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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


Hard Charging Coby Overcomes Challenge to Win Bud 150  by Polly Reid

The fireworks display on the backstretch going off as the field went to green flag racing appeared to set the stage for an explosive night. In the end, it was Doug Coby of Milford, CT in the Mike Smeriglio III owned, Dunleavy’s Repair/A&J Romano Construction sponsored modified that prevailed and crowned the winner in the NWMT Budweiser King of Beers 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

After setting a dominating pace early on, Coby overcame a restart penalty, lining up 17th with less than fifty to go, wasted no time working his way back to the front in flawless manner until a final restart with nine to go. Lining up fourth, Coby was behind Woody Pitkat who led the field to green. Pitkat and Coby tore through turns one and two nose to tail heading down the backstretch when Coby, with full momentum going into turn three dove low under Pitkat, shaking up the 88 car, securing the lead with eight to go and never looked back.

Pitkat crossed the line for second, Todd Szegedy third; Eric Goodale and Donny Lia completed the top five.

Coby’s comments in victory lane reflected the highly emotional night. Clearly not pleased with the penalty, in the end, Coby said, “My guys told me to use my head and I wasn’t. I use my head too much and tonight was the night to put the car in victory lane where it deserves to be. I want to thank my guys and Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair, this car is just phenomenal at this speedway.”

The win is the fourth of the season for Coby and the MSR III team, the third consecutive victory at Thompson and Coby’s 14th career win overall.

“Woody was the only car I touched tonight,” said Coby. “We had the fastest car- we’re fired up and ready to go.”

“It would have been a terrific finish if I hadn’t been cleaned out going for the lead there,” said Pitkat of Stafford, CT who brought the Buzz Chew modified home for second.

Sharing the podium was Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT in the “The race was decent, we struggled a little bit with the handling the first half,” said Szegedy. “There is such a discrepancy where you start on this track unfortunately – the outside is just much faster unless the guys on the bottom drive you into the woods. I got pretty lucky and was able to get into second and kind of rode there until the pit stop and made some changes. We never really got a good restart- every time we were on the bottom you use the heck out of the car. You’re kind of a sitting duck and you hope you can squeeze up and get in line on the outside without being too much of a jerk. That’s basically how it came out. We missed it a little bit- happy to finish third.”

Patrick Emerling of Orchard Park, NY claimed his second straight NWMT Coors Light Pole Award and brought the thirty car field to green. It turned into a four car breakaway with Emerling leading Donny Lia, Coby and Ted Christopher. Lia in the Sypher Construction sponsored modified became the new leader on lap seven only to be passed by Coby for the lead on lap fifteen. Three cautions kept the field close however at the halfway mark, lap 75, Coby was securely five car lengths ahead of Szegedy in second, with Christopher, Eric Goodale and Pitkat the top five.

The game changer was the next caution on lap 85 where the action turned to pit row. First car off pit row was Coby with Christopher, Justin Bonsignore, Goodale and Szegedy the top five. Pitkat was seventh and Ryan Preece was tenth.

Chase Dowling, who had been down pit row on lap 42, stayed out to become the new leader while Coby lined up on the inside for the lap 92 restart. At the green, fresh tires prevailed as Coby, taking the line with him, pulled into the lead.

Posted by officials as jumping the start, the 2 car was served a stop and go penalty which happened to have been taken under the next caution on lap 95.

Ted Christopher, driver in the Chris Our owned 22 car for this race and Bristol next week while Keith Rocco recovers from a broken hand, inherited the lead on the lap 102 restart with Goodale, Szegedy, Max Zachem and Ryan Preece the top five, Pitkat in sixth. Dowling had dropped back to ninth. Coby lined up 17th.

Christopher, Preece and Goodale now the top three by lap 111, Coby had cracked the top ten and was firmly in 8th place. Preece made a bid for the lead battling side by side with Christopher while Coby remained focused on moving forward.

Lap 120, thirty to go, Christopher still leading now had Pitkat at his bumper. Szegedy passed Preece for third while Goodale maintained in fifth. Coby gained another spot.

On lap 125, Pitkat going for the lead, made contact with the leader in turn four sending Christopher around bringing out the next caution. No penalty called for the incident, Pitkat took over the lead with Szegedy, Preece, Goodale and Lia the top five, Christopher was sent back to line up 12th and now Coby was restarting sixth.

A final caution on lap 135 for a multi-car tangle on the front stretch set up a nine lap dash to the checkers. It turned out to be the break that Coby needed.

Pitkat, Szegedy, Goodale, Coby and Preece the top five came around for the green. Pitkat and Coby broke from the pack and single file down the backstretch, Coby made the final pass for the lead in turn with a ‘to the moon’ pass for first and shortly after, the win.

Meanwhile, Szegedy now in second, was dealt a ‘to the moon’ pass from Pitkat who reclaimed second with five to go.

At the checkers, it was Coby, Pitkat, Szegedy, Goodale, Lia the top five. Ryan Preece finished sixth, Patrick Emerling seventh, Justin Bonsignore, Christopher and Timmy Solomito the top ten.

“As much as Woody is upset with me tonight,” said Coby, “I have a ton of respect for what he does and his team. This is racing- this is trying to get max points and close the gap and I figured that was the time to do it because he’s so crafty and smart that if I couldn’t have gotten him right then and pounced and struck while he was trying to figure out his car on the restart, maybe he would have driven away from me. That was my plan- to pounce as quickly as I could.”

