THOMPSON, Conn. (WWLP) – Doug Coby won his third consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Championship Sunday at the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing presented by Xtra Mart at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut. Coby entered Sunday’s race needing only a 16th place finish to clinch the crown. He started from the outside pole and finished sixth.
This is his fourth NWMT title in five seasons of racing. Only Coby, Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman Jr., Richie Evans, and Jerry Cook have won four or more NASCAR Modified Championships.
Coby told 22News, “We just try to get better everywhere we go. Even the tracks we’re good at. This year a lot of it had to do with how good we were in qualifying with nine poles. That’s almost unheard of in a 17 race season. That helps and everybody says, ‘Yeah you start up front every week’ but it’s not like we draw a pill and magically start out front. We start up front because we’re a fast car at every single track we go to and they give me something I can lay two laps down. There is a little bit of driver that has to lay the two laps down too. It’s gotta be a good car but you can’t screw up. That’s the thing I probably remember most about this season. The win at Loudon. I had to come from I think eighth with 30 to go and ended up in the lead with 20 to go. It took ten laps to go from eighth to first. That was kind of special. Going to Oswego, which was a track I’ve never seen before, and we kind of went out there and just dominated that race and rode around out front all day. Those are the things that stick with me because it’s just you ask what makes the season or breaks the season and it’s our qualifying efforts and you know constantly showing up at everywhere we go with a winning car and five wins doesn’t equal the seven that we had last year. You know five wins is unbelievable. We know there’s guys stepping up their games. Certainly the 51 (Justin Bonsignore) and 16 (Timmy Solomito) did that this year and there’s going to be other guys that step it up next year. We’re just going to keep doing our homework and try to make better race cars. I am going to try to keep winning races and see if we can do it again.”
Coby’s veteran crew chief Phil Moran had these thoughts, “It’s just the whole team. The whole team just works hard. The biggest part of this deal is finishing the races and mechanical failures, parts falling off the car. We haven’t had any and it’s because of these guys. Preparation, going through the car. Front bumper to back bumper. Making sure every nut and bolt is tight. Making sure every piece is on where it’s supposed to be and that’s the biggest thing. Our cars don’t fall apart and if you can keep them together. If I do my job and the setup is right and make good calls during the race. It just makes life easier.”
Champion car owner Mike Smeriglio III liked the word “dynasty” after another mod tour title. He told 22News, “I think when you think of dynasty, I really think you have to put Doug Coby right there. Let’s not forget he won with the 52 (Wayne Darling) before us and he finished second only because of a DNS when his throttle stuck at Riverhead. To me I think Doug Coby is a dynasty and I am just glad to be a part of it.”
Justin Bonsignore won his fourth NWMT race of the year after leading the last 20 laps at Thompson. Bonsignore came into Sunday’s race as Coby’s closest championship chaser at 20 points behind. Despite having a great season, Bonsignore was still disappointed. After the race he told 22News, “Such an amazing team led by Billy Michael (crew chief) and Ken Massa (car owner) gets everything we need this year every year this year in general. We just really turned it up especially the second half. The first half wasn’t any such. We just turned it up the second half of the year. Like you said won four out of seven or four out of eight, whatever it was. It’s really impressive, but you know, just maybe a little too little too late to get in. We were way back at one point. We were really to get to within 10. Not really going to be too upset about it or disappointed. Really proud of my team. Will go on into the offseason and look at where we can improve a little bit. Always fine tuning and trying to be better. Will go into that and look at what we can do. Otherwise just hold our heads up high and be really proud of our team. From pit stops to the race cars to everything. It’s just such a great team to be a part of. I am really happy to be a part of. It sucks the season is over cause we really have some speed right now. It would be nice to keep racing every week. Will just go into next year and hope for the best.” Ryan Preece finished second, Jimmy Blewett was third, and Donny Lia fourth. Timmy Solomito started from the pole and took fifth. He also was third in the final point standings, with Lia fourth, just a point ahead of Max Zachem in fifth. Matt Swanson is the series’ rookie of the year.
The exact status and schedule of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is unknown for next season. NASCAR spokesman Jason Christley gave 22News this statement concerning a merger between NASCAR’s Northern and Southern Modified Tour. “As NASCAR looks at the schedule for 2017 and beyond, we are looking at a number of options to continue growing the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Our goal is to elevate the marque events on the calendar, strengthening the Modified brand along the East Coast. From Farmer and Allison to Evans and Cook, the Modifieds have always forged a unique identity and stoked intense passion among our fanbase. As we shape our future, we are focusing on what has made the Modifieds special and are committed to continuing that rich tradition.”
Thompson’s annual World Series is a three-day racing event. Bobby Therrien won the season ending American-Canadian Tour 75-lap race. Nick Sweet won his first ACT championship after a fifth place finish. Sweet told 22News, “We had a really really good season. We just went to racetracks every week and tried to win. We ended up really finishing well all season long and that’s why we ended up winning the championship. It was just a lot of fun all season long. What better to finish it out here at Thompson. It’s a beautiful facility. First time here today to watch all the modifieds. It’s a pretty neat experience.”
Woody Pitkat drove to victory lane in the Valenti Modified Racing Series 50 lap feature. Jon McKennedy finished second and has already clinched his fourth MRS Championship. McKennedy told 22News, “We won nine races. Nine different race tracks. A couple different modified touring series. North Carolina all the way up to Maine. It’s been really a good year.”
Randy Cabral kept his Northeastern Midget Association championship hopes alive by winning their 25-lap event. Cabral is chasing defending champion John Zych who finished fourth at TSMP. NEMA and the Granite State Pro Stock Series are scheduled to conclude their season and wrap-up championships at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl next weekend. The Valenti Modified Racing Series will finish their season at next weekend’s Octoberfest at the Lee USA Speedway on the New Hampshire Seacoast.