Doug Dunleavy loves his Tour-Type Modifieds. Doug Coby loves to go fast in a Modified. On Saturday afternoon, the efforts from both Dougs had Coby, the driver of the No. 2 Modified, walking away $12,500 richer after winning the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pole for Sunday’s World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT).
The $12,500 bonus created by Dunleavy started as just a fun way to reward Modified drivers, a group of people and a sport that Dunleavy has a lot of love for. As he spread that word about his “Pick of the Hat” drawing, more and more small businesses decided to become involved.
As those businesses became involved, the drivers picked out of the hat at previous NWMT events were unable to claim the prize. Because of that, the prize got bigger, and bigger, and bigger until it reached its peak Saturday afternoon.
“This was a simple game that started as $300 and Doug actually won it,” Dunleavy explained while handing over the cash. “It’s inspired by a group of people that are fans and team members. I wanted to start with a fifty-fifty and the states wouldn’t allow me so I came up with an idea that could be 100-percent with small businesses. I wanted small business to become back involved with Modifieds.
“Never did I think it would get this big. It’s fantastic. This Modified Tour is on fire and next year I’ve got a few good things coming and a couple major companies getting involved and I can’t wait. 2016 is coming and Modifieds are it.”
Coby, who also sports Dunleavy’s colors as the main sponsor on his car, didn’t exactly know what he would do with the bonus money, but said he’d be sure to put it to good use.
“Doug’s bonus is just unheard of in short track racing for a pole,” Coby told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “A lot of times our Modified races struggle to pay; more than $10,000-to-win is a huge Modified win. Loudon pays about as much as the pole just paid. It’s just one of those things where you can’t thank a guy like that enough. Our whole series owes him a whole debt of gratitude just for everything he does, not only for our team as primary sponsor but all of the other drivers and teams he helps out, too.”
The Championship Picture
In addition to the nice sum of bonus cash, Coby’s fast lap of 18.566 seconds around the Thompson 5/8-mile oval earned him the number-one starting spot for Sunday’s 150-lap race. That means that championship contenders Ryan Preece, who enters the race tied with Coby at the top of the standings, and Woody Pitkat will both be in his rear view mirror for the start of the race.
Pitkat qualified third, while Preece will start the feature from the fifth starting stop.
Coby isn’t quite sure of his strategy for the entire race, but he does want to get out to the lead early and set a fast pace up front.
“It’s nice to start up front and we want to lead the most laps, that’s an extra bonus point,” Coby said. “That’s the only way you guarantee yourself a championship here is by going out, leading the most laps and winning the race. We’re going to try to get out front early and make everyone use up their stuff if we can.”
While Coby may have the dominant car at Thompson in 2015 having won the previous three races at the Connecticut track, anything can happen in 150 laps when strategy comes into play. Drivers with nothing to lose will be rolling the dice and the calls made from the pit box may be what determines which team gets to celebrate a championship.
“There’s a lot of different strategies that play out during this race because nobody really cares about their points position, other than just can we win the thing,” Coby explained. “There’s going to be some guys that short pit, some guys that pit halfway and some guys that save until the end and then try to blast through the field. That could be a championship defining moment when the crew chief says to come in. Ultimately we’re just going to see how the car is and try to put together a car that is strong at the end of the race and whatever happens. But I’ll I know is ‘the deuce’ is fast and whatever happens happens.”
One Down, Two to Go for Pitkat
Woody Pitkat entered the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing with the possibility of winning three championships. Saturday night he won the first of three rounds by finishing second to Keith Rocco in the 50-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series feature and clinching the 2015 series crown.
The championship is Pitkat’s first Modified touring series championship of his career. He will now look to win two more championships, the Sunoco Modified championship and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship Sunday afternoon.
Domination for Kid Roc
Keith Rocco put together a dominating effort to win the 50-lap VMRS feature Saturday night. The Berlin, Connecticut driver powered to the lead in the early stages after starting second and kept Woody Pitkat in his rearview mirror to score the win.
The win for Rocco is his first VMRS win of the 2015 season and his sixth win overall with the series.
Pitkat held on to finish second, while Dave Etheridge, Jon McKennedy and Chris Pasteryak completed the top-five.
More Champions Crowned
Fourteen champions will be crowned at Thompson this weekend, and as of Saturday night nine of those have already been crowned.
John Zych, Jr. (NEMA), Joe Arena (North East Street Stock Tour), Toby Wells (North East Mini Stock Tour), Dave Trudeau (Mini Stocks) and Andy Major (Pro 4 Modifieds) all celebrated championships Saturday night.
Five more champions will be crowned Sunday when the Sunoco Modifieds, Limited Sportsman, NEMA Lites, ISMA Supermodifieds and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour are in action.
(EDITORS NOTE: Speed51.com also had extensive coverage of the American-Canadian Tour event from Thompson Saturday. Click here for an exclusive 1-on-1 video interview with the winner on the 51 Network and click here for more on Hoar’s emotional victory.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com