Contenders Set Plans For Whelen Mod Tour Title Deciding Sunoco World Series 150 At Thompson

Doug Coby (left) and his team owner Mike Smeriglio III in the garage Saturday at Thompson Speedway

THOMPSON – An overflowing roster pouring in to Thompson Speedway for the final NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event of the season is testament to the health of the series.

Though having 35 cars on the track for the season finale doesn’t give championship points leader Doug Coby any smiles.

Sunday Coby goes chasing his unprecedented fourth consecutive Whelen Modified Tour championship in the Sunoco World Series 150 at Thompson. Last year Coby became the first driver in series history to win three consecutive titles. He also won a championship in 2012.

Coby, of Milford, led the way in qualifying for the six drivers still mathematically eligible for the championship on Sunday.

“There’s too many cars here to make this an easy race tomorrow,” said Coby, who qualified second Saturday behind first-time pole winner Chase Dowling. “I feel like the last couple years I felt like we could have long green flag runs if we singled out. I don’t think this is going to have long green flag runs until we weed out about eight to 10 cars.”

Coby holds a 10-point lead over second Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, N.Y. Timmy Solomito of Islip, N.Y. sits third in the standings, 12 points behind. Ryan Preece of Berlin, who has missed two events this season, sits fourth in the standings, 19 points behind Coby.

Coby said avoiding land mines would be his focus for Sunday.

“And there’s just a lot more than in years past,” Coby said. “We have a good enough car to go win the race, which is helpful. But I don’t think we have a good enough car to go dominate the race and hide. Unfortunately that’s the way this year has gone.”

Eric Goodale of Riverhead, N.Y. (fifth in the standings) and Rowan Pennink of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. (sixth in the standings) are also in the title chase.

Coby’s prediction for Sunday is mayhem in the closing stages, especially on restarts.

“Everybody who is in the top eight is going to feel like they have a shot at winning,” Coby said. “The guys on the outside are going to feel like ‘I’m going to go from eighth to fourth.’ And the guys on the inside are going to say ‘I’m not going to go from third to tenth, so you guys better watch out on the outside.’ I think it’s going to be one those races.”

Coby and Preece (2013 champion) are the only drivers in the top six who have previously won series titles.

Bonsignore qualified 14th.

“We’ve got a really good car,” Bonsignore said. “… I’m not worried at all. A lot can happen in these races. We’re going to go in and try to win the race and let everything fall where it may.

“We’re going to be aggressive and go out and try to win the race. He has to play defense. He just has to really worry about us. … I’m just going to go hard all day and try to get up to the front and let them play defense and hopefully something happens where they get shuffled out.”

Solomito was eighth in qualifying after a rough day. His primary car was wrecked in an odd practice crash when he crashed into John Baker when Baker was coming onto the track from pit road.

“I’ve just got to go out there and win,” Solomito said. “Really that’s all we can do. Go out there and lead as many laps as you can and win the race. We had a pretty [bad] day, but I guess sometimes those happen. It could have been avoided, I felt like. Unfortunately this is the boat we’re in and this is the ship we’re going to sail. We’ll be fine.”

Preece, who will start third, was upbeat and excited after qualifying.

“I think it’s funny, I bet every guy you go up to that’s not the point leader right now probably says ‘I’ve got to go lead every lap and I’ve got to win.’” Preece said. “Which is pretty much you have to do. I feel like we definitely have a car right now that’s very capable of doing that. Winning races has kept me in this, so that’s what I plan on doing tomorrow. I have every intention to go for the lead as quick as I can and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there. I’m looking forward to it.”

Pennink will start sixth and Goodale 16th.

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