OMG: Defending Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby finishes fourth at Thompson

Doug Coby

Doug Coby

THOMPSON — So many of the stories from Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Saturday centered around Doug Coby’s pole-winning run and how he seemed poised to roll off to a fourth consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win dating back to last season.

The three time Tour champion from Milford, though, had an inkling Saturday night that his Sunday wasn’t going to be that easy.

“We’ve got some stuff to work on, but I think we knew that from practice,” said Coby, who finished fourth in the season-opening Icbreaker 150 on Sunday afternoon. “We knew we had not quite the same car we had last year.”

But that 2015 season played a very large role in people expecting domination this weekend from Coby. He won last season’s Icebreaker from the pole and went on to sweep all four of the Tour’s events for the year at Thompson — leading at least 89 laps in every one of those races.

Almost immediately Sunday, Coby’s day showed signs it was going to be different.

He lost the lead to Ryan Preece on the race’s initial start, settling into second during a long green flag run which ended when the caution flew on lap 81. Coby lined up third on the restart and — before long — found himself locked in fourth and trying to work around Justin Bonsignore.

He hounded Bonsignore for the better part of the next 40 laps, but with Bonsignore holding court in the outside lane, Coby couldn’t get the forward drive he needed to make the pass.

“I needed all of the race track off of four, and I think I would have pulled away from Justin if I could have used it and maybe ran (second-place Ryan Preece) down,” Coby said. “But Justin did what he had to do to save third. He moved around a little bit which was a little bit annoying, but we didn’t make any contact or anything. It’s too early in the season to worry about that kind of stuff.”

Bonsignore, like Coby, was reminded of last season’s World Series at Thompson, where Coby needed 30 laps to work his way past Bonsignore en route to victory lane. Both drivers on Sunday made adjustments on their respective pit stops that didn’t quite pan out the way they’d hoped over the final third of the race.

For the first time since the season finale in 2014, Coby failed to lead even a single lap at Thompson.

“The pit stop, we made good adjustments, but just not good enough,” Coby said. “It’s just tough out there on restarts. You get bounced around. But once you settle in single file, it’s ‘OK, there’s going to be another restart and I’d rather be fourth.’ Then you realize there’s not going to be another restart and it’s time to go, but you also don’t have the car you had 15 laps ago.”

“If you don’t hit (the setup) perfect on that second set (of tires), it shows that everybody is human,” Bonsignore said.

But Bonsignore also opened his post-race remarks with the media by joking that “Doug’s won enough here.” If nothing else, it only served to prove the point that all eyes have been on Coby — both inside the garage and out.

“Even as racers in the garage, people start to question themselves,” Bonsignore said. “It’s like, ‘What are those guys doing that we’re not?’”

At the very least, Coby was able to see the humor in expectations having risen to nearly unreasonable levels for his No. 2 team.

“We had a good car, but you’re not going to win every time out here,” Coby said. “We finished fourth. Oh my God. Can you imagine?

“There were many years where if I finished fourth in the Icebreaker, I’d be ecstatic.”

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