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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


Stafford Outlasts Mother Nature
by Polly Reid

With only two events left on the 2016 schedule, Doug Coby of Milford, CT said it best when he captured the Coors Light Pole Award on Saturday, “leading laps matters, leading the most laps matters and having a clean run matters.” Coby manifested all that and more by holding off a strong run by Timmy Solomito in the closing laps for a convincing win bringing the Mike Smeriglio III owned, Dunleavy Repair/A&J Romano Construction modified to victory lane in the weather delayed NWMT 44th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Solomito crossed for second, Jimmy Blewett third, Justin Bonsignore rebounded from an earlier issue to cross fourth with Chase Dowling completing the top five.

“That run after the pit stop, we had a great car,” said Coby. “We were better than him (Timmy Solomito) probably two thirds of that run but at the end he found something he could roll up on us a little bit and close the gap and if I didn’t have such a big gap when he got to second, he probably would have been right on us when that caution came out. Great job by them whatever they found they certainly gained on us and we were just a tick off. I know the car looked really fast but it wasn’t as comfortable there at the end as it was earlier in the race. But we made due and we put the Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair car in victory lane.”

“Thank you to the fans for coming out,” said Coby. “It was a trying, long day for everybody. The Fall Final is in the books, another year at Stafford Speedway and no better place to be than NAPA victory lane.”

Thirteen points separated Coby and Justin Bonsignore going in the NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final. Qualifying first and second, it was indeed a long, damp day waiting out Mother Nature as Stafford Motor Speedway committed to running the Fall Final. The day turned into night and at 9:52pm, Coby and Bonsignore brought the field to green.

Coby with the edge, it didn’t last long when five circuits in, Bonsignore passed for the lead. Three caution flags in the first twenty-nine laps kept the field close but on each restart, Bonsignore and Coby pulled from the pack setting a torrid pace. Lap thirty-five, Coby completed his move heading into turn one for the lead once again only to be reined in for next yellow that turned into a red flag while the track cleanup could safely take place.

A few minutes later when the field went from red to yellow flag conditions, suddenly, the 51 of Bonsignore did not fire up. Stalled just out of turn four, the 46 of Jeff Goodale pushed the 51 around the track allowing Bonsignore enough momentum to roll onto pit road. While the Phoenix Communications crew went to work under the hood, the field was set to go green. Bonsignore was now one lap down but was able to make it back out before another circuit passed.

A single car spin for Bobby Santos on lap forty-seven brought out the fourth caution of the night. Bonsignore became the free pass car and now on the lead lap, in 19th place, was able to begin his march forward.

“We had an ignition wire come loose and we lost power,” said Bonsignore. “It took us a lap to fix it. Luckily the 46 was nice enough to give us a good push and we didn’t have to wait on the wrecker otherwise our night would have been over.” Jeff Goodale who literally saved the night for Bonsignore was penalized for not maintaining speed under caution and restarted at the tail end of the field.

Upfront, Coby had his hands full with a stout field- Ron Silk, Jimmy Blewett, Chase Dowling and Shawn Solomito the top five, the green waved on lap fifty-one. Blewett made his move to become the new leader on lap fifty-three. Another yellow, another restart, this time, the side by side battle between Coby and Blewett was settled with Coby the leader.

The next caution, on lap sixty-two turned red for another track clean up. NASCAR which called for a break at the half way mark for the sake of safety on pit road due to the wet conditions, declared this to be the break sending the field down pit road for tires and adjustments on lap sixty-four.

Restarting on lap sixty-seven, it was Coby, Blewett, Silk, Dowling and Timmy Solomito the top five. Bonsignore fourteenth, the longest green run of the night was getting underway.

By lap eighty, still under green, Coby pulled to half a straight away from Dowling in second, Timmy Solomito third, Silk and Blewett while Bonsignore finally cracked the top ten.

The laps ticked off as the green run continued. Coby hit his marks, stretching his lead until lap 112 when Blewett in the top six, spun in turn three.

Coby, Dowling, Timmy Solomito and Rowan Pennink the top five brought the field to green on lap 117 with Bonsignore back in the hunt in sixth. After a brief pit stop, Blewett was back out on the track lining up at the tail end of the field remaining on the lead lap.

Solomito took over second from Dowling after the restart and set his sights on closing the gap between his spot and Coby in first.

The final caution of the night, on lap 137, closed up the field one more time. Restarting on lap 142, only eight more circuits around the CT half mile oval remained in the first time ever late night NWMT 44th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final 150. Coby, Solomito, Dowling, Pennink, Bonsignore and Blewett the top six, led the double file restart.

Coby nailed the restart, Solomito tucked in behind Coby, the pair nose to tail made a break from the pack. Bonsignore moved into fourth and with two to go, made a pass on Dowling for a possible podium finish. Then Bonsignore appeared to go a bit high through turn three, Blewett saw the door open and shot by both Dowling and Bonsignore to take over third.

At the checkers, the NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final top ten was Coby capturing his fifth win of 2016, Timmy Solomito, Blewett, Bonsignore, Dowling, Pennink, Max Zachem, Matt Swanson, Woody Pitkat and Shawn Solomito.

“I try really hard here not to screw up,” said Coby who has dominated the NWMT events at Stafford winning four out of the five last events at the historic half mile oval. “It was kind of a weird race. Justin and I were aggressive in the beginning trying to lead the most laps then whatever happened to him changed things for me right away. It changed my demeanor in the car, it changed what I planned to do the rest of the way. The restarts were a time of vulnerability and even when you clear them off of turn two, you wiggle a little bit then here they come dive bombing back on the bottom so I had to protect quite a bit. It’s probably a better race for the fans when that happens but it makes the guy leading the points a little bit nervous. Everybody is gaining on us here for sure, this was not an easy win. We came out and had that long green run after the pit stop break and got tires, made an adjustment and the car was really good but I wouldn’t have wanted to see four or five cautions in that time period. It just kind of played into our hands. Of course the caution has to come out late, that’s just the way it goes, you get a three second lead then the caution comes out and now everyone gets to dive bomb you again.” All smiles, Coby knows, “that’s just the way it goes.”

Timmy Solomito of Islip, NY was the second car out on Saturday to make his qualifying run. The tough draw put the Diversified Metals sponsored, Eric Sanderson modified at a disadvantage for key track position. Starting the Fall Final fourteenth, Solomito dug in and with the right adjustments during the break on lap sixty-four, was in the top five, up to third by lap 100 and took over second from Dowling on lap 118. Solomito ran nose to tail with Coby to the checkers. “I think I had something for him at the end there,” said Solomito. “I probably could have gotten a little more aggressive but hopefully next year when we’re racing for the championship he’ll remember that one.”

“I’m happy to come back and just get a top five, a top three is even better,” said Blewett who commanded a charge to the front with his Bob Garbarino owned, Starrett Tools/Mayhew Tools sponsored modified after a spin on lap 112. The Howell, NJ driver made a late race pass for a podium finish. “When we were coming around with three to go I said I’m going to get a fifth out of this, maybe a fourth. I came down into three and four there to take the white flag and I was able to get two for one,” said Blewett about digging low and passing Dowling and Bonsignore in one move. “We ran strong. The car didn’t really have the balance that I felt we needed all night. In the beginning when we were running with Doug, I did everything I had to do to try and get the lead. I didn’t do anything he wouldn’t do to anyone else. It’s late in the season, he’s running for points but I’m here to race. These last two races, I’m going to do the best I can like I do every other race, try as hard as I can and try to pull off a win if I can.”

Bonsignore of Holtsville, NY in the Ken Massa owned, Phoenix Communications sponsored modified lost some ground with points but is still in the numbers. “It was a good comeback,” acknowledged Bonsignore who had a rollercoaster of a night that included leading 29 laps, an unscheduled pit stop, a lap down to a top five finish. “I feel if we had waited on the intermission to when it should have been (at lap 75), I could have passed some more guys. Once you put everyone on even tires, for twenty laps, it’s just really hard to pass, it took us too long. We didn’t get enough cautions when we needed them and had to burn the car up too much coming back through.”

Coby gained points on Bonsignore, the gap now at twenty over Bonsignore as the final NWMT event of the year takes place this next weekend at the Sunoco World Series at Thompson. Coby and the Mike Smeriglio III team is poised to make history with the potential of three championship titles in a row which has never been done in the modern era of the Tour. “It just keeps getting better, more fun” said Coby about being in the hunt for a third straight title. “They’re taking big swings, I feel like a piñata and they’re all at the party taking swing after swing and somebody takes a big swing to the gut once in a while and it hurts. But, it’s a lot of fun and I’ll always point out the fact that it was not too long ago that I didn’t have this type of situation. No matter what, every win is fun and I’m grateful for everything our team does, it’s a lot of sacrifices, it’s evidence by days like today where it’s a Sunday night- not everybody has Columbus Day off, some of these guys have to go to work early in the morning and we’re rolling out of here after midnight after tech so, it’s a lot of dedication. It’s really special. I know we’re doing some special things in modified tour history right now. Sooner or later we’ll get knocked off the perch and somebody else will do some special things. But we’re going to soak it up while we can and enjoy the ride.”

The NWMT 44th Annual NAPA Autos Parts 150 is scheduled to air on NBCSN October 16th at 9:30pm.

A tip of the hat to Stafford Motor Speedway for keeping fans informed through social media the updates on the weather and track conditions. While it was a long, damp day for so many people, the Fall Final program was completed and those that could, were able to stay home until the track conditions improved enough to race.

The Chrome Horn will have updates with Denise Dupont starting on Saturday October 15 with qualifying at the final NWMT event of the season, athe Sunoco World Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. A champion will be crowned on Sunday October 16th. 
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: October 10, 2016

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