Tuesday December 11, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

Congratulations to Doug Coby and car owner Wayne Darling on their 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series Championship. It was a dream season for Coby, who six weeks after hoisting the championship trophy for the first time, still struggles to put to words what it means to be known as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion. “I don’t even think I really know what it means yet because I never really expected it,” Coby said. “It wasn’t something I thought was a realistic possibility. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet.”

The 33 year old Real Estate Broker from Milford, Ct landed his first full-time Whelen Modified Tour ride in 2003, where he had stable employment through the 2006 season. What followed was a four-year odyssey where he competed in 30 of 59 events for nine different car owners. Wayne Darling, took the advice of a crew member to put Coby behind the wheel of the No. 52 for the 2010 season finale at Thompson International Speedway. Coby was leading the race with four laps to go before a fluke mechanical issue forced the team to settle for a third-place finish. But the success of the one-off deal laid the groundwork for the future.

Following an eighth-place finish in the 2012 IceBreaker, Coby drove the B-52, the team’s nickname for the car, after the famed bomber aircraft, to Victory Lane in four of the next six races. Coby had two wins in 116 Whelen Modified Tour starts prior to the season. In a six-race stretch he had tripled his career total.

Coby and the No. 52 team took possession of the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship trophies as part of the NASCAR Touring Series Awards ceremonies held last Saturday night in the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In addition to the championship awards, each series rookie of the year was honored. Keith Rocco, despite being injured during the season was the Rookie of the Year from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Ryan Preece was awarded Most Popular.

The top 10 drivers and car owners from each of NASCAR’s touring series also were recognized during the gala event which featured Mike Joy and Dr. Dick Berggren of NASCAR on FOX along with Monica Palumbo of SPEED as co-hosts.

NASCAR announced the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule that will feature traditional dates at some of the premier short tracks and speedways in the northeast. In its 28th season of competition, the Whelen Modified Tour will see the 14-race slate spread across seven tracks in four states. New to the schedule in 2013 will be a special event as part of Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and a second date at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway.

The season will begin with the inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach non-points event on the short track at Daytona on Feb. 19 in which the Whelen Modified Tour and Whelen Southern Modified Tour will compete in combination. The Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway will host the regular season opener on April 14 with the Icebreaker. The campaign will also conclude at Thompson in the World Series on Oct. 20. Another Thompson date is set for Thursday, Aug. 15. The Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway will have its four traditional Whelen Modified Tour dates for the 22nd consecutive season, highlighted by the Spring Sizzler (April 28) and Fall Final (Sept. 29). Those two dates bookend Friday night Stafford events on May 24 and Aug. 2. The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, one of two tracks along with Thompson to play host to the Whelen Modified Tour in each of its first 28 seasons, will add a second date for 2013. In addition to the summer event on June 29, a fall event has been added for Sept. 14.

Three national series companion events also will be included in next season’s schedule with traditional appearances on the two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekends at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13 and Sept. 21 in Loudon, N.H. Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway again hosts the Whelen Modified-Whelen Southern Modified Tour combination event at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway as part of a doubleheader with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Aug. 21.

After a very successful return to Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl in 2012, the shoreline oval is back on the 2013 slate for June 22. Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H., will welcome the Whelen Modified Tour May 11.

Lee Pulliam completed his dream season Friday evening at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards where he was crowned as the 2012 national champion. Pulliam, 24, from Semora, N.C., won the title for the first time after finishing third a season ago. He also claimed his first Virginia state championship for his efforts at Radford’s Motor Mile Speedway and South Boston Speedway. He supplemented his season by competing at a pair of North Carolina tracks, Caraway Speedway in Asheboro and Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly and Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway. Pulliam, who has been racing just six years, burst onto the scene a season ago with a third-place finish in the national standings. However, due to a NASCAR suspension stemming from an incident at the end of the 2011 season, he got a late start on the year.

