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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



Thompson International Speedway
by Polly Reid

The World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson International Speedway once again delivered – Bobby Santos passed Todd Szegedy with just over 20 laps to go, held off Ryan Preece after the final restart with ten to go capturing the Sunoco-Town Fair Tire World Series 150 victory while Doug Coby crossed a solid sixth, his finish more than high enough to officially crown the Milford, CT driver the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Champion.

Following Santos to the line was Preece in second, Szegedy third, Mike Stefanik fourth, Eric Beers fifth. Coby sixth, Tommy Barrett, Jr, Patrick Emerling, Keith Rocco and Woody Pitkat the top ten with Ron Silk eleventh.

Santos in the Imperialscars.com sponsored, Sully Tinio owned Chevrolet started second at the green flag along-side Coors Light pole award winner Eric Berndt. Berndt led the opening circuit but was immediately challenged by Preece who became the second leader by lap three. Preece set the pace of the Sunoco- Town Fair Tire World Series while Coby who was ninth at the green fell back to 12th by the first caution on lap seven. Santos who was shuffled to fourth passed for second before a dozen circuits were on the board.

As Coby maintained his position just out of the top ten, contact sent Berndt’s car running fifth around and involved at least seven cars bringing out the third caution of the day on lap 30- Coby, his first close call of the day, was able to avoid the melee.

Championship contender Preece leading the restart was challenged by Santos then Donny Lia in the Mystic Missile. Lia made his bid for the lead becoming the front runner on lap 49. The field settled into a green flag run, Lia leading at the half way mark with Preece, Santos, Eric Beers and Szegedy the top five. Coby was sixth and Ron Silk in the T.S. Haulers Chevrolet who entered the finale one of three title contenders was ninth. The lead cars made their pit stop during a caution on lap 80. The 16 Flamingo Motorsports crew gained position getting Preece out first with Santos lining up second, Lia, Szegedy, Mike Stefanik and Keith Rocco the top five- Silk in seventh. Coby exited pit row lining up 11th.

Szegedy made his move on lap 93 becoming the fourth different leader of the day using the low groove in turns three and four to take the spot from Preece. Two more cautions kept the field close, the yellows allowed Santos to play out his strategy on the lap 128 restart. Santos made his move in turn three passing Szegedy to become the final leader on lap 130. A last yellow set up a ten lap shootout with Santos, Preece and Szegedy running nose to tail- each there to take a spot should there be any bobbles. Santos held off Preece and Szegedy to claim his 8th career win, his third at Thompson with Preece, Szegedy, Mike Stefanik and Eric Beers the top five. Meanwhile, Coby who restarted 8th gained two positions in the closing circuits finishing sixth and officially claiming the 2012 NWMT Champion title.
“That was just a lot of fun,” said Sunoco-Town Fair Tire World Series winner Santos. “It’s awesome working with these guys, I just try to race as hard as I can, I figured I’d just try to be a modified driver this week and that’s what I did today sometimes I don’t think I have it in me but today I raced like a modified driver. Thanks to Steve Lemay and this whole team here, they gave me an awesome car, I’m just the driver. They haven’t had a live pit stop all year and they gained us a spot, that’s pretty awesome- I just can’t thank this team enough.” Santos who was the World Series winner in 2007 continued, “I felt like from the beginning of the race I had a car that could win and I got up on the wheel and did everything I could to win this race. Every restart it seemed like we were in the wrong spot, we were either second which put us on the bottom or third that put us on the bottom and it kills you here. The second to last restart I was in fourth and I said I’ve got to win this race now or never – I got a good restart, made my run on Todd, got out front, once I had the lead I could restart on the top, right where I needed to be, run my own race. I have to thank Billy the Kid, awesome motor, Stevie Lemay, Brad Lafontaine, everyone that’s involved in this deal, the whole Tinio family, it’s awesome.”

Preece did all that he could to put the East West Marine/Diversified Metals Ford in position for the win and the championship title including leading the most laps. “I got to thank Flamingo Motorsports, Eric Sanderson for letting me drive this car this year, East West Marine, everybody involved in this race team here- we gave it everything we had, I tried my hardest today, gave it everything- we came up a little short.” Preece was proud of the team and the pit stop they pulled off. “They’re amazing, I don’t think there is a team out here that can get a pit stop done like those guys – they made adjustments on it too, it was unbelievable, I think we were out way ahead of everybody. I know if I was deep in the field they could pull me out of a hole easily- they work their butts off, practice all the time, they earned it. I’m happy for Doug, happy for Bobby- we’ve got the car in one piece. I can’t wait for Daytona- I love quarter miles and I’m ready to go win that race.”

Todd Szegedy was a contender all day, starting 14th at the green. In the front pack with his Mike Smeriglio owned, Dunleavy Repair/A&J Romano Construction Ford, Szegedy was a threat to take the checkers. “I got to thank my team, my car owner, everyone who helps, my fans, sponsors- we had a really tough year for whatever reason – we almost won a championship last year at this track- I’m glad to see Doug win it- all the guys I race with, we’re friends and it’s nice to see things work out for people. I’m glad we were able to turn it around on the last race. It would have been nice to get the win- our stagger blew up over half an inch, there was nothing I could do to hold them off we were getting really free in the center – I’m happy with this, Thompson has not been good to us for the last couple of years, it’s nice to leave the season on a high note, rebuild and get these cars ready for next year.” Szegedy raced the afternoon with a strong confidence leading nearly forty laps. The Ridgefield, CT driver was candid about the season. “We call it the Carl Edwards year. Carl didn’t forget how to drive but he can’t get out of his own way. I had a chance to win a championship last year and this year, we didn’t. That’s the way racing is, you can never be over confident – you do everything the same, then things aren’t working so you change and fix things, it still doesn’t work – then you come back the next year and you’re on fire, it’s a mystery – definitely a lot of highs and lows. All’s I want to do is leave the race track happy and we did that- now I can get through winter- it’s a good boost for the team morale.”

