Locals help Coby chase another NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour title

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SEEKONK — Doug Coby delivered a bit of a message to the rest of his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competitors over the last week as the reigning division champion jumped back into the title chase following his victory in the circuit’s most recent race in New Hampshire just a few days after taking the checkered flag in a non-sanctioned event at the Seekonk Speedway.

Coby, of Milford, Conn. who has several local ties, edged Ted Christopher by .153-seconds to capture the Whelen Tour’s Town Fair Tire 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, July 20. It was his eighth career win, but first since on tour since last September when he also at New Hampshire.

Doug Coby holds the trophy aloft after he won the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour Town Fair Tire feature, July 20, in New Hampshire.

Doug Coby holds the trophy aloft after he won the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour Town Fair Tire feature, July 20, in New Hampshire.

The win comes two weeks after Coby missed the race at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway due to a wreck in qualifying and dropped to fifth in points entering the New Hampshire race. Saturday, Coby started 15th and worked his way to the front. He drove the No. 52 Furnace & Duct Supply/Seekonk Grand Prix Chevrolet past Ryan Preece for the final time with four laps to go en route to the win.

“It’s really neat to be in Victory Lane here,” Coby said. “I said it last time in [last] September, I’ve been close a lot of times. I’ve really studied the draft, and I’ve really studied Modifieds here. I’ve watched a lot of video of races where I’ve missed an opportunity to finish in the top five or a win or something.”

After having never reached Victory Lane in his first 18 career starts at the “Magic Mile,” Coby has celebrated there two times in a row.

“It’s not going to happen all of the time, but I feel like I have a great understanding of where I need to be positioned at the end of a race, and it’s just a matter of whether I can get there,” Coby said.

The bad news for Coby and the rest of the title contenders is that points leader Preece finished third. While Preece had his three-race win streak snapped, he still added to his lead as his three nearest challengers all had issues and finished outside the top 10. Rowan Pennink (15th), Mike Stefanik (22nd) and Justin Bonsignore (32nd). Preece leads Pennink by 44 points and Coby by 48 after six races.

NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour regular Andy Seuss finished fourth and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman was fifth. Woody Pitkat finished sixth, followed by Eric Berndt, Chuck Hossfeld, Richie Pallai Jr. and Jamie Tomaino.

There were 27 official lead changes – recorded at the start/finish line – the most since 2006. As is often is the case, however, there were multiple swaps for the lead within a single lap, especially between Christopher and Pennink in the first half of the race. Christopher led a race-high 49 laps.

Preece was one of three cars that experienced engine issues in practice on Friday morning, but the swap of power plants didn’t prove to be detrimental for the points leader on Saturday as he extended his career-best streak of top-10 finishes to 12 races. The third-place result tied for Preece’s best finish in 14 career races in Loudon, recorded three times previously.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is back in action Saturday, July 27 with the Town Fair Tire Whitcomb 200 at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H.

Coby, who drives for owner Wayne Darling of Seekonk, was coming off a dominating effort en route to victory lane at Seekonk Speedway’s Open Wheel Wednesday event, July 17.

Coby celebrates in victory lane after winning the Mod event at Seekonk Speedway's Open Wheel Wednesday event, July 17.

Coby celebrates in victory lane after winning the Mod race at Seekonk Speedway’s Open Wheel Wednesday event, July 17.

Coby traded the lead with only Todd Annarummo in the 100-lap feature. They shared the front row for the start before Annarummo leapt to the lead with Coby on his bumper. Three lead-changes later, Coby roared home for the $10,000 grand prize, just ahead of Les Hinckley with Annarummo, Matt Hirschman and Anthony Nocella in pursuit.

Coby finally edged past Annarummo into the lead for keeps on lap 80. Hinckley moved him to third a lap later. On the same circuit, Hirschman eased Todd Ceravolo back to fifth. With 20 laps remaining, top four finishers had been established. Hinckley pursued Coby relentlessly, but was unable to get to the lead. Nocella managed to push past Ceravolo into fifth.

Coby earned a .679 second victory over Hinckley at the stripe. Ceravolo’s lap of 12.175 was best on the evening, with Annarummo following close with 12.183 to Coby’s 12.185.

Coby also participated in the NEMA Midget event at Seekonk last week, finishing second to Randy Cabral. Coby ran to an amazing top speed on the event with an 11.149-second pass around the oval.

Coby’s NASCAR Whelan Tour car and crew have a decidedly local flavor. Darling is the owner of the No. 52. East Providence businesses Gripnail  and Johnson Landscaping join another local, Furness and Duct, and the Seekonk Grand Prix amusement center as sponsors along with Smith Sport Optics and Coca Cola of Providence.

City native and East Providence Police Officer Pat Conaty is a member of Coby’s pit crew as a tire carrier/gas man along with Seekonk’s Simon Olean, jack man and tire specialist.

The No. 52′s East Bay ties also include Warren’s Alex Ensign, the car chief and front tire changer. Southeastern Massachusetts is represented Taunton’s Josh Bowley (rear tire changer and mechanic), Berkley’s John McKenna (Crew Chief) and Deborah Marrotte (time keeper/scorer) and Easton’s Rob Richard (tire changer). Coby’s Connecticut connections include Shawn Sellew (catch can) of Stafford and Brian Sullivan (spotter) of Hartford.

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