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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



Stafford Motor Speedway
by Polly Reid

Coming in for fresh tires was the game plan but as the race unfolded, including a long green final run, Doug Coby stayed where he was, in the lead bringing home the Wayne Darling owned, Reynolds Auto Wrecking /Furnace & Duct sponsored Chevrolet across the line for a dominating win in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 22nd Annual Stafford 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway.

The victory marks Coby’s sixth career win, his third win in a row at Stafford. The Milford, CT driver now has four NWMT wins this year.

Sharing the podium, Jimmy Blewett crossed for second with Todd Szegedy third. Eric Beers fourth, Ted Christopher fifth, pole winner Ryan Preece, Jon McKennedy, Woody Pitkat, Eric Goodale and Justin Bonsignore in a back-up car completed the top ten.

Pole award winner and early leader Ryan Preece in the Flamingo Motorsports Ford was in charge at the drop of the green with Eric Beers quickly lining up behind Preece with Bobby Santos and Eric Goodale in the hunt. Coby sat just out of the top five, qualifying sixth on the grid. The first caution on lap 17 crowed the field together again and as Preece and Beers battled side by side for five laps, it was Beers inching ahead to become the new leader on lap 23. Coby, fourth on the restart, moved into third and when the next caution waved at lap 29, Coby used his lane to move into second by lap 40, his sights set on Beers.

The game changer came was on lap 44, a caution came then a red flag for an incident in turn three where Steve Masse and Rich Pallai tangled. While the guardrail was being repaired, the field was stopped on the backstretch for 15 minutes. Rolling again, the pits opened on lap 47- when leader Beers came down for fresh tires, more than half the field followed including all the front runners, except for Coby who inherited the lead and Ted Christopher. Preece came down pit row but was waved on by his team when it was discovered the left rear tire they were going to put on was going flat. Preece, who crossed for sixth, held on in contention until about 40 to go when it was suspected a dropped cylinder kept them from being in the mix at the end.

“We were going to come in early but we wanted to lead a lap so when the 45 came in we said we’d stay out and lead a lap,” said Coby. “Maybe we’d come in around lap 100 or so then we had no more cautions. This car is built to last on the long runs I think everyone saw that in the Sizzler and the 125, that we know we can go at least 100 laps on these tires if not more.”

Coby, Christopher, Ed Flemke who also stayed out and Preece led the restart but as the cautions came, Coby maintained his lead. Flemeke pitted on the next yellow, Christopher at the following caution coming in on lap 66. At the half way mark it was Coby, Preece, Blewett, Bryon Chew, Rowan Pennink, Justin Bonsignore, Szegedy and Beers the top eight.

The last caution of the night came on lap 83, contact sending Chew hard into the outside wall on the backstretch.
From the restart on lap 88 to the end, the race was green. Blewett took over second before the 90 mark, Szegedy into third five circuits later. While Blewett and Szegedy contended for second, Coby stretched out his lead.

“We had a lot of cautions in the middle of the race,” said Coby. “My spotter kept giving me updates on the lap times and those guys with tires on a night like tonight they’re not going to make a lot of ground up- we just never really fell off.”

Coby crossed the stripe for the 22nd Annual Stafford 150 win with a 2.508 second margin of victory.

“I just didn’t want a caution. I was praying for no cautions,” admitted car owner Wayne Darling. “I was surprised without putting tires on it that it didn’t fall off, it might have if we had a caution. It stayed real fast though out the whole race. We were one of the quickest cars to the very end.”

Coby talked about the decision to stay out. “We were going to pit at lap 40 or after, our plan was, if we were leading, we wanted to do exactly what Eric did, pit as the leader, make everyone follow us in, then we’ll be in the top three or four when we get out and make them now got 100 laps or so, that was our plan, make them go 100 laps instead of say, 75 which would give them better tires on the long run. We know our car can go 100 and we knew we would have a good car on the long run. So who pits? Everybody. Who doesn’t? Us. In an instant it was over getting one bonus point where we said let’s stay out and lead a lap. Now we got more points because we led the most laps and then we got the win. We try to stick to our plan; we always say that, no matter what. But crew chief says plan changes when you need a bonus point and I agreed with him. Our car was still very much tight and racy. I was thinking maybe by lap 100 we’ll be junk and we’ll have to pit, by then those guys will have 50 laps on their tires and we can pass some of them and come back through, it’s crazy how it works.”

Winning crew chief John McKenna echoed Coby. “The other teams, they decided for us not to pit. We decided to lead a lap to get a bonus point not thinking they were all going to come in. I was surprised that many came in. Alright, let’s make them chase us and wear their tires out and we come down and put our tires on we’ll have something to come through the field with. But as we were going, nobody was coming, nobody was coming, nobody was coming – then when it went the long green, let it go, we couldn’t pit, even if the caution did come out. It worked out, but it was luck. The last time, we weren’t planning on pitting, we got a flat tire and it worked out. This time, we were planning on pitting and we didn’t.”

