There are times that two people just can’t seem to get away from each other; that was exactly the case for Doug Coby and Ryan Preece this past weekend during the NAPA Fall Final at Stafford Speedway in Connecticut. Following the last lap mayhem in Loudon, NH seven days prior, Coby and Preece waited out the rain with the rest of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour field on Saturday. The day ended with the two on the front row, with Coby snagging the pole over Preece.
By the time racing came to end on Sunday, the two of them had finished the way they started, with Coby taking victory number six in 2015, and Preece settling for a good points day. In between that, these two top Modified drivers were involved in a heart pounding 150-Lap affair.
Preece got the edge on lap one, just beating Coby to the line for the lead, and went on to protect it for more than half the race. Even with a valuable extra championship point hanging in the balance for most laps led, Coby didn’t want to take too much of a risk to get it.
“I had a little better car than him, so I figured eventually, if the race stayed green, I was going to get him no matter what. But, he was closing the door quite a bit and leaving it on me to determine how hard I wanted to sail it into turn three. He was trying real hard to not let me get that bonus point and I think he knew if I got by him, I would have taken off and I would’ve led the most laps. It’s one of those things he did what he had to do and I wasn’t going to force the issue that early. Once he led 50 or 60 laps I said to myself, it’s kind of crazy to try and slam it in there next to him and maybe risk wrecking us both again. So, I just settled in kept the pressure on,” Coby told the media after the race. “It wasn’t perfect, we didn’t lead the most laps, but can’t ask for much more.”
Things would work out for Coby later in the race. After pit stops during a lap 94 caution, he got to restart ahead of Preece after the two nearly collided on pit road.
Preece got caught behind James Civali. The two got together on the backstretch and that resulted in a flat right front on the No. 6 Modified. After getting the car mended and restarting 16th, Preece would go on a tear through the field to make up for lost ground.
“We had everything we needed to happen on those restarts, I don’t know if it just comes with experience or my car would fire for a lap and then I would just have to hold on from there,” explained Preece to Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “After that wreck, it just seemed like it hurt me as a whole, it’s just that I have enough experience here to get guys where I need to get them and then hold them off.”
After a number of cautions in the closing laps, Preece was second to Coby on the final restart with four laps to go, but he didn’t have the edge he had before the incident.
“I knew I couldn’t beat Doug with what we had with what happened. I knew I could probably give him a shot and move him out of the way, but I guess I’ll leave that one to keep in the back of his head for Thompson,” Preece said slyly.
This would prove to be the final advantage for Coby who has won more races than anyone on the Tour this year. “I don’t think anyone was happy today with the cars, but I was happy enough at the end. It’s one thing to catch somebody and it’s another thing to pass them. Think he had the same problem with me at the end.”
The close racing and finish between the two leave Coby and Preece tied in the points heading into the World Series at Thompson (CT) for the season finale. Coby’s six wins to Preece’s four, gives Coby the tiebreaker no matter what happens in victory lane at Thompson.
Another twist to the day added to the championship drama. Woody Pitkat lost the points lead after contact on the backstretch with Timmy Solomito. Pitkat’s car was sent into the outside wall and was then hit by Ted Christopher with 14 laps to go. Pitkat would nurse his toed-out No. 88 car to a 12th place finish, but is now four points behind Coby and Preece, in third place, for the championship.
One of the closest championship battles in NASCAR Modified history looms ahead on October 18th at Thompson. Coby had one piece of advice for fans planning to attend: “Strap in!”