Keith Rocco, of Wallingford, Conn., finished second in the national standings while earning the Connecticut state championship with 14 wins, 26 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes in 43 starts. He competed at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway and Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl. Over the past six seasons, Rocco has finished no lower than fourth in the national rankings and has accumulated 91 wins in 245 starts over the span.

Numerous other awards were presented. Among those were Division IV Asphalt finalist Ken Cassidy Jr. of Waterford Speedbowl, Division III Asphalt finalists Scott Sundeen and Jesse Gleason of Thompson International Speedway Division II Asphalt finalists Woody Pitkat of Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway Connecticut Rookie of the Year Ed Puleo, Track Champions Ryan Preece, Thompson International Speedway; Tyler Chadwick, Waterford Speedbowl and Connecticut State Champion Keith Rocco. Ted Christopher was the Stafford Motor Speedway Champion but was not recognized as he chose not to attend the event.

The New England based Valenti Modified Racing Series held their 9th annual awards banquet at the Clarion Conference Center, in W. Springfield, MA. this past Saturday night, Dec. 8. Jon McKennedy, of E. Chelmsford, MA. was officially crowned series champion. McKennedy joined Kirk Alexander as a three-time series champion.

Three wins and strong finishes kept the Art Barry, of Preston, Ct., owned modified in the hunt for the title as they battled with Rowan Pennink, of Huntingdon Valley, PA., for the top honor. The 2012 championship is McKennedy’s third in four years. He took home the big trophy in 2009 and 2010. For car owner Barry, the championship is his first with the VMRS. Art has campaigned racecars for over 50 years, has been a championship car owner under the NASCAR banner and is also a New York State Stock Car Racing Fall of Fame member, and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member. Barry received a standing ovation when presented the annual ‘Dedication To Racing’ award. The McKennedy-Barry combo won races this past season at Waterford, (CT)., Monadnock, (NH) and Stafford (CT).

Series founder Jack Bateman made the annual Hoosier Tire East award presentation to McKennedy. Norm Wrenn received the Sunoco Hard Charger award, Spafco Most Improved Driver recipient was Max Zachem, Tough Luck award, the 06 CMR team, Sportsmanship award, the JRB # 17 team, Mechanic of the Year, Dave Berghman, Mountainside Graphix Rookie of the Year, Mark Bakaj, the Bob Polverari “711” plaque, to Joe Doucette, and the series ‘Above and Beyond” award to chief scorer, Jenn Ready.

Bateman in his annual state of the series remarks spoke of the 19-race schedule in 2013, recognized and thanked series sponsor, the Valenti Auto Group, series officials, and welcomed newly named race director, Scott Tapley, of Poland, ME., who was introduced. Bateman also stated that a rules meeting will be scheduled in January on a date to be announced.

In action on the tube this week, the Speed Channel has only re-runs of last seasons Sprint Cup events to offer. On Wednesday at noon Speed will re-run the NASCAR Sprint Cup event that was run in Darlington, SC. Thursday at noon the action moves to Charlotte, NC for a re-run of the Sprint Cup All Star Race and on Friday Speed will re-run the May Sprint Cup race that was held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks finished in the green at weeks end. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.72 to 16.67 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.04 to 1.69 while the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.81 to 26.02. Nascar Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.03 to 5.69 and Energy Transfer (Sunoco) dropped 0.59 to 43.31 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.19 to 12.78. Two of the three major carmakers were in the green. Ford went up 0.04 to 11.48 and Toyota went up 0.06 to 86.10 while General Motors dropped 0.69 to 25.19. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 0.43 to 64.45 and Lowes dropped 1.00 to 35.11. With the exception of Dupont, which went up 0.04 to 43.18, the big team sponsors were down for the week. Coca-Cola dropped 1.69 to 66.95 while Target Department Stores dropped 0.81 to 62.28, Aarons Rentals dropped 0.14 to 28.55 and Fedex dropped 0.17 to 89.36.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and other publications for over 3 decades.

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