Daytona Beach, FL – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will enter uncharted territory this weekend at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park as just four points separate the top three drivers in the standings with only the season finale Sunoco World Series 150 left to determine a champion.
In what will nearly be a NASCAR regional touring series version of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ “Championship 4” finale, the highest finisher on Sunday among the trio of Doug Coby, Ryan Preece and Woody Pitkat may very well capture the crown.
Coby and Preece enter Thompson tied at 565 points while Pitkat sits third at 561. Bonus points for laps led (one for a lap led, one additional for most led) and for winning (three) the race could certainly come into play, as they have all season, but with such a miniscule points spread, track position will be the primary focus.
Since official race reports started including updated season points in 2000, the closest the championship margin has been entering the final Whelen Modified Tour race was eight points in that 2000 season. Likewise, the record for the closest final championship margin may be in jeopardy. The mark currently stands at three points from 1995 when Tony Hirschman edged Steve Park for the title.
The three have a history this year of running together in races, which may even bring tiebreakers into the discussion when factoring laps led bonus points. In that instance Coby has six victories on the season and thus owns all tiebreakers while Preece’s four wins would give him a tiebreaker over Pitkat, who has one checkered flag.
The following is statistical information on how the three contenders have performed this year, and what each could accomplish if they are able to celebrate Sunday at Thompson.
Tale of the Tape
|DRIVER||STARTS||WINS||POLES||LAPS LED||AVG. FIN.||TSMP SEASON AVG. FIN.||TSMP CAREER AVG. FIN.|
What’s on the Line
• The 2012 and 2014 NWMT champion.
• Could become just the third driver in NWMT history to earn three or more championships, joining Mike Stefanik (seven) and Tony Hirschman (five).
• Could become the first NWMT driver to earn back-to-back championships since Hirschman in 2004-05, and just the fourth in tour history to accomplish the feat (Hirschman-twice, Stefanik-twice, Jimmy Spencer-once).
• Could earn a second championship for Mike Smeriglio III Racing, following the first last year.
• Could join Stefanik (1998) and Steve Park (1996) as the only drivers in NWMT history to earn a season sweep of events at Thompson.
• Could become the seventh different driver to win seven or more races in a season, and the first since Ted Christopher in 2005. A seventh race win would place him in a tie with four other drivers for fifth place on the single-season wins list.
• Could attain career victories in all four traditional season-opening and season-closing events in Connecticut. Already has wins in the Thompson Icebreaker and Stafford Spring Sizzler and Fall Final.
• The 2013 NWMT champion.
• Could become just the sixth driver in NWMT history to earn multiple championships.
• Could earn a second championship for TS Haulers Racing and owner Ed Partridge. The previous was in 2011 with driver Ron Silk.
• Could set a career-high with a fifth win on the season, which would make him the 10th different driver in NWMT history to record five or more single season victories.
• Could become the first driver to win the Sunoco World Series 150 in back-to-back seasons since Ted Christopher in 2009-10.
• Previous best career championship finish is ninth (three times).
• Could become the 18th different driver in NWMT history to earn a championship.
• Could become the first driver not leading the points entering the finale to go on to win the championship since Tony Hirschman in 2005.
• Could earn the first NASCAR championship for Buzz Chew Motorsports.
• Could match his career-best with a second victory on the season, which would also be the first of his career at Thompson.
|RACE:||Sunoco World Series 150|
|PLACE:||Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park|
|DATE:||Sunday, Oct. 18|
|TIME:||3:45 p.m. ET (approx.)|
|TELECAST:||Thursday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN|
|TRACK LAYOUT:||.625-mile, high-banked asphalt oval|
|2014 POLESITTER:||Woody Pitkat|
|2014 WINNER:||Ryan Preece|
|EVENT SCHEDULE:||Practice 4-5 p.m., Qualifying 7 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 8 p.m.|
|TRACK CONTACTS:||Theresa Condict and Russ Dowd, 860-923-2280, [email protected]|
|NASCAR CONTACT:||Jason Cunningham, 704-201-6658, [email protected], Twitter: @NASCAR_NE|
The Race: The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule will settle its 2015 championship with the season finale Sunoco World Series 150, the last of four events this year at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field per the official entry blank is 32 cars, including provisionals. The first 27 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (93.75 miles) and the tire change rule is three tires, any position.
