t something that we decided after the season. This could be an experiment that goes really well or it could be terrible. I think it’s going to go really well just based on everyone who has switched over to LFR and obviously we saw how strong the Spec motor was last year.”
The new chassis and motor package is the main reason Coby and his team made the decision to make the 10-hour trip down to Caraway. This is the best time to test the package before heading to the NWMT opener at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park’s Icebreaker event in mid-April.
But that doesn’t mean the goal isn’t still to try to win.
“I think we want to win the race,” Coby said. “It’s a long trip to go all the way down there not to try to win the race. I think that’s definitely our goal, but obviously we have a new package that we put together for the northern tour this year that we just want to get on the track.”
Preece and his Eddie Partridge-owned TS Haulers team also have a new chassis for this year. They made their debut with a Troyer TA-2
concept chassis at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) last month to stellar results. Preece dominated the World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna, but this will be the first time the car runs somewhere other than New Smyrna. Preece and the team don’t fully know what to expect from it just yet.
“I’m excited to go down (to Caraway),” Preece said. “Especially with the car, that new Troyer car, we were using at New Smyrna. It showed a lot of promise. But it’s really early as far as telling from race track to race track. I feel like we definitely have a chance to be a contender to win that race, but it’s never a sure thing by any means.”
It will also be the first time Preece and the new Troyer take on the LFR Chassis, which will be used by Southern Modified stars Burt and Jason Myers in addition to Coby.
“Doug is a good racer so anything he gets in he’s going to be fast,” Preece said. “But at the same time I know what I have and I know what I like and it pretty much suits my style one-hundred percent. As far as how we’re going to stack up against the LFR car I can’t speak for that, but I really am very confident that we’re going to be a car that he’s going to have to contend with for the win. I’ll let our results, if we win, speak for themselves.”
While many Modified fans can’t wait to see how the new Troyer and the LFR Chassis stack up against each other, Coby is taking a similar approach to Preece.
“This isn’t about Ryan and me and LFR and Troyer as much as it is about everybody being in new teams and just trying to get a baseline for the northern season,” Coby said. “I don’t think Ryan and the six team are necessarily going down there just trying to compete against us.
“Whether Ryan is there or not, it doesn’t really make a difference to me as far as I’m concerned. They’re just another car that’s in the way of us getting to the front.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Feature Photo Credit: Speed51.com