Checkmate: Doug Coby Swats Ryan Preece To Win Whelen Modified Tour Mr. Rooter 161 At Waterford

WATERFORD – After winning the TSI Harley-Davidson on May 25 at Stafford Motor Speedway Doug Coby laid out his big picture plan for chasing a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2012.

Doug Coby (Photo: Corey Sipkin/NASCAR)

Coby said after that race that his goal was simply to finish in the top-10 in all 14 events this year and he figures that sort of track record will guarantee a title.

Ensuring that plan would work could be made easy by making sure those top-10 finishes include winning the majority of the events during that span of 14 races.

After Saturday at the Waterford Speedbowl, it seems that’s the current plan Coby is banking on.

Coby, of Milford, held off Ryan Preece on a green-white-checker restart to win the Whelen Modified Tour Mr. Rooter 161 at Waterford. The race was extended to 163 laps because of the final caution setting up the decisive finish.

Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, N.Y. was second and Preece, of Berlin, third.

For Coby it continued a torrid streak to start the season. It was Coby’s fifth career victory and his third win in five races this season. Coby won two races in his first 116 starts in the starts from 2002 to 2011.

“I’ve seen Donny Lia win a bunch of races in a row and I saw [Ron Silk] the last two years like he’s always in the top two, top three, with a couple wins,” said Coby, who is in his first season running full-time for car owner Wayne Darling. “I saw Tony Hirschman win a ton of races and it’s like ‘Will I ever get to do that?’ And it’s a really cool feeling. It’s neat to have people feel good that my team and me are putting together the first half of a season that people are kind of excited about it. You know it’s not the typical team or the driver that you all thought was going to be leading the points five races in or have won three races, I know that. It makes us feel real good.”

Coby also won the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway this year on April 29. In the other two races this season Coby had an eighth place finish in the season opener at Thompson International Speedway on April 15 at Thompson and second place finish on May 12 at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H.

The victory Saturday was hardly without it’s fair share of dramatics for Coby. He started third and took the lead from Ted Christopher on lap 44.

On lap 101, a skirmish broke out in a group of tightly bunched lapped cars just in front of Coby and then second place running Todd Szegedy. When the chain reaction wreck set off, Coby was able to narrowly avoid disaster diving through the infield grass while Szegedy’s car was mangled by backmarkers.

“I got hit in that,” Coby said. “I got nicked a little bit by [Patrick Emerling]. We just got lucky. So far this season luck has been on our side and I haven’t had a whole lot of that in my career so I’m going to ride the wave while I can.”

Szegedy’s night was ended by the nasty wreck.

“They decide they’re going to be a bunch of complete morons and start racing and I guess [Emerling] went three-wide and destroyed our night,” Szegedy said of the back running cars racing tight in front of the leaders. “I know when I’m getting lapped I get out of the way, I expect these guys to do the same. What are you going to do? They’re not smart.”

After dodging the bullet Coby looked to be on a cruise control, opening nearly a straightaway lead over Preece until the caution flew again on lap 138. On the ensuing lap 146 restart Preece gave Coby a hearty run on the outside for two laps before Coby cleared him on lap 148.

But the caution flew again on lap 156 when Jamie Tomaino and Johnny Bush wrecked on the frontstrech.

On the final restart Coby gave Preece in nudge in turn one, sending him up the track. The move left Preece going from battling for the win to losing second place to Bonsginore.

Immediately following the race Coby said the plan was simple: “Knock [Preece] in the door and hang on for two laps.” Later he explained the strategy with more depth.

“It wasn’t a huge hip check but it was a hip check that, you’re kind of pinched on the bottom and I know I wanted the top or the middle of the the track on entry [into turn one], so I kind of just swing wide and I’m sure he wanted me to pinch down low so he could get the run off [the corner].

“I learned a tremendous amount following [Waterford all-time winningest SK Modified driver] Dennis Gada here one night in an [SK Modified], how to take someone’s line away on the outside going into [turn] one. I didn’t really care if he was there, I was going to run that line and make sure that he would have to go higher than he wanted on entry so that he couldn’t get the nice run off the middle and beat me up off. The restart before that I didn’t give him a lot of room and the opportunity to stay out there.

“It wasn’t necessarily that I was aiming to hit Ryan, it was that I was driving the line I wanted to drive and didn’t care where Ryan was.”

Preece was accepting of the move.

“There was about nothing I could do different,” Preece said. “We were right there and I didn’t have much room. It is what it is. Congratulations to Doug. It sucks. I thought that green-white-checker was going to work out in my favor.

“He caught me off guard. I didn’t expect it. But hey, he was leading, he had to do what he had to do. I mean, I’ll remember that for the next time. But congratulations to that whole team, things are really going their way right now. … I feel bad as a driver to not be in victory lane right now with as good of a car as that was at the end.”

Bonsignore wasn’t surprised to see the battle for the win get feisty on the final restart.

“We’re at a bullring,” Bonsignore said. “You knew it was coming. We’re Modified guys, we’re known for hard nosed racing. I don’t think Ryan’s too upset. The shoe will be on the other foot one day and I don’t think Doug will be too upset it happens. It’s just good hard racing and you’re going for the win on a green-white-checker, I would have done the same thing.”

Coby, who came into the event with series points lead, extended that lead over defending series champion Ron Silk. Coby goes to the next event of the season, on July 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with 220 points, twenty better than Silk, of Norwalk. Preece is third in the standings with 197 points.

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