The Track: A .625-mile high-banked oval that opened in 1940, Thompson was the first entirely asphalt track in the nation, and was the largest in New England for five decades. Thompson has played host to 129 Whelen Modified Tour races all-time, more than any other track, and is one of two facilities to welcome the tour in each of its 31 years of competition.
Race Winners: There have been 34 different race winners at Thompson, led by Mike Stefanik’s 15 victories. Doug Coby won each of the three events there this year.
Pole Winners: There have been 44 different pole winners at Thompson, led by Tony Hirschman’s 13. Bobby Santos maintains the tour’s track qualifying record at 18.237 seconds (123.376 mph), set on April 10, 2011.
Sunoco World Series 150 Notes
Tour Finales at Thompson: Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will play host to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale for the 16th time in the last 17 years, and the 22nd time in 31 seasons of tour competition. The first time the .625-mile oval held the season-ender was 1989, and the tradition began in earnest in 1992 with only three exceptions since.
Other Key Points Battles: The championship battle between Doug Coby, Ryan Preece and Woody Pitkat is getting all of the attention, and deservedly so, but there are a host of positions still up for grabs for the final season standings. Patrick Emerling (476), Timmy Solomito (473) and Eric Goodale (465) will contend for fifth place while Chase Dowling (446), Bobby Santos (439) and Justin Bonsignore (435) will vie for top-10 finishes. The competition for 15th is also important as the top 15 enter next season in the contingency bonus plan, and Dave Sapienza (357) and Jeff Goodale (353) will compete for that spot as Rowan Pennink (364) will drop out of the 15th spot since he is not expected to participate this week.
Dowling Clinched, Third Place Still Unsettled: Dowling has already clinched the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, but there is still business to be settled for the first-year driver group. Sunoco provides a post-season monetary award to the top three eligible finishers in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, and third place is very much in contention as Jeff Goodale (83) currently holds the position by just four points over Sapienza (79). Although there are 13 rookies entered for the Sunoco World Series 150, which could allow for a significant points swing, Max Zachem is seemingly secure in second place with 94 points.
Rocco Returns With the No. 57: Keith Rocco will return to Whelen Modified Tour action this week with a familiar car number as he will pilot the No. 57 for car owner Mark Pane. Rocco has made 29 tour starts since 2008 with nine different car owners, but the Pane 57 is one of the more recognizable to Connecticut modified fans as it was the same team he competed with on a weekly basis in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action for a number of years. Rocco has one previous Whelen Modified Tour start in Pane’s No. 57, the 2011 Thompson World Series.
Beatty Returns, Graham and Soper Debut: There are three fresh faces on the entry list for this year’s Sunoco World Series 150 in John Beatty Jr., Ray Graham Jr. and Kyle Soper. Beatty is set to make his first appearance of the season after seven starts across the 2013-14 seasons, including four at Thompson, while Graham and Soper will look to make their Whelen Modified Tour debuts. Graham has a primary background in supermodifieds while Soper posted 20 top 10s in 21 features with seven podiums as a rookie in Riverhead Raceway’s modified division this year.
Home Tracks: Pitkat Out Front
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour isn’t the only championship that Woody Pitkat is chasing Sunday as he is also in contention for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track title at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Unlike needing to come from behind on the tour, Pitkat enters the Sunoco Modified division season finale with 14-point lead on Keith Rocco with Ryan Preece four more tallies back in third. Pitkat has one previous Thompson title from 2006, the year he won the NASCAR Region IV title.
-NASCAR IMC Press Release. Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR