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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With their own teams not able to make the trip, a pair of champion NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers leaned on relationships developed through the years to secure rides for the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach, Feb. 18-19 at Daytona International Speedway.
Reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Doug Coby and 2010 tour titlist Bobby Santos will head to the “World Center of Racing” thanks to arrangements secured just recently to allow them to compete in the new special event on the .4-mile oval on the backstretch at Daytona.
Those arrangements will also see them team up with another pair of champions, and legends in the Modified ranks. Coby is slated to compete in a team car to Ted Christopher – the 2001 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion and 2008 Whelen Modified Tour titlist – while Santos’ car will come out of the same shop as that of nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik.
Coby, from Milford, Conn., turned in a dominating performance – highlighted by five wins – during the 2013 season to deliver No. 52 Chevrolet car owner Wayne Darling his first Whelen Modified Tour title. Drivers who won a race or captured the championship during the season were awarded a locked-in starting position for the Whelen Modified feature at the UNOH Battle At The Beach, so Coby had his bases covered when it came to the Daytona race.
Darling was not able to send his No. 52 team to Florida, however, which left Coby looking for another opportunity. That’s where Boehler Racing Enterprises – a Massachusetts-based team like Darling Racing – got involved.
“I guess that Michael Boehler got word that I didn’t have a ride,” Coby said. “They were looking to bring a second car, and obviously knowing that I have a guaranteed starting spot helped, so he talked to Wayne and they worked out a sponsorship deal.”
So Coby will now head to Daytona as a teammate to Christopher. Christopher will pilot famous No. 3 “Ole Blue” Chevrolet while Coby will bring his traditional No. 52 decals to put on the second BRE car.
“It’s going to be a cool race to be a part of, and to be a part of it with a Boehler car is just like the cherry on top of the sundae,” Coby said. “Obviously I would have liked to be there with my No. 52 team – first and foremost I wish I could have gone with them – but to go with a second car for the Boehler team is pretty neat.”
Like Coby, Santos was strongly looking forward to competing in the UNOH Battle At The Beach.
“When NASCAR announced the Daytona event, I think that’s a place all drivers want to go and race,” Santos said. “It’s something that I definitely wanted to do.”
And also like Coby, he was without a ride for the big race.
Santos, from Franklin, Mass., is locked into the UNOH Battle At The Beach Modified feature by virtue of his wins in the last two races of the 2012 Whelen Modified Tour season at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway with the No. 44 Tinio Motorsports team. But with Tinio planning to take on the full Whelen Modified Tour schedule for the first time in 2013, the team needed to focus on preparing for the coming campaign and could not make the trip to Daytona with Santos. That’s where Santos’ relationships bridged the gap to get him the UNOH Battle At The Beach opportunity.
Santos’ father, Bob, is friends with Mike Stefanik’s crew chief with the No. 22 team, Brad Lafontaine. That started the ball rolling for Santos to reach an agreement with No. 22 team owner Chris Our to drive their back-up car in Daytona, with the support of his regular No. 44 car owner Sully Tinio.
“Everybody was already friends, so it worked out to be a good deal,” Santos said. “I really have to thank my dad, Sully, Chris and Brad for making this happen.”
Santos will pilot a No. 44 team car to Stefanik’s No. 22 in Daytona.
So two teams became four, with all four drivers sporting a championship pedigree. And according to Coby, there won’t be any start-and-parks among the group – all four champions will be loaded up to run for a Daytona checkered flag.
BRE to Welcome a Legacy Crew Member: Not only will Boehler Racing Enterprises have a pair of champion drivers in their camp with Ted Christopher and Doug Coby, but they’ll also have the son of a past champion in their pit. Gary DeSarro, son of 1970 NASCAR Modified national champion Fred DeSarro, is going to join the BRE pit crew for this special event. Fred drove Lenny Boehler’s “Ole Blue” No. 3 in the 1970s. To bring things full circle, Lenny’s son and current BRE President Michael Boehler invited Fred’s son Gary – a Florida resident – to crew “Ole Blue” for the UNOH Battle At The Beach.
Floridians Get a Shot to Race Mods at Daytona: While nearby New Smyrna Speedway has been a longtime haven for Modified racing, modern-day open wheel drivers from the Sunshine State haven’t had a chance to experience Daytona International Speedway behind the wheel. That’ll all change when a trio of Floridians will have a shot to run their own Modified at the “World Center of Racing.” Veteran Gary Fountain Sr. (Clermont) and rookies Dalton Baldwin (Oldsmar) and Jeremy Gerstner (Tampa) are all projected to give it a go in the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach. All three intend to compete on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2013.
Battle Events: The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models will have qualifying races and a 150-lap feature on Monday, Feb. 18 while the action on Tuesday, Feb. 19 will include a similar schedule of qualifying races and 150-lap races for both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours and NASCAR K&N Pro Series. All three features are non-points races.
Event Coverage: All three UNOH Battle At The Beach features will be carried live on SPEED, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio while all practice and qualifying sessions will feature live streaming video at www.nascarhometracks.com.
Event Tweets: The official Twitter hashtag for all events surrounding the UNOH Battle At The Beach is #NASCARBattle. Join the conversation using the #NASCARBattle hashtag as well as the official Twitter accounts for NASCAR Home Tracks (@NASCARHomeTrack) and Daytona International Speedway (@DISupdates).
Additional Info: For more information, please visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com. Grandstand and garage admission can be secured via the website or by calling 1-888-PITSHOP.
Bobby Santos has raced in the NASCAR Nationwide Series before at Daytona, but is looking foward to the short-track showcase. 122 West Photo for NASCAR