By Travis Barrett
LOUDON, N.H. — Doug Coby saw the early lap times posted Saturday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and they immediately put his mind at ease.
Despite rain showers ripping through the area and an early start to qualifying, the two-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion went out late in the session and rolled to fast time to earn the pole for the Andy Blacksmith 100. It marked just the sixth career Tour pole for Coby, of Milford, Conn., and his first career pole at New Hampshire.
“I’ve got a lot of seconds, lot of thirds. It’s just so hard to be the fastest. Qualifying draw here is big,” said Coby, who was 32nd out of 35 cars to hit the track for time trials. “You saw (Donny) Lia and I go out late, and I think if we’d gone out early we probably would have been Top 10. I’ve also gone out last here and qualified 12th with a fast car, so you never know.
“It is what it is. A lot of it just has to do with just having a fast car and not (screwing) up.”
Lia qualified second, while Ryan Preece was third. Ted Christopher and Todd Szegedy completed the top five in qualifying. The top five starters account for 13 career victories at New Hampshire.
Coby has two of those wins, the most recent of which came in this event two years ago. Starting position does matter, though Coby doesn’t believe it’s the be all and end all.
“I won this race from 14th two years ago, so not really,” he said. “But it helps to settle in early and be at the front of the field. What happens is around lap 15 or 20, the guys who are stuck back in 10th start to pull the ‘mini-pin’ a little bit — not the big pin, they save that for later — but everyone knows at the halfway break you want to be in that top six group of cars because the wrecks are going to start happening from there on back.
“I think starting up front helps. I’d rather be starting up front than mid-pack.”
Though Tour teams enjoyed good weather Friday for practice and the All-Star Shootout, Friday arrived with rain. The track was dried in time to start the qualifying session on time, though it was under dark skies and high humidity.
Coby said he wasn’t worried about the weather as soon as he saw some of the early cars go out for their time trial runs. His pole lap of 29.515 seconds (129.046 mph) held off Lia by .022 seconds.
“I saw the lap times,” Coby said. “I saw guys getting 29.8, 29. 7 (seconds). That’s about as good as you’re going to get on a morning like this, so I’m happy.”
The Andy Blacksmith 100 is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start. There are more showers forecast on and off throughout the day.