September 20, 2010

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By Brian Danko

LOUDON, N.H. Doug Coby, always the first man to draw the short straw when it comes time to getting a ride on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour nearly pulled off the upsets of upsets at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Coby, who started dead last in the field after blowing a motor on Thursday during qualifying came up one lap short and a couple of turns short in  winning the F.W. Webb 100 and while he would finish fourth, he impressed many people after taking  the lead from Ryan Newman on the restart with two to go.

“I guess it’s not a fairy tale unless you win.” Doug said after climbing out of the car owned by Eddie Partridge and sponsored by T.S. Haulers. “When you have your buddies racing with you (Jimmy Blewett and Ronnie Silk) you want to get the Cup driver and hope that one of you can win.”

Coby saw that go by the wayside when Jimmy Blewett passed him in turn one of the final lap and forced Coby to drift up and break his momentum and while he wishes Blewett waited a bit, he was thrilled with the run.

Jimmy Blewett then made one last charge at Newman but couldn’t get the car to stick in turn three on the final lap.

“I can’t complain. Jimmy did what he felt he needed to do right then and there.”

When I asked why, even he the poor economy, he can’t get a top ride on the modified tour, he shrugged his shoulders. “You know, I will never complain about the one race deals that I have gotten because these are the people who want me in their cars and I will never complain about the rides I have never gotten” Doug said

“Ralph Solhem and Eddie, I’ve done some one race deals for them and if I get one race deals for the next ten years, I’ll be happy with it.” Doug said thinking back to what could have happened if everything worked out on the last lap.

“I tried to work with Ryan (Newman) and I couldn’t. It was tough trying to run with the 7 car (Newman) but I knew that I wanted to be second on the last lap if possible to make one last charge at Newman.”

For Coby, the one race deal might never have happened when he blew the motor on the spec engine in the car but the team changed the motors and they wanted to run it.

“You know, these guys are trying to win a championship and they showed faith in me by running both cars.” Coby earned $7, 015 for fourth.

So the driver so often overlooked every time for a top ride on the modified tour, showed everyone just what kind of driver he is and the kind of person he is thanking the people who have given him one race deals.

Doug Coby…Class driver and class act.

OLD TIMES IN THE CUP GARAGE

Whenever the NASCAR sprint Cup series returns to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it brings with it many crew members who toiled in the modified tour series before heading south.

I had to sit down with former modified tour champion, Mike McLaughlin, now Joey Logano’s mentor and Bruce Dell, a former Riverside Park Speedway champion and competitor on the modified tour, who now works for Joe Gibbs racing.

Bruce, Mike and myself relived old stories of the past and some of the antics took even Joey Logano by surprise at what Bruce and Mike did….and got away with.

McLaughlin, one of the smoothest drivers to ever race on the tour, winning the title in 1988 is now overseeing all of Logano’s progress as a Cup driver while Bruce Dell, who had a career best finish of second on the tour comes up north when he can but usually just works in the shop during the week.

While we have all gotten older and a lot tamer, some of the many antics we did together still brings smiles to our faces.

SANTOS LEAD SHRINKS

Who could have figured what changes to the points standing would suffer after the finish of the 100 lap race?

Mike Stefanik moved from third to second and just two points out the of points lead when Ryan Preece took out Bobby Santos with less than five laps to go. Earlier in the race, points runner up heading into NHMS was Ted Christopher but he suffered an accident not of his own doing when Jimmy Blewett got into Eddie Flemke, Jr.  that caused a multi car crash ending his day in the 30th spot.

Heading into the Stafford Fall Final, Santos holds a less than one position in the race  over the nine time NASCAR champion.

T.C. is now third and despite the poor finish because of the accident, is only 65 points away from the top spot while Ronnie Silk is lurking in fourth just 89 markers with two races to go.

NEWMAN A MOD REGULAR?

While Ryan Newman has come in and dominated the top three paying races of the 2010 season winning both races here at NHMS and at the Bristol Motor Speedway and in the process winning $42,000 for just three races, he seems to have taken a liken to by the modified tour regulars.

I asked Newman after the race why, after taking the three biggest races on the modified tour schedule, they enjoy him dropping down onto the tour, Newman first laughed and then seriously said “ I think it’s the amount of respect that I show these guys. You know some of these are just as good as the people I race with on the Cup series.  I don’t know all of the guys on the tour but I respect them all .”

“I race these guys with the respect that they deserve and they have repaid it to me. I wish today that I could have raced with Teddy but it didn’t work out. Mike (Stefanik), Jimmy Blewett and some of the other tour regulars are just great to race with.”

When Newman was asked about winning in Tom Baldwin, Sr. car number. Newman said he was honored. “I remember going to New Smyrna when I was a kid and seeing the 7NY, the cool black car with the orange interior. I never met Tom but to win representing his car number is something.”

“This is just an honor to go three for three this year. It’s just a lot of fun to come here and race this racecar and this series.” Newman said

NEWMAN ON POLE AGAIN

Ryan Newman captured his third New Hampshire Motor Speedway modified pole on Thursday in the Kevin Manion-Gary Putnam owned modified. Newman, who earned the name ‘Rocketman’ for his ability  to win many pole position in the Sprint Cup series circled the 1.058 mile oval in 29.457 seconds good for a speed of 129.300 MPH.

Todd Szegedy was second with Ryan Preece third, Bobby Santos fourth and Eddie Flemke, Jr. fifth.

In a story written by Travis Barrett for the NASCAR Hometracks.com, Barrett wrote that Newman feels like one of the modified tour regulars and feels the competition is just as good as his regular job competitors.

“I would say that they are just as good, just as talented racers as I race with on Saturdays and Sundays in the Cup series.” Newman pointed out Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik as prime examples.

QUARTERLEY SHINES

Dale Quarterley, a part time driver on the modified tour and winner of the Lime Rock event in July showed he is quickly adapting to the open wheel cars as he finished sixth after starting 34th. Dale had problems on qualifying day and was forced to start next to last but steadily worked his way through the field for the great finish.

A total of only 35 modifieds made the trip to NHMS but on the other hand only 32 K and N Series East cars  were on hand as well as 36 Camping World Truck series.

The F. W. Webb 100 was the 52nd race all time at the one mile oval and ranks third all time on hosting races for the modified tour behind Thompson Speedway and the Stafford Motor Speedway, both tracks located in Connecticut.

In the 51 previous races held here, there have been 16 different winners led by Tony Hirschman’s seven victories while there have been 21 different pole winners with Ted Christopher and Jan Leaty topping the charts with seven apiece.

It’s hard to believe that the track is celebrating its 20th year of hosting NASCAR racing. The first ever race was a Busch series race and was July 15, 1990 with Tommy Ellis winning the 300 mile race while the first modified/Busch North took place on September 2nd and Mike ‘Magic Shoes’ McLaughlin swept the doubleheader.

It is believed that the modifieds will have three events in 2011 at NHMS as the modifieds are likely to be on both Cup weekends, scheduled for July 17th and September 24th while they will also be on the Indy  Car  weekend set for August 14th.

The modified tour will conclude the 2010 season with races at the Stafford Motor Speedway on October 3rd and then at Thompson Speedway with the World Series on October 17th.