DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo — The second half of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule is set to commence with Friday’s Call Before You Dig 811 150 at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, and with two-time defending race winner Doug Coby in the championship lead.
Coby, from Milford, Connecticut, brings a slim four-point advantage in the standings on Justin Bonsignore into the week, but Stafford has been a place of immense success for the 2012 titlist. Not only did Coby win the tour’s most-recent visit to the historic half-mile in June, but he’s been victorious five times there since the beginning of his 2012 title run.
Two of those triumphs have come in the last two editions of the Call Before You Dig 811 150. He won in 2012 without pitting and led the final two-thirds of the race last year to repeat.
June’s TSI Harley-Davidson 125 was the first of Coby’s Stafford wins earned with Mike Smeriglio III Racing. The pairing, together for the first time in 2014, has found significant success in their first half year together. Following a win in the non-points UNOH Battle At The Beach on the short track at Daytona International Speedway in February, Coby has driven the No. 2 Chevrolet to an average finish of fourth through the first seven regular season events.
Coby has a streak of 13-consecutive top-10 finishes at Stafford on the line this week, the last four of which have been podiums. Coby’s recent Stafford history will certainly put pressure on Bonsignore to run up front on Friday if he wants to stay close in the standings. Although he’s not experienced the same success at Stafford as Coby, Bonsignore has top fives in four of his last six starts there, including a runner-up to Coby in June.
The Race: The 24th Annual Call Before You Dig 811 150 will be the eighth of 14 races on the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule, the third of four events at Stafford Motor Speedway and the 113th all-time tour appearance at the historic half-mile.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 31 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 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 the tire change rule for the race is three tires, any position.
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.
Race Winners: There have been 31 different race winners at Stafford all-time, led by Mike Stefanik’s 20 victories. Doug Coby is the defending winner of the Call Before You Dig 811 150, and he also won this season’s June event at the historic half-mile while Bobby Santos won April’s Spring Sizzler.
Pole Winners: There have been 42 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik’s 17. Preece holds the tour’s track qualifying record at 17.924 seconds (100.424 mph). Tommy Barrett Jr. and Santos have earned the first two poles there this year.
Stafford Race Notes:
Stefanik Returns to Stafford: The winningest driver in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour history – both overall and at Stafford Motor Speedway – is set to return to the historic half-mile for the first time in 2014. The 74-time race winner has participated in just two of the first seven dates on the schedule, the April opener at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and the July event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Stefanik holds the Whelen Modified Tour record for wins at Stafford with 20, the last of which came in the 2008 Fall Final.
Santos Stays Dominant at Stafford: With his April victory in the NAPA Spring Sizzler 200, Bobby Santos has won six times in the last 17 Whelen Modified Tour races at Stafford. His first triumph there came in the 2010 Fall Final, and half of his 12 career wins have been earned at the track. Santos has won the Spring Sizzler three times, the Fall Final twice, and the 125 once, which leaves this week’s Call Before You Dig 811 150 as the only traditional tour date in which he has yet to reach Victory Lane. He won the pole for the June TSI Harley-Davidson 125 and finished third.
Preece Getting Closer to Victory Lane: Ryan Preece had three wins by this point last year en route to the tour title, but a trip to Victory Lane has eluded him so far in 2014. He’s posted an average finish of fourth in the last four races, however, and recorded a season-best runner-up effort last time out at Monadnock Speedway. Preece has two Whelen Modified Tour wins at his home track.
Rocco Back in “Ole Blue” for Stafford: Keith Rocco teamed with Boehler Racing Enterprises in 2012 for a Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign in the No. 3 Chevrolet. The two will reunite for the first time for Friday’s Call Before You Dig 811 150. A two-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champion at Stafford where he has 37 SK Modified wins, Rocco’s best tour finish at the half-mile was a third place effort in the 2012 Spring Sizzler behind the wheel of “Ole Blue.”
Home Tracks: Christopher Out Front
Already an eight-time track champion at Stafford Motor Speedway, Ted Christopher is looking for No. 9 in 2014. The winningest driver in the long and distinguished history of the half-mile, Christopher sits 16 points ahead of Ryan Preece through last week’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified division action. Defending track champ Woody Pitkat is 48 points back in third while two-time titlist Keith Rocco ranks fourth, 62 tallies out of first. All five of Stafford’s NWAAS weekly divisions will precede the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on Friday.
Last Time Out: Monadnock
The 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule reached the midway point on July 19 at Monadnock Speedway in rural Winchester, New Hampshire. Here are some highlights from the O’Reilly Auto Parts 200:
• Polesitter Justin Bonsignore overtook Ryan Preece with 26 laps to go and held on for his fifth career victory. In the process, he became the first Whelen Modified Tour driver to earn two wins at Monadnock.
• Preece led a race-high 173 laps and finished a season-best second place.
• The race ran green-to-checkered without a yellow flag, which marked the first caution-free race in tour history, according to available records.
Next Time Out: Thompson
Following the Call Before You Dig 811 150, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will have just four days off before heading to Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park for the Budweiser King of Beers 150 on Wednesday, Aug. 13. Bobby Santos won this race from the pole a year ago and Justin Bonsignore was victorious there in the 2014 season-opener.