“If that’s how he wants to race,” said Pitkat about the pass Coby made, “We’ll put that in the memory bank and remember that coming into these last final five races. All in all it was a good race. I took that out on Todd and I didn’t mean to do that. It was heat of the moment trying to get back to Doug to voice my displeasure to him and I just couldn’t get back to him. All in all, it was a good night, we started 11th- got up front, led some laps, a good points night.”

Rewinding a bit, Pitkat talked about the contact with Christopher that put him in the top spot. “Unfortunately, I got down in there, got into him, and spun him. I was almost going to burp it to try and straighten him out but I figured I’d knock the right front off and at that point, I figured it was NASCAR’s judgment to either put me to the rear or not and they didn’t.”

An official announcement to the media post-race stated, “It was reviewed by race control and was ultimately deemed a racing incident.”

“Our luck hasn’t been as lucky as the 6 and the 2 when we’re coming through,” said Pitkat. “Everything we’ve had to battle. Ryan last week- he got through clean to the pit stop, got to the lead and checked out. I was doing everything trying to get to the front- and Doug too. It just seems like – I’m not trying to feel bad for myself or anything but it seems like everyone has had it a little bit easier these ten or however many races- than I have. Which is fine- I don’t care because I’m a grinder, I’m not going to stop- I never give up- if that’s how it’s going to be then that’s how it’s going to be. You keep knocking me down and I’m going to keep coming back.”

When officials posted the restart penalty for Coby- Coby and the MSR III team had to dig deep and collect themselves with the unexpected set back. “The hardest part was keeping Doug calm,” said winning crew chief Phil Moran. “He was rightly upset.”
Moran quickly reminded Coby there were 50 laps left.

“We got the restart on the outside lane, that was beneficial for us because both restarts were on the outside and everybody knows that’s the place to be here and it helped us a ton. When we got to fourth I was praying for a caution. I knew if it stayed green, we weren’t going to get them- they were stretched out. Somebody heard me. I knew when we restarted fourth that we would have a really good shot. Woody was good- Doug just pulled in tight and went after the lead. Doug never put the car in jeopardy, he kept it straight- he did a hell of a job.”

“It wasn’t easy,” admitted car owner Mike Smeriglio III about keeping the team focused on the task at hand. “I’m a NASCAR fan first and car owner second. I think we got the bum end of the deal tonight. It is what it is. You know the quality of a team we have – Doug was pretty upset, he wanted to win the right way. It comes down to the leadership of the team with Phil Moran and just never giving up. I think at this point we’ve rebounded from finishing 30th at Loudon – fingers crossed- five race to go- I just hope whoever wins, wins it the right way.”

There is one thing that is crystal clear, there is no controversy here about Coby and the dominance MSR III Racing has had at Thompson this year.

“It’s Phil and the LFR Chassis,” said Coby about winning three in a row at Thompson. “Phil and Alex- they just know what they’re doing. Alex came over with me from the 52 and he has a lot of notes from John McKenna and obviously we won a few races with that 52 car. Alex and Phil have meshed the same way Alex and John had meshed – when he came with me I was hoping this is what would happen – they’re just so clever and creative about what adjustments they make on these impound races to give me the car I need – it’s not to say that somebody couldn’t drive the car and do what I do but they set it up for me- they know me, know what I want and how I drive- really that’s the answer to it. I’ve never qualified this good in my whole career, I’ve never been this good at this race track- it’s that chassis and how they set it up.”

“After the Icebreaker we felt like we had a really good car here,” said Moran. “Then after the second race here, we knew we had a really, really good car here. Tonight we unloaded for practice, Doug said the car felt good, we played around with a couple of things, trying to make it better, just small things, nothing major and it was good, real good. Doug is really good here- he knows how to search the track to find what he needs for the car. We’ve been lucky enough to hit the stagger right – Timmy’s doing a great job with the tires and making the right calls. We made no adjustments at the pit stop.”

The month of August has always been a challenging stretch with the rapid fire schedule of NWMT events at so many different venues. Moran shook his head yes and laughed, “The harder the work, the harder we work.”

All controversy of the night aside, if you’ve been part of the modified racing family for a while, then I’m sure today you too had a thought of John Blewett III and Tom Baldwin.

After crossing the stripe for the win, Coby took the checkered flag and did a reverse lap with the 2 car. Stopping briefly, Coby left the flag in turn one. Coby became choked with emotion when he talked about the thoughtful gesture in memory of John Blewett III. “Time goes by and people forget,” said Coby. “Janice commented on my Facebook page that she wishes she could be here tonight. It’s only after John’s passing that I became close with Jimmy, Janice, Danielle and all of his friends. I looked up to John- I felt like tonight- it hit home. I’m thankful to be here and do what I love to do. Ultimately it’s out of respect for the family and what John meant to the series. That includes Tom Baldwin as well. It’s just a real emotional place for a lot of people and everybody gets fired up about winning or wrecking – we forget that there are some people who can’t even come here because it’s so emotional for them. The flag up there is for John- I know the family will appreciate it- we still think of them, we don’t want anyone to forget.”

The NWMT heads south to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bush’s Bean 150 on Wednesday August 19th. The points are squeaky tight with Pitkat now in the lead by one with 413 over Preece with 412. Coby gained and stands at 405. “Like I said last week and the week prior and I’ll keep saying it,” said Pitkat, the new point leader. “These guys have run for championships before. We’ve never run for a championship before. I’ve never run this good and this consistent and this is what I wanted to prove on the Tour. I’ve moved up the ladder, done good, won championships and run consistent in every division – this is what I want to prove to everybody and myself.”
Five events left on the 2015 schedule, every lap, every position, every point counts.
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: August 13, 2015

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