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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


by Polly Reid

Chamber of Commerce type weather helped set the stage for the 2016 NWMT NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 at Stafford Motor Speedway where Grand Marshall Doug Dunleavy gave a hardy ‘Start Your Engines’ to a deep field of talented drivers and teams. Thirty-two modifieds rolled off the grid led by Coors Light Pole winner Doug Coby. There were opportunities and possible threats for other drivers to take the lead but in the end, Coby in the Mike Smeriglio III owned, Dunleavy’s Repair/A&J Romano Construction sponsored Chevrolet crushed the competition to win the historic NAPA Spring Sizzler earning the traditional wreath of flowers and bottle of milk for the third time in his career.

“The track had so much rubber on it and this thing just cut right through it,” said Coby. “We were turning some of our better laps the last thirty or forty laps of the race, what an unbelievable car Phil Moran and these guys give me.”

Todd Szegedy in the 15-40 Connection sponsored car crossed for second, Rowan Pennink fresh off his SK modified win earlier in the afternoon put the Boehler owned, Cape Cod Copper/Canto Paving Chevrolet on the podium for third with season opening winner Timmy Solomito fourth and Justin Bonsignore fifth.

The Sizzler was highlighted with long green runs, the first caution waving on lap 53. This was the fuel stop with Coby out of the pits first. Bonsignore would actually lead one circuit taking that on the restart before dropping into second by the first turn.

As the field settled into single file, the next caution flew on lap 95. Pit row lit up with business as the field came down for fresh Hoosiers. Electing not to pit, Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece led the field to green with Coby and Bonsignore in the next row. Preece was slipping back on the outside and Bonsignore was there when the two connected. Preece’s day was done after making contact with the wall- Bonsignore would be restart just inside the top fifteen.

Two more cautions closed up the field, lap 125 and then the final yellow on lap 172 but it was not enough for those chasing Coby who was not to be denied the coveted Sizzler trip to victory lane.

“I’m very lucky to have such good cars here,” said Coby. “Phil just knows how to get the car to rotate through the middle and get good bite off. It’s never easy, there are a lot of things that can happen and you know how racing works, you get out front, something happens with a lap car, fuel is probably going to be really close even though we all took fuel, nothing is ever easy in this series, that’s why we’re very appreciative when we can win, win poles, like I said in victory lane, we take it one race at a time and try to improve from the last time we were at the track.”

Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT set his goal for today, to be on the podium. Finishing second in the Sizzler one year ago, Szegedy took the green fifth and went on to equal the previous year effort with a convincing runner up finish. “I’ve got to thank Rob Fuller for putting me back in this car,” said Szegedy. “I really was going to sit out and not race this year. He told me, you want to go have some fun and run some races? I thought about it for a little bit and thought it was the right decision. The LFR cars are extremely fast, I knew back when we did the R&D work two years ago that these cars were going to be a force to be reckoned with and this is proof right here. Ryan Stone did a heck of a job, the whole team, what a heck of a pit stop they had, I’m very proud of them- the whole situation is great. I can’t wait to get to the next race and see if we can’t do this again, but I’d like to win this time. All in all it was definitely a great day.”

Making it a race by race decision, Szegedy will most likely be at Thompson in June- stay tuned.

Starting the Sizzler in eighth, Rowan Pennink of Huntingdon Valley, PA claimed the final position on the podium bringing the famed Boehler number 3 home for third.

“I’m proud of these guys on the 3 team,” said Pennink. “We struggled a little bit in practice, they did a lot of work to this thing and got it where it was today for the race. We were able to drive it to the front- I don’t think we had much for that 2 team but our car was great- we made big strides today.”

“Working with the 3 team, it’s a new thing – we started off with a top ten at Thompson, we ended up with a top three here so we’re making progress,” said Pennink. “We’re going to go to Waterford and keep trying to do more of that.”

“It’s always a good day when you finish in tech on the Tour,” added Pennink. “For me, it’s been a while since I’ve been in tech, way too long, I think the same thing with the 3 team. I think its two good things coming together here, there might be something good in the future. It was a great weekend. You can’t ask for much more than a top three in the Tour race and a win in the SK race. I’m pretty happy.”

Shawn Solomito finished sixth, Bobby Santos seventh, Chase Dowling, Brendon Bock and Max Zachem completed the top ten.

“This car now has three starts, three poles and three wins,” said Coby. Victory lane at Loudon, Stafford Fall Final and now the Sizzler, “the thing was just stellar all weekend.”