Seven career wins, five of those trips to victory lane coming in 2012, Doug Coby had no trouble finding his way to where the championship trophy was waiting. “This race track has a lot of special meaning to the 52 team-to come out here, we kind of look at ourselves as a bunch of misfits- we were both fishing around – they were looking for the right driver I was looking for the right team – we get along really well, have fun, communicate well, we got each other’s back and that’s what kept us going through this season – I just can’t thank them enough- my car owner Wayne Darling, can’t say enough about him, can’t thank him enough for coming on board for a full season, his first full season on the modified tour- Harvey and Kim from Reynolds Auto Wrecking, they were the ones that got this ball rolling a couple of years ago to get me in a full time ride, they believed in me, all these people here believed in me and I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity to drive this car.”

Coby had a strategy that played out in his favor. “A lot of those guys spun out in front of us, lucky nobody got crossed up too bad – we just kind of stayed on the bottom. The closest call I think was the next to last restart – I almost caught the fence out there. It was one of those deals where we just took what the lanes gave us, tried to be smart, run the bottom quite a bit. The way I looked at it, if you are on the bottom and there’s an accident you have the whole infield to get in to. Plus the fact the car was good and fast down there helps- we had a decent cad. I wasn’t driving safely, I gave it everything I had, we had a 6th place car today and that’s all we needed.”

Climbing out of the 52 as the 2012 NWMT Champion, Coby had an emotional moment- the possible culmination of a driver who has paid his racing dues - a sport that takes and only gives at random and unpredictable times, “When you have a team with a lot of people, everyone has an individual story and then there is the teams collective story. I know a lot of their individual stories, personal battles they fought in and out of racing. My own story has been well publicized- our team has a lot of stories behind it- from the car owner to the crew chief and their families, all the people, they have a reason why they help that team. They’re a cool bunch of people to hang around with. I always said when I lost my full time ride in 2006 with the Chase’s I said I don’t care if I drive part time for the rest of my life, the next full time team I want to drive for is going to be a team that wants me and only me in the car and I have that with this team. That means a lot to me- confidence wise, showing up every week knowing they’re giving their best effort and I’m giving my best effort.”

Car owner Wayne Darling shared the day with his girlfriend Terri. “She doesn’t come to many races and I asked her to come to this one, its special. I was asked when did I think the championship was possible, I said as soon as they threw the checkered flag. It hasn’t sunk in yet- we were going race to race hoping for top tens, top fives, wins even better. We just had a phenomenal year all around – I get the credit for owning the car, but I don’t do any of the work, it’s all the crew. I pay the bills, I don’t get involved in the car, they know more about it than I do.

Reynolds Auto Wrecking, they came on board, that’s the reason we decided to run the full season. Furnace and Duct is still on the car, he’s been with us since the Busch (K&N) car- he is part of the team- John McHenry, owner of Furnace and Duct in Providence, he’s the reason we’re modified racing. I told him we couldn’t afford the K&N Series anymore so I asked him what he wanted to do and he said let’s start a modified team and that worked well for 4 or 5 years. This year, Reynolds came in, they wanted to do the whole season- it worked out.”

A racing resume that started with trucks, pro stocks, K&N and now modifieds, Darling and the team has been together for a long time. “We started with my son David when he was 16, now he’s 33. What’s even better, David won the pro stock championship this year at Seekonk.” Darling is David’s spotter on Saturday nights.

NWMT Champion Crew Chief John McKenna admits it’s ‘pretty amazing’ to win the title in his first year running a full schedule. “We knew we were going to run good from the year before with Doug, but as far as winning the championship, I don’t think we focused on that. We tried to focus on running good. We had some tracks that we didn’t have as many laps as a lot of teams, we had to figure that out too. The big thing is, Doug knows we’ll work on the car, we’ll keep firing things at it until we hit it.

The first race Doug drove for us, it was here at the World Series, led most of the laps, was going to win the race when a jet fell out of the carburetor and we finished third.” Today, McKenna focused the team on what has worked for them, “We came here with the attitude let’s do what we do every week.”

“Most of the guys have been with the team for a long time,” said McKenna. “Deb’s been with us for what, 20 years? Zip Zella the motor tuner was tuning motors for Bugsy Stevens, he used to build the motors for the Kozellas back in the 60’s and 70’a. Josh is the mechanic- he works at a Nissan dealership, so he handles the mechanics on the car when we have to change something. Simon, he’s the tire guy, this is his first year, a lot of pressure on him- we were consistent every week so that tells you what kind of a job he did. Colleen, Josh’s wife, she feeds us, Super Cop- Pat- he is the tire carrier and helps with sponsors, my nephew Alex Ensign, he’s a student at URI, he works on scaling and setting up the car, Shawn Sellew, he’s a tire carrier and Brian Sullivan, he drives an SK at Stafford, he’s our spotter.” McKenna who began his racing career working with Dale Quarterly on his motorcycle team in 1997, has the support of his family including daughters Maddy and Kaylee and special support from his wife Melissa.

The racing journey is never an easy one. There are only a few that make it a lifestyle like Wade Cole whose racing career started 40 seasons ago at Monadnock Speedway- his first green flag waving in 1972. The 2012 season is a done deal- Coby and the Wayne Darling team will celebrate their hard earned NWMT Championship title in Charlotte in December. Thank you all for supporting Denise DuPont and myself this year – we look forward to bringing you a new year of Cover It Live updates in 2013 starting with Daytona in 124 days. 

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 2, 2012

©2012 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.