Coming into the 2012 season, there is a renewed desire to succeed, to be competitive among the best. A season high second place finish for the Howell, NJ driver, Jimmy Blewett in the John Blewett Inc/Ling Trucking sponsored, John Blewett Sr. owned Chevrolet with crew chief Ed Bennett III, is appreciative of what it takes to make the podium. “I can’t thank Ed (Bennett) enough for stepping up to the plate for me. My crew chief Kevin Crowley, he had to step aside because of family purposes. I can’t thank Ed enough for coming on board with us. You’re only as good as your car is sometimes and my crew guys work their hearts out week in and week out, we’re committed to running the full series. This one’s for my guys.”

Blewett continued, “You know our team, it’s been one thing after another, we just really needed a good finish. During the off season, I lost a bunch of weight just trying to get myself prepared to run this car for my grandfather. I felt like I have to give 150 percent. We put a pretty good crew together, a little bit from my brother’s team, a little bit of guys that worked for me, a couple of friends I met when I drove the 14 car and even a couple of guys that were around the pit area. The hard work is what makes you. I have a lot more appreciation for racing now more than ever. When I drove for Eddie Partridge, it was show up with your helmet and suit and race. It’s not that I need to work on cars and build them, I did that with my brother, my grandfather made us start that way, now to do that at the highest level is a whole different story. What makes me feel that way is my brother, what he did, driver, crew chief, he did everything, he was the total package. I feel like tonight would be a night where he would be proud of all of us.”

Szegedy in the Mike Smeriglio III owned, Dunleavy Repair/A&J Romano Construction sponsored Ford tallied up another top five finish, four to date with the 2 Team headed up by crew chief Phil Moran.

“Our season has been either real good finishes or we’ve been getting wrecked. Everybody ran pretty good, it got a little wild there with some of the guys backing up it really us bunched up, but all in all is was a good run for the Mike Smeriglio Ford. We just have to keep having these good finishes. The 52 was strong tonight. We took tires and he still whooped up on us, we’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up on him. We can’t blame engine power, he runs a Chevy, we run a Ford but we’re all built by Bob Brunneau power- it’s a good finish for Bob, one, two and three. We’re going to Thompson where we’ve had absolutely horrible luck and hopefully turn it around with another top five. We’re going to build off this finish.”

Szegedy will focus on getting where they know they are capable of being. “ When we finish, they’re good. We’re good enough to run the top five but we’re not yet this year been good enough to win. Tonight I think was the closet night to that. If we had a green, white, checker, it might have been a different story, Doug did have older tires and I think that would have affected him the most, our car was great on restarts. I think being third, we would have had a shot at winning the race but it didn’t happen. I gave it all I could, I didn’t have anything left. It’s good, but I’m anxious to get the car better. I want to continue with these finishes.”

To compete in this series, the work is hard, never ending and requires sacrifice and dedication. A whole series could be written on what one has given up to be here. There is one more factor, an elusive four letter word that permeates the racing world- luck. That word was heard across the board tonight from the 52 team.

“Lucky, very lucky,” said Darling. “The last race here, we had a flat and it worked out for us, the race at Waterford, that big wreck on the front stretch, we got hit, but it didn’t do any damage, Todd ended up in it, we got hit, nerf bar damage, but we made it through. This race here, no cautions at the end, right now, we’re just riding the luck. These guys do hard work, I mean we had a good car last year and stupid stuff would bite us, cautions come out at the wrong time, it’s all luck, when you have it, ride it.”

“I’ll tell you what, I had a blast with Ryan, Eric, Bobby- that four group of us running side by side, was really cool. It was really fun racing with these guys,” said Coby. “When you beat them, you know you’re beating the best. That’s the most satisfying for us right now, it’s knowing that when you beat Ted, Mike Stefanik, Silk’s team, Preece, Todd- those are top notch teams and for us to run with them and beat them, it’s really cool. It can change in an instant. We can have a 60 point lead and it can go away in a heartbeat. We’re trying to not take anything for granted, we’ve won four Tour races in a year, no matter where we finish in points, points don’t tell the whole story. For somebody like me whose never finished better than fifth in points or won more than one Tour race in a season, this is just like the coolest thing ever. We know we’re on a wave.”

“We weren’t really surprised (about the car falling off) that’s what we’ve been working on,” said McKenna. “My nephew Alex has been doing the setups on it, we have a new tire guy, we knew half way through last year that our tire guy would not be returning since he was going to spend time with his daughter playing softball so he and Simon worked together. Tim taught Simon how to do the tires and he picked that right up, that’s been key. The guys on the team have been stepping up to do different things- it’s all of us working hard. We know we’re riding the wave, we know we’re going to go on the other side of the wave sooner or later. We’ve been doing this long enough to know, that’s the truth, it’s a reality.”

The season is officially half way. Seven races in the books, seven to go. Coby leads the way with 309, Preece in second 41 back with Silk only two behind Preece. Jimmy Blewett stands fourth with Justin Bonsignore, Todd Szegedy and Donny Lia all tied for fifth each with 235 points. The tight turn around to Thursday night at Thompson will be another test for all. Easy to say the season is just heating up.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: August 4, 2012

©2012 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.