Today’s win for Coby may have been partly due to the sheer determination of crew chief Phil Moran. “I was disappointed with myself at Thompson,” admitted Moran where the 2 car won the pole and ended the day with a top five finish. “I worked my butt off to make sure we had a good car for here. I had a lot going on before Thompson and we just missed. I made sure this weekend we didn’t miss. The car was good, Doug knows this place- it makes all the difference in the world.” On the first stop, it was fuel only on lap 55, no changes to the car. “Then we went to lap 95 and the caution there, it was tires. The guys had an awesome stop.”

Next up on the schedule, Moran will be ready. “Waterford, I’m looking forward to going back there. We had a good car there last year, we finished second. This year, I think we can be a little bit better there.”

It’s early but the points are out there- Coby heads to the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on May 14th with a one point advantage over Timmy Solomito. Justin Bonsignore is third, only four tallies behind the leader with Rowan Pennink and Chase Dowling the top five.

The traditional pit party before the start of the Spring Sizzler was a great time to catch up with a couple drivers and Max Zachem of Preston, CT in the Lu-Mac’s Package Store/VWS Chevrolet was one of them.

“This is my 16th year racing. I started in 2000 when I was seven at the Little T, my dad was still working with Charlie (Pasteryak) on the Tour. Now I’m 23, racing on the Tour. We had a rough start, we had an issue with a wiring system, we finally got that figured out- we had limited number of laps for practice but it went well for what we had and qualified 15th. We were a little off but we worked on it and 200 laps is a long time, we’ll make something happen. Be there at the end, that’s the big thing. I’ve watched these guys how many years and know that you never win on lap one, you’ll never be there at the end. The whole key to that is be there at the end in order to win.” What would Zachem consider a successful second year on the Tour? “Be in the top ten in points, that’s my goal.”

Zachem finished tenth today and yes, it is early, but Zachem is sitting ninth in points. So far, so good.

Traveling from North Carolina, shop foreman at Gnassi Racing, Gary Putnam hailing originally from nearby Vernon, CT made the trip north for his third time competing in the Spring Sizzler. “I came up Thursday night so I could see my grandmother, my father is here and I got to see my aunt and uncle, brother in-law, everyone.” Also competing on the NWSMT in his Curb Records sponsored modified, Putnam collected a win last year in the KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Series at Orange County. His experience draws an interesting comparison. “It’s different racing up here compared to what we do down there. The race tracks down there are really worn out so you kind of take care of your stuff more, or ride more. This place has really good grip especially being the first race of the year. The track had a really easy winter so it seems really ‘grippy’, I think you’re going to have to run pretty hard. It’ll be fun.”

Matt Swanson from Action, MA in the Spafco Race Chassis/Atlantic Sprinkler modified was the top finishing rookie at Thompson and today, topped the rookie field again with an eleventh place finish.

“We started last year at the Spring Sizzler running an SK light here. The deal was to do a whole season in the SK Lights. I was running with the same guys I am now- Ken Barry, his dad Art, my father, all the guys that are involved with us now. Half way through the season we lost our motor. This car was already in the process of being built, we already had a motor purchased, all the parts and pieces, they just needed to be put together. When we lost the motor it was kind of a wakeup call to get this thing done and we decided to try a couple of Tour races. I’ve always wanted to see what I could do on the Tour- we’re improving every week and hopefully we can be up there with Doug Coby, Ryan and all of them one day- we’re slowly picking away at it.”

Not too long ago, Eric Goodale in the GAF Roofing/Supreme Skylights modified used to race on the Tour competing against his older brother Kevin who now actually helps Eric out. These days Goodale runs against his cousin Jeff Goodale and his other cousins, Timmy and Shawn Solomito. There are four members of my family in this race, it feels like every other car that’s out there, I’m racing my family.”

“We’ve been racing against each other since go karts, Charger cars and modifieds. We’ve seen each other on all levels of racing.”

“Even though I didn’t have the run I wanted at Thompson,” said Goodale, “I got to see Timmy get his first Tour win- even though he is a competitor; it felt good to see that. He works hard and he’s an awesome kid, I was really happy for him.”

“You know, that means I’ve got to step up my game up now, I can’t be losing to family members out there,” Goodale laughing and flashing a smile added, “It bothers me more to lose to them than to the others out there.” 
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: April 25, 2016

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