For the first 146 laps of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Stafford 150 on Friday night, Doug Coby had a stranglehold on the night’s headlines. But, when Joey Cipriano spun with four laps to go in what had been a caution-free race to that point, drama had suddenly crashed the party at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT).
With tires worn down and fuel running close to empty for the six lead lap cars – Coby, Justin Bonsignore, Jon McKennedy, Ron Silk, Craig Lutz and Matt Swanson – there were many pit decisions to be made with only two laps of green flag racing remaining.
Adding to the drama was the pit rule used since 2017 by the Whelen Modified Tour for Stafford events, a rule stating that teams can only change one tire per pit stop and that they can only add fuel on a separate stop.
In the end, Coby was the only driver to pit four times, three to change three tires and once to refuel before restarting in the sixth position. Up in the front row, Matt Swanson had taken fuel and a right-rear tire, with Bonsignore to his outside, while on the inside of the second row, Ron Silk had three fresh tires, but no extra fuel.
On the restart, Swanson washed up in turn two with older rubber, opening the door for Silk to make a three-wide move to the lead. By the time the checkered wavedd, Silk had beaten McKennedy back to the line, while Coby recovered for third place.
For Silk, the night marked back-to-back wins on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for himself and the Stuart’s Automotive No. 85 after their win 13 days prior at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Overall for Silk, it was three straight Modified wins after taking the checkers at Star Speedway (NH) with the Tri-Track Open Modified Series for car owner Bob Horn.
After the race, Silk talked about the rationale for the three tires.
“I knew there were only six of us on the lead lap at that point, so the worst you were going to come out was sixth,” Silk began. “I thought that you should take the tires. I think if five of us stayed out and one came in and took tires, he would’ve won the race even with just two laps. With 145 green flag laps, our tires were shot.”
On the ensuing restart, Silk did not hesitate when the bottom lane opened up.
“I don’t think (Swanson) tried to run Justin up as high as he did, I think his car just went in, and it had no stagger then went straight. It opened the bottom up for me, and I was able to get in there and drive by him. It was a good deal.”
Silk went on to talk about the tremendous momentum that both he and the 85 camp currently possess.
“Things have been pretty great and I hope we can keep it going. It seems like when you can get on a roll like this, not that things are any easier, but they feel easier, and they always seem to go right. We’re going to hope we can keep it going for as long as we can.”
Following a heated post-race interview on the public address, Coby returned to the paddock, and after a few moments to collect his thoughts, went on to discuss his take on what had transpired. He especially pointed out the one-tire per stop rule.
“The Cup guys don’t come in and take one tire a stop, neither do the Xfinity guys or the Truck guys. I feel like we’re better than that,” Coby said. “I feel like if we had come in and taken three tires, like the Modified Tour did for almost 30 years, we would’ve come on pit road five seconds ahead of everybody with the lapped cars in between us, and we would’ve come off first and restarted first and drove away.”
He went on to explain how the No. 2 team went about their plan.
“I understand we have a decision and so did everybody else, do you take fuel? Somebody else ran out, I was conserving the most I could, but we just can’t take that chance. When it came to the tires, we knew we were going to take two, and then we just saw six cars on the lead lap, to take the third tire, but the other guys that took three tires didn’t take fuel. They gambled and won.”
Coby then went on to voice his support of the MSR team, and was also critical of how long the yellow flag was.
“Me, I don’t want to put it on my team. I still don’t understand, when we have a single car spin with four laps to go, why is it six laps of caution to go back green? Why did it even go that long? I could’ve been, you guys get one shot on pit road, it’s fuel and go because we’re crossing up and going. That’s intent to make this a long restart and what are these guys going to do to dictate the ending of the race.
“I lost, I’m pissed, and I hope everybody understands why I’m pissed. It’s more so that I just don’t like people coming up with rules, like this. It’s just weird to me, let us race. If there’s a dominant car that wins, there’s a dominant car that wins, everybody else should be faster as far as I’m concerned.”
Ron Silk himself shared a similar critical view pertaining to the one-tire rule.
“I agree with him on that, I don’t really like the rule. I don’t know, it’s just weird, I don’t see why it needs to be done. It does kind of move track position around in a normal race where there’s some cautions, but I don’t like the rule either. I think it’s too many trips down pit road, not a lot of room on pit road, and I think it puts people in danger over and over again, when it could be just once.”
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will remain in Connecticut for its next round, making its third stop of 2019 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday, August 14.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Unoffical Results
1 85 Ron Silk 159
2 7 Jon McKennedy 159
3 2 Doug Coby 159
4 3 Matt Swanson 159
5 46 Craig Lutz 159
6 51 Justin Bonsignore 159
7 21 Jimmy Blewett 158
8 36 Bobby Santos III 158
9 06 Sam Rameau 158
10 07 Patrick Emerling 158
11 75 Chris Pasteryak 158
12 99 Chase Dowling 158
13 58 Eric Goodale 157
14 64 Rob Summers 157
15 82 Woody Pitkat 157
16 1 George Brunnhoelzl III 157
17 54 Tommy Catalano 156
18 14 Blake Barney 155
19 45 Timmy Catalano 155
20 52 Mark Bakaj 155
21 22 Kyle Bonsignore 155
22 38 Kyle Ellwood 154
23 47 Joey Mucciacciaro 153
24 34 J.B. Fortin 153
25 16 Timmy Solomito 152
26 88 Mike Rutkoski 152
27 33 Wade Cole 151
28 77 Gary Putnam 151
29 19 Joey Cipriano 144
30 25 Calvin Carroll 61
31 01 Melissa Fifield 12
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51