Whelen Modified News & Notes: Stafford
Three-Way Battle Returns To Stafford
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Doug Coby-Woody Pitkat-Ryan Preece battle has played out across the northeast the last two years, but nowhere has it been more magnified than at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway – the venue for Sunday’s NAPA Fall Final 150.
The trio has won 11 of the previous 15 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at the historic half-mile, including the last six in a row. Coby claimed five of those checkered flags from 2012-14, but Pitkat (two) and Preece (three) have won the last five in a row while Preece garnered a fourth win in the midst of Coby’s run.
In the tour’s last visit to Stafford in August, Preece, Coby and Pitkat finished 1-2-3, which was a microcosm of the season-long championship battle between the three. All three have taken their turn atop the standings – the only drivers to do so this year – and the margin between first and second has never reached double digits.
Following last week’s fireworks at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where Coby bumped Preece from the race and championship lead with contact on the last lap of the event, Pitkat returns to his hometown track with an eight-point edge on Preece atop the standings. Coby’s max-points New Hampshire victory, combined with Preece’s 19th place finish after the contact, gained Coby 14 points on the day. He remained in third, but is now just 11 points behind the leader instead of the 25-tally hole he had prior to New Hampshire.
The situation is reminiscent of the 2009 season when the Whelen Modified Tour went into Fall Final weekend with Ted Christopher leading Donny Lia by one and Preece by 12. Lia took the Fall Final 150 checkered flag and went on to celebrate the championship three weeks later in the finale at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
Stafford’s final weekend is no stranger to close championship chases in recent seasons. Including that 2009 battle and the current season, four of the last seven years the margin between first and second has been eight points or less entering the Fall Final 150.
Pitkat and Preece will want to continue their recent success at Stafford because the season finale at Thompson looms as an advantage for Coby. He’s led 289 of 425 laps en route to max-points victories in each of the three races there this year.
The Race: The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will headline Stafford Motor Speedway’s 43rd Annual NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final Weekend with the last of its four trips to the historic half mile in 2015. The NAPA Fall Final 150 will be the 14th of 15 events on the schedule.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field per the official entry blank is 33 cars, including provisionals. The first 28 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 (75 miles) and is an impound race with three change tires allowed for the event.
The Track: A half-mile, slightly-banked oval, Stafford originated as a horse racing track in the 1870s. After seven decades as a horse track, the dirt oval started holding automobile races following World War II. Stafford became a NASCAR-sanctioned track in 1959 and was paved for the first time in 1967. Stafford’s 117 Whelen Modified Tour races are second all-time.
Race Winners: There have been 32 different race winners at Stafford all-time, led by Mike Stefanik’s 20 victories. Woody Pitkat and Ryan Preece have combined to win the last five events at the track.
Pole Winners: There have been 43 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik’s 17. Ryan Preece holds the tour’s track qualifying record at 17.924 seconds (100.424 mph), set during the 2012 Spring Sizzler.
NAPA Fall Final 150 Notes:
Williams Set for Tour Debut: Stafford Motor Speedway’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series standout Ronnie Williams is set to make his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut in the NAPA Fall Final 150. Williams, whose first tour start will come four days prior to his 19th birthday, has racked up six SK Modified feature wins at Stafford this year to tie Rowan Pennink for the division lead. He will pilot a modified owned by tour veteran and fellow Stafford weekly competitor Ted Christopher in the NAPA Fall Final 150.
Preece’s Busy Schedule Continues: Following last Saturday’s F.W. Webb 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Ryan Preece made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut the following day at the same track and finished 32nd after he started 37th. In addition to chasing two modified championships, he has a pair of other ventures on the horizon as he will compete in this Friday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Dover International Speedway as well as the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour event on Oct. 8 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Emerling’s Step-Up Season: Patrick Emerling is well on the way to his best record in five years on the Whelen Modified Tour. With two races remaining he already has two more top-10 finishes than his previous career high, and last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway his runner-up finish to Doug Coby was his best finish in 67 career starts. Emerling earned his first career Coors Light Pole Award in the Whelen Modified Tour’s last visit to Stafford in August, and duplicated that the following week at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. He currently sits fifth in points.
Home Tracks: Pennink Poised for First Title
Rowan Pennink brings a 12-point lead in the SK Modified division standings into NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final Weekend in an attempt to secure his first career Stafford Motor Speedway track championship. Pennink has posted six wins and 18 top 10s in 21 starts to lead Ryan Preece, who ranks second with three triumphs with 19 top 10s. The 2011 track titlist Preece has finished as the championship runner-up by a mere two points in each of the two previous seasons.