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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


by Polly Reid

There can be no better way to begin the quest to defend a championship title then to come back for the season opener and score a win.
2014 NWMT Champion Doug Coby of Milford, CT in the Mike Smeriglio owned Dunleavy’s Repair/HEX Performance Chevrolet closed out a ‘perfect weekend’ besting a field of 35 cars to win the NWMT Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

Coby was in command leading 127 laps total including the most important, the last one. Following Coby across the stripe was Woody Pitkat in second, Bobby Santos third, Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece the top five.

Coby backed up his top of the chart practice time by winning the Coors Light Pole Award on Saturday and a trip to victory lane on Sunday.

“I just hope this is a springboard for us and for the rest of the season,” said Coby. “It was a tough decision for us to switch over to a spec engine, switch over to LFR Chassis- we still have work to do – we have a lot of tracks we’ve never been to with this car – it’s going to be a battle every week - this series is so competitive. .I’m just happy to be out front, you know, I’ve never had a perfect weekend like this- never won practice, set fast time then won the race, these guys deserve it and I’m just so thankful. My car owner, Mike Smeriglio, is not here, everybody knows he’s a CPA so he’s knee deep in tax season right now- this is for him, this is his passion. All the guys do this for him – we’re sorry he can’t be here but his family is here and we’re going to celebrate and have a good time.”

This marks Coby’s 11th career NWMT win, his second at Thompson, and his first Icebreaker win.

“I so pleased with the decisions made to be competitive and really, I’m just glad that everybody on the team did their job including myself. When you have a car that is this good, the goal is to just not mess it up and we didn’t. I’m just so proud of my guys.”

Leading the field to green, Coby held off the challenges of Ted Christopher then Bobby Santos through three cautions. The fourth yellow of the afternoon, waving just prior to the half way mark on lap 73, brought the leaders down pit road, including Coby, for fresh Hoosiers. Santos, Coby and Christopher, the first three off of pit row lined up behind the eight teams not pitting. The new leader, Ron Silk came around for the restart on lap 80 only to be reined in again for another caution.

Coby made significant gains all the way up to third by the lap 89 restart then to second place one circuit later only to be pulled back again for a caution on lap 90. Silk, Coby, Rowan Pennink and Tommy Barrett led the way on the lap 97 restart and three circuits later it was Coby making his move to become the final leader on lap 100. Coby survived four more yellow flags, nailing each restart, gaining a dominating distance from the pack each time.

A four car melee on the white flag lap in turn four officially concluded the Icebreaker 150 under a yellow checker.

“It’s a good car and it does what the driver wants it to do and when you have a car that’s dominant like it was, you just try not to goof up and that was my job today. Everybody on the team did a good job and that’s part of a championship caliber team- great pit stop, great set up choices for the feature.”
The final threat for the top spot came from Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet/Elbow East Chevrolet who passed Santos for second with eleven to go. Pitkat rebounded from a caution on lap 55 that forced the 88 to pit row after NASCAR Officials discovered a fluid leak.

“I can’t thank my guys enough,” said Woody. “They kept their composure, they kept their cool- I told them I thought maybe it was the power steering fluid- they got under there, found the leak and tightened that up.” Restarting deep in the field, Pitkat came back down pit row with the leaders for fresh tires just before the half, the crew gaining him valuable track position. “When we came in with everybody to put tires on, they had an awesome pit stop.”

In the top five with fifty to go, Pitkat patiently worked his way forward passing Santos for second with holding that position to the end. “It was definitely harder to finish second this year than last year, but we have a brand new car, we learned a bunch this weekend. We made big strides from last week when we practiced here and I’m looking forward to the season. I can’t thank Bryon and Buzz Chew enough for giving me the opportunity to drive their car- like I said last year, it’s like a dream come true and it still is.”

The Curb Records/Tinio Corp/Dan Kelley sponsored Chevrolet with Bobby Santos of Franklin, MA behind the wheel was in the hunt all day finishing the Icebreaker a solid third. “The guys gave me an awesome pit stop,” said Santos who was first off of pit row when the leaders came in for tires. “We beat everybody out that we needed to beat out and of course, it put us on the bottom, the wrong line for the restart which didn’t help but it was a good run. I’ve got to thank the team, we haven’t finished very well here the last two years so to get a top three, I think everybody’s pretty happy. Starting the season good, we’re right in there, we have a good team, we’re as good as anybody- if we don’t make mistakes, we’ll have a good a shot as anybody at the end of this.”

“The guys at the shop have been working really hard,” said winning crew chief Phil Moran. “They pulled it all together to make this happen. A new car, a new motor program, new everything, it’s just a great effort.” The challenge going forward will be building a ‘notebook’ for each track with the new LFR chassis. “Every race track will be a new experience with this car. Now we know what it does here, so we have something to build off of here. Stafford, every track, will be new. The LFR Chassis has run down south and they’ve run good down there, Jason Myers, Burt Myers, but those are totally different race tracks,” explained Moran. “I feel the short track program will be really good, we’ll see what happens.”

“It’s not easy and no one on our team will tell you it was easy,” said Coby. “From here, we go to Stafford and try to win the Sizzler. And if we can’t win the Sizzler, we’ll try for a solid run and build the notebook. Other than the fact we had a fast car here at Thompson and we’re going to go to Stafford with some excitement, it doesn’t mean we’re going to have a rocket fast car at Stafford and we all know that. We’re going to take it one race at a time and use the information we gain from previous races to hopefully make us better when we show up somewhere else. Today was a special day, a special weekend, now we go to Stafford.”

Next up- another NWMT tradition- the Spring Sizzler April 26th at Stafford Motor Speedway. If you can’t make in person, join Denise Dupont on www.thechromehorn.com for live updates.
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: April 13, 2015

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