DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Since the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned to Waterford Speedbowl in 2012, both editions of the Mr. Rooter 161 at the Connecticut shoreline oval have come down to Doug Coby versus Ryan Preece in green-white-checkered flag finishes. Odds are the storyline will persist this Saturday.
Two years ago Coby was the class of the field, but he had to fend off Preece in the final restart to secure his first Waterford tour win.
“Knock the 16 [Preece] in the door, and hang on for a few laps,” Coby said immediately after his winning move in the 2012 event. “The outside was the place to be on the restarts, he was getting great runs. I knew I had to take away the entry for him and kind of stay on the bottom up off and change his entry for him and kind of change his line a little bit.”
A nearly identical scenario presented itself in 2013. Although Todd Szegedy had the car to beat most of the night, it once again came down to a green-white-checkered flag restart with Coby on the inside and Preece on the outside. Coby bobbled ever so slightly and Preece kept in it and was able to pull off the win.
“I felt like I did everything I had to do to try and at least stay with him, because if I didn’t at least stay with him, he obviously would have probably won that race,” Preece said following the 2013 triumph. “If I had just sat there and finished second my team would have been disappointed in me and I would have been disappointed in myself, so just did everything I could.”
Both hard-fought victories eventually paid big dividends. In 2012 Coby used his Waterford win to fuel a Whelen Modified Tour championship run, as did Preece last year.
Coby and Preece have had different starts to the current season as the Mr. Rooter 161 comes up on the schedule. Coby has finished on the podium in each of the first three events, highlighted by a win last time out at Stafford Motor Speedway, while Preece sits 14th in points with no top fives and a costly blown engine in the Stafford Spring Sizzler.
Despite his rough start to the current campaign, Preece has proved to be the Whelen Modified Tour’s best bullring driver the last handful of seasons, while Coby is currently the hottest driver on the circuit.
All of that shapes up to Coby v. Preece, Part III.
The Race: The Mr. Rooter 161 will be the fourth race on the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule and the lone trip to Waterford Speedbowl.
The Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 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 161 laps (60.375 miles).
The Track: A .375-mile banked oval, Waterford Speedbowl opened for auto racing in 1951. A NASCAR Whelen All-American Series-sanctioned facility, Waterford contests weekly racing on Saturday nights, and has previously held 19 Whelen Modified Tour events.
Race Winners: There have been 15 different race winners in 19 all-time events at Waterford, led by four drivers with two victories. Four active drivers have won at the track: Donny Lia (2), Ted Christopher (1), Doug Coby (1), and Ryan Preece (1).
Pole Winners: There have been 12 different pole winners at Waterford, led by Tony Hirschman’s four. Christopher is the only driver entered this week with a pole at The Bowl. Jerry Marquis set the qualifying record in 2006 at 13.618 seconds (99.133 mph).
WATERFORD RACE NOTES:
Tour Debuts for Davis, Ramstrom: Spencer Davis and Derek Ramstrom are entered for the Mr. Rooter 161 at Waterford Speedbowl, which will mark their NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debuts. Davis is a 15-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia that is piloting the No. 79 Hillbilly Racing Pontiac this year in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour action, and in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modifieds at Bowman Gray Stadium. Ramstrom hails from West Boylston, Massachusetts and has a background in full-bodied stock cars at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and various regional touring series, including the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Ramstrom will pilot his own No. 35 Chevrolet that was purchased in the offseason from Darling Racing.
Bonsignore Bullish on Bullrings: The focus on this week’s Mr. Rooter 161 may be on Doug Coby and Ryan Preece due to the way the two previous editions of the event have finished, but Justin Bonsignore deserves billing as a driver to watch as well. Bonsignore finished as the runner-up at Waterford in 2012 and fourth last year. Ten of his 24 career top fives and two of his four wins have been earned at bullrings.
Look out for Lia: Donny Lia has finished on the podium in five of his nine career starts at Waterford, including a third-place effort last year. Lia won at The Bowl in 2005 and 2006 and his career average finish of 8.3 leads all active drivers with three or more starts.
Can Christopher End Drought at Waterford?: Although he has 36 career feature wins at Waterford, Ted Christopher hasn’t had great success at the bullring in Whelen Modified Tour action through the years. His 2002 win there is one of just eight top 10s in 15 career starts. He did earn the pole and lead 43 laps in the 2012 event before finishing sixth. Christopher is currently in a 32-race winless drought, the second-longest of his career, but he’s had a solid start to the 2014 campaign with top 10s each time out.
Solomitos to Leave the Island for Waterford: Despite pre-season intentions to compete weekly for the Whelen All-American Series track championship at Riverhead Raceway on New York’s Long Island, Timmy and Shawn Solomito will leave their regular Saturday night short track and ferry across the Long Island Sound to join the Whelen Modified Tour at Waterford. Timmy has earned Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors in each of the first three races and sits seventh in points in the No. 75 Chevrolet of Wayne Anderson while Shawn made his first season appearance last time out at Stafford Motor Speedway in the family’s No. 89 Chevrolet.
HOME TRACKS: Rocco Out Front at Waterford
The six-time defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion in the state of Connecticut, Keith Rocco is using his success this season at Waterford Speedbowl to keep the streak going. Through the racing action on June 8, Rocco had forged a towering 211-point lead on Ted Christopher in the Nutmeg State standings, 509-298. Rocco is also well out in front in the Waterford SK Modified division standings with a 513-415 lead on Craig Lutz through this past Saturday’s action, when the Wallingford native posted his fifth win of the season. Rocco also paces Waterford’s late model division by 53 tallies in Whelen All-American Series Division II action, where he leads the national standings.
LAST TIME OUT: Stafford
The third race of the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season was contested at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway on June 6. Here are some highlights of the TSI Harley-Davidson 125:
• Doug Coby nabbed his 10th career victory, and sixth at Stafford. He led 122 of 130 total laps as the race went to overtime following a late-race caution.
• The race had just three cautions for 19 laps and was completed in 53 minutes. The first yellow didn’t come until Lap 104. In this event the year prior, there were seven cautions and 1 hour, 51 minutes of racing.
• The race was postponed twice due to rain; on May 23 and again on May 30.
• Bobby Santos captured his 14th career Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying on May 23.
NEXT TIME OUT: Riverhead
The first of two dates on the 2014 calendar for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway will be up next. The Hoosier Tire 200 is slated to be contested on the venerable Long Island quarter-mile on Saturday, June 28. Ryan Preece won both events at Riverhead a year ago.
NASCAR IMC: Photo provided by NASCAR