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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour




Stafford Motor Speedway


Polly Reid

If you asked Donny Lia at any point during the weekend how he thought he was going to do in the race, there was no question- only one correct answer and absolutely no other option- he was going to win. A tall order to back up, Lia left no doubt he had the car to do just that and combined with his determination and focus, the Jericho, NY driver fulfilled the plan. In what can only be described as a dominating performance, Lia led the first, last, actually 147 out of 150 laps to take the coveted win in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour CARQUEST Fall Final at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Doug Coby crossed for a solid second with Rowan Pennink third, Todd Szegedy fourth and Justin Bonsignore fifth.

“We had a real good car all weekend,” said Lia. “We’ve had a really good car the last four or five races. Like I told you guys earlier today, enough is enough, this car is going to be in victory lane and this is where it is. The 4 car is back.”

Mike Stefanik finished sixth, Ted Christopher, Chuck Hossfeld, Bobby Santos and Ron Silk completed the top ten.

It is the 17th career win for Lia, his fourth at Stafford, his second Fall Final trip to victory lane.

After climbing to the top of the speed chart in practice on Saturday, Lia in the Bob Garbarino owned, Circle Track Magazine sponsored Dodge set fast time to capture the Coors Light Pole award and when the green flag dropped this afternoon in the CARQUEST Fall Final, Lia followed up his words with action and put as much distance as possible between himself and the rest of the field.

On the start, Bobby Santos who posted second fastest time in qualifying tucked in behind Lia with Rowan Pennink, Todd Szegedy and Ryan Preece the top five. As the field settled in, the first caution waved – two incidents, a single car spin in turn 2 occurred about the same time a three car tangle happened in turn three. Jamie Tomaino recovered quickly in turn two and continued rolling while Eric Goodale, Richie Pallai Jr. and Patrick Emerling all pitted after the melee in turn three.

On the restart, Santos hung on the outside as Lia led, Pennink took over second with Santos tucking into third, Szegedy and Preece the top five while Doug Coby who took the green ninth moved into sixth by lap 25.

Coby, a threat to Preece for the championship title, took the green 41 points behind Preece. By lap 26, Coby passed Preece for fifth, passing Santos for fourth a mere 5 laps later. Preece up on the wheel claimed fifth again by lap 38. All the action was behind Lia who seemingly effortlessly led the way cutting through lap traffic as the green flag run continued.

Contact sent Ed Flemke Jr. hard into the wall coming out of turn four bringing out the yellow on lap 72. The field followed Lia down pit row for fresh tires and adjustments. Ron Silk was first out with Lia, Justin Bonsignore, Bryon Chew, Ted Christopher, Coby, Preece, Santos, Szegedy and Pennink the top ten.

On lap 90, Santos out of shape in turn three had a close encounter with the wall but was able to drive away. The caution brought Santos, Silk, Ron Yuhas, Eric Berndt, Patrick Emerling and Dave Salzarulo down pit row.

Lia at the point with Coby, Bonsignore, Chew, Pennink, Szegedy, Stefanik, Preece, Christopher and Chuck Hossfeld, the top ten on the lap 96 restart, Lia set to task and the longer the green flag run continued the stronger Lia ran. Coby was the biggest threat to Lia, the two breaking away from the field but as the laps ticked off, Lia made the distance grow between himself and Coby, Lia never looking back. Lia crossed the line for the win, 3.231 seconds ahead of Coby. Pennink completed the podium crossing for third.

“The car really stayed the same all day,” said Lia. “We didn’t make any changes, the guys had an awesome pit stop, you can’t ask for a better day. I’m glad everything went well with everything we’ve been through the last couple of months. We’re the best car every week and we’re not winning? It’s frustrating. I drove 110% every lap. I just have to thank the guys, it’s been a while.” It appeared to be smooth sailing for Lia from our point of view, but Lia hinted he was dealing with tire issues. “We had a pretty bad left front tire shake and it kind of worked itself away for a while then it came back towards the end, the last 20 laps or so. I think it was both front tires, I was concerned. I just hoped we didn’t have a yellow, I was happy to see the green stay out. Awesome race car, awesome motor, I’ve got to thank Ron Hutter who gave us a really good piece here. I’ve got to thank Bob and Joan Garbarino for sticking with this deal. And I’m proud of my crew chief, he’s come a long way- made some really good decisions setting the car up and during the race. And the pit stop, they just nailed it, that was awesome, I’m just really happy.”

“We did what we were trying to do all year,” said crew chief for the winning 4 car, Dan Laferriere. “We’ve come close quite a bit but always had something go wrong. But this week, it all came together for us. Every year when we come to this race, we’re pretty good here. We know what to go back to when it comes to this race. We had a good stop- usually when we get a chance to have a pit stop we’re pretty good, that’s what our guys like to do. They practice, they’re good at it and every once in a while we get to do it.” Changing three tires during the pit stop, Laferriere didn’t make any changes. “He was real happy with the car on the first set, I did the best I could to match the tires and make the second set as good as the first. We really needed this win- we all knew that as long as we kept running good it was eventually going to come and it did, finally.”

“I don’t think we left any question marks,” smiled car owner Bob Garbarino. “You come here, sit on the pole and kind of control the event sort to speak- it’s what you dream of. It takes 100% effort of everyone involved and even then, it doesn’t work all the time. We’ve been fortunate to win here and there but this time, we were overdue.”

“We had a great car,” said Coby. “Thought we battled pretty good, got by some guys on the outside- tried to make it a little interesting for the fans but Donny and the 4 had a superior car today. He was clicking off 18.7’s all the way to the finish and that’s pretty much unheard of- congratulations to the 4 team.” Coby continued, “We have a solid car every time we come to Stafford. It’s a winning car it just didn’t win today because that 4 was just a rocket. They were clicking off laps at the end of the race that were ridiculously fast. It’s nice to have a team that prepares a good car every week, I trust what they do and they trust what I do, that’s why we run so well.”

“It was important to start up front today,” said Pennink who took the green fourth. “We fell back a little bit after the pit stop but my team had the car good enough for me to get back through the field and onto the podium. We’ve had some bad luck in the last couple of weeks, we’ve torn up some equipment pretty bad – actually we raced the car here today that I didn’t plan on running but that’s all we had left. The team got together and put the car together after Loudon- I wasn’t so keen on how it would go but we qualified in the top five, track position is real important here and we were able to keep it up front. Really happy to finish in the top three- it’s important for me but for my team too after wrecking and struggling the last couple of weeks. I’m happy with how it went. Hopefully we can go to Thompson and do it again.”

Needing to gain seven points over Coby for the championship title, Preece was on his way to claiming the crown. But it was not meant to happen today. Qualifying 3rd, Preece settled into fifth, then sixth and just before the caution near the half way mark, was a solid top five. Restarting seventh after pitting with the field, Preece peddled as far back as tenth but made big gains forward and back into the top five with 30 to go. It was five circuits later that the chance to wrap up the title vanished. Suddenly off the pace, Preece pulled down pit row. A broken rear end the culprit, Preece was done for the day, finishing the Fall Final 17th.

Crowning the champion for 2013 will come down to the last race at Thompson. Preece holds a 26 point lead over Coby as the focus turns to the NWMT World Series finale on October 20th.

Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: September 30, 2013

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