Modified Race Preview: Thompson

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Coby, who has won three of the last four Whelen Modified Tour championships, has five wins this season to lead the division. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Doug Coby, still just 37 years old, is building a Modified racing resume that could rival anybody’s in history when his career is complete.

Coby, of Milford, Connecticut, owns a 20-point lead atop the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings as the tour rolls into the Sunoco World Series 150 presented by XtraMart at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut, on Sunday. Coby, who has won three of the last four Whelen Modified Tour championships, has five wins this season to lead the division.

A finish of 16th or better on Sunday, regardless of what any other driver does, would hand Coby a fourth championship and put him just one behind Tony Hirschman’s five for second on the all-time list and over halfway to the division’s all-time winningest driver Mike Stefanik’s seven career titles.

With his third win of the season last weekend at Stafford Motor Speedway, Coby padded his point lead over Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, New York. But Sunday won’t necessarily be a cakewalk to the championship for Coby — Bonsignore won at Thompson in August and has eight top-five finishes in his last nine starts in the second half of the season.

It’s been a heavyweight bout atop the standings for the last two months. Five of the last seven races on the schedule have been won by either Coby or Bonsignore, as the two have slugged it out right down to the wire — and there’s no reason to believe they won’t continue that battle right down to the final lap at Thompson.

In order to win the championship, Bonsignore would need to win the race and lead the most laps while having Coby finish 17th or worse without leading any laps. Coby has only finished worse than 15th once in his last 23 starts at Thompson.

Fast Facts 

The Race: The Sunoco World Series 150 presented by XtraMart is the 17th and final championship points events in the 2016 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season. It is the fourth and final race of the season at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

The Procedure: The maximum starting field per the official entry blank is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 31 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (93.8 miles) and the tire change rule is three tires, any position.

The Track: A .625-mile high-banked oval that opened in 1940, Thompson was the first entirely asphalt track in the nation and the largest in New England for five decades. Thompson has played host to 132 Whelen Modified Tour races all-time, more than any other track, and is one of two facilities to welcome the tour in each of its previous 31 years of competition.

Race Winners: There have been 35 different race winners at Thompson, led by Mike Stefanik’s 15 victories. Three-time champion Doug Coby is the defending winner of this race.

Pole Winners: There have been 44 different pole winners at Thompson, led by Tony Hirschman’s 13. Bobby Santos maintains the tour’s track qualifying record at 18.237 seconds (123.376 mph), set on April 10, 2011.

Race Notes

History In The Making: Three-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and current point leader Doug Coby of Milford, Connecticut, has 22 career wins to rank seventh on the series’ all-time win list. Five of those victories have come at Thompson, where he swept all four Whelen Modified Tour races in 2015. In addition to his wins, Coby owns seven career poles at the .625-mile track, including the last four in a row leading into this weekend. Coby’s win at Stafford last weekend gave him 10 for his career at the half-mile, where he trails only Ted Christopher’s 12 career victories.

Home Away From Home: Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, New York, won the third of four races at Thompson this season in August. Bonsignore now has 11 career Whelen Modified Tour victories, including four at Thompson. Those four wins equal his mark at Riverhead Raceway — at .25-miles, it’s the polar opposite of Thompson — where he started his Modified career in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Bonsignore has posted top-10 finishes in nine of his last 11 starts at Thompson dating back to the 2013 season.

Not Over ’Til It’s Over: While a 20-point lead for Coby might seem insurmountable, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park has produced its share of championship drama in the final race of the season. In 2011, Glen Reen of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, collected his only career victory in this race while Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy found anything but smooth sailing ahead in their title battle. Silk, the eventual champion, finished 16th — four laps down — while Szegedy was 25th. Under the previous point system, Silk had entered the weekend with a 52-point lead over Szegedy and needed only to post a solid finish to wrap up his championship before multi-car accidents, spins and cautions threw the race into chaos.

Rookie Uprising: Timmy Solomito of Islip, New York, might be 48 points behind Coby while sitting third in the Whelen Modified Tour standings, but he has a chance to put an exclamation point on what has been his breakout season. The driver of the No. 16 Flamingo Motorsports ride earned his first career win at Thompson back in April and has three more wins since. With a win on Sunday, Solomito would equal Coby for most wins on the tour this season at five apiece and could give himself an outside shot at the championship should Coby and Bonsignore encounter trouble.

Winning: Doug Coby, Timmy Solomito and Justin Bonsignore are the only Whelen Modified Tour drivers with multiple wins this season, with Coby having a tour-leading five wins through the first 16 races after winning the most recent race at Stafford. Solomito has four wins, and Bonsignore has three wins, including his first career wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Ron Silk, Bobby Santos III, Jimmy Blewett and Eric Goodale won the other events on the schedule

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