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Doug Coby begins chase of a fifth straight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title Saturday. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

PIT BOX: Doug Coby Looks For Faster Start at Myrtle Beach

On opposite coasts, two more of NASCAR’s regional series take the green flag this week.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West kicks off Thursday with the Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California, and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour gets underway Saturday night with the Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety-Kleen at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Doug Coby’s first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start at Myrtle Beach Speedway was a forgetful 13th-place finish. But the Milford, Connecticut, driver closed the season strong to collect his fifth title in six years. He’ll look to get off to a faster start Saturday as the tour’s 34th season gets rolling in South Carolina.

Timmy Solomito capped a late-race charge to win the Whelen Modified Tour’s inaugural visit to Myrtle Beach last year, and came within six points of winning the championship. The Islip, New York, driver lead another strong crop of drivers looking to unseat four-time defending tour champion Coby.

There will plenty of contenders Saturday evening including Matt Hirschman, who is coming off a championship run in the tour-type Modifieds at New Smyrna Speedway’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, and former tour champions Burt Myers and Andy Seuss.

RACING-REFERENCE: Previous Whelen Modified Tour races at Myrtle Beach | Whelen Modified Tour drivers’ career stats at Myrtle Beach

Six-time race winner Jimmy Blewett will be filling in for Ryan Preece in the No. 6, while championship contender Rowan Pennink will miss the race after having offseason surgery.

RACE FACTS

RACE PERFORMANCE PLUS 150 presented by SAFETY-KLEEN
PLACE Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway
DATE Saturday, March 17
TIME 5:35 p.m. ET
TELEVISION NBCSN, Wednesday, March 21 – 6 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT .538-mile oval
2017 WINNER Timmy Solomito
2017 POLE Rob Summers
EVENT SCHEDULE Saturday— Garage opens: 9:45 a.m. ET; Practice: 1:05-2:30 p.m.; Group qualifying: 4 p.m.; Driver autograph session (on track): 4:30 p.m.; Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety-Kleen: 5:35 p.m.
TWITTER @MB_Speedway
HASHTAG #PerformancePlus150 #NWMT

RACE CENTRAL LIVE | ENTRY LIST | TICKETS

CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The maximum starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals.

Qualifying groups will be determined by each vehicle’s overall fastest single lap from the official practice sessions.

The first 24 cars will secure starting positions based on the two-lap qualifying session. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process.

The PERFORMANCE PLUS 150 presented by SAFETY-KLEEN will be 150 laps (80.7 miles). Maximum of three (3) crew members permitted over the wall at any time during the event. Teams may only change one (1) tire on a single pit stop. Teams will be permitted to swap/move tire locations.

The maximum tire allotment available for this event is eleven (11) tires per team. Four (4) tires used for qualifying must be used to begin the race. The tire change rule is four (4) tires, any position.


NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST at KERN

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

It’s been 19 years since Kevin Harvick has been to Victory Lane in a NASCAR race in his hometown, and he’s looking to go back.

The 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion returns home to compete in the K&N Pro Series West opener, as a lead-in to the national series doubleheader weekend down the road at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Harvick, who will pilot one of the four Jefferson Pitts Racing entries, ran at the old Mesa Marin Speedway in the West Series as well as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the former NASCAR Southwest Series. While he had a best finish of third in six West starts and runner-up in five Truck starts, he won the final two of his 12 Southeast Series races at the now bulldozed half-mile.

The fast half-mile, state-of-the-art Kern facility now resides in Bakersfield, and Harvick will head a field of talented young drivers looking to make their own name.

Jefferson Pitts Racing will have a trio of rising stars as Harvick’s teammates, led by 24-year-old Will Rodgers, who impressed in a runner-up finish to Harvick in the West race at Sonoma last year. Austin Herzog, 15, will make his series debut, while Reid Lanpher, 19, is making the trek from Maine to get additional seat time prior to running in the K&N Pro East race at Bristol in April.

RACING-REFERENCE: Previous K&N Pro Series West races at KernK&N Pro Series West drivers’ career stats at Kern

While two-time defending series champion Todd Gilliland, who has two wins at Kern, is not entered the event, his former team, Bill McAnally Racing, features a stable of drivers that also includes 2017 series’ Sunoco Rookie of the Year Derek Kraus, NASCAR Next driver Hailie Deegan and Cole Rouse. Meanwhile, Bruncati Racing will look to end BMR’s run of three straight titles with former champion Derek Thorn and 2016 series’ runner-up Ryan Partridge. They’ll be joined by 2017 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship runner-up Trevor Huddleston, Kern’s 2017 Late Model Division champion.

RACE FACTS

RACE BAKERSFIELD 175 presented by NAPA AUTO PARTS
PLACE Kern County Raceway Park, Bakersfield, Calif.
DATE Thursday, March 15
TIME 8:15 p.m. PT
TELEVISION NBCSN, Tuesday, March 20 – 11 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT Half-mile oval
2017 WINNER Todd Gilliland
2017 POLE Todd Gilliland
EVENT SCHEDULE Thursday — Garage opens: 9 a.m. PT; Practice: 1-1:45 p.m. and 2-2:45 p.m.; Group qualifying: 5:45 p.m.; Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA Auto Parts: 8:15 p.m.
TWITTER @KernRaceway
HASHTAG #Bakersfield175 #KNWest

RACE CENTRAL LIVE | ENTRY LIST | TICKETS

CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The maximum starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals.

Qualifying groups will be determined by each vehicle’s overall fastest single lap from the official practice sessions.

The first 22 cars will secure starting positions based on the two-lap qualifying session. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process.

The BAKERSFIELD 175 presented by NAPA AUTO PARTS will be 175 laps (88 miles) to be run in three (3) segments. The five (5) minute breaks will occur at or near the conclusion of Laps 63 and 125. At the conclusion of the break, lead lap vehicles that elected to pit will line up – in the order they were running at the beginning of the break — behind the lead lap vehicles that elected not to pit in order of running.

The maximum tire allotment available for this event is as follows: Four (4) tires for practice, four (4) tires for qualifying and to begin the race for a total of eight (8) tires.

The maximum tire allotment available for this event is as follows: Four (4) tires for practice, four (4) tires for qualifying and to begin the race for a total of eight (8) tires.


 

LOCAL FOCUS

North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway will begin its 68th season with the Cosmo Motors Season Opener on Saturday, highlighted by twin 40-lap features for its Division I Late Model Stock.

In addition to his K&N Pro West race, Harvick will also serve as the Grand Marshal for Kern’s season-opening 50-lap Late Model race. Harvick won his first stock car championship at Mesa Marin in the Late Models.

East Carolina Speedway in Robersonville, North Carolina, celebrated its season opener this past weekend, along with southern California’s Irwindale Speedway. And the Jacks brothers doubled down as The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway opened the 2018 season on Sunday.

MEDIA CENTER

RaceDayCT: Chris Pasteryak Ready To Get Back To Whelen Modified Tour Competition For 2018 and Rowan Pennink Out For Whelen Modified Tour Season Opener At Myrtle Beach After Emergency Surgery

ESPN.comDenny Hamlin’s Short Track Showdown returning

HenryHerald.com: Teen racer makes pit stop in Henry County to dedicate season to police

VTMotorMag.com: Devil’s Bowl Opens New Dirt Track Era With Exciting Schedule

WWLP.com: Bonsignore Set For 2018 Whelen Modified Tour Season