Before Friday night’s Starrett Tools 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway, Doug Coby hadn’t been to Victory Lane in 342 days — nearly one year of competition on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
And for the five-time and defending series champion, that stretch was filled with plenty bad luck on the track and some overall misfortune for his No. 2 Mayhew Tools team.
But, in the Starrett Tools 150, Coby was able to put all of that behind him at his home track.
The Milford, Connecticut, driver captured his 24th checkered flag in Whelen Modified Tour competition and 11th career at the Connecticut half-mile, where he grew up racing as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. His first win at Stafford as a driver was in 1998 and with his most recent coming Friday night, Coby now has 29 career wins all-time, which is tied for 19th on the list.
He took the lead for the final time when leaders pitted and he stayed out during a caution on lap 118 and the veteran never looked back.
"With one tire per stop, you don’t know who is on what schedule, and I’m not sure why all of the cars in front of me pitted," Coby said of the late laps. "It’s still Stafford, and it is still track position. I had a really good car when we took our tires, and I came through the field and then they gave me the lead. I saw we had at least enough of a buffer, but I wasn’t great on restarts all night. When you get clear by two or three car lengths with five or six laps to go, you just drive your race."
With seven races remaining on the schedule, even though Coby’s hopes of winning another title this season may be just out of reach, he is certainly going to be a threat to capture more victories. He enters Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, the next stop on the circuit, with five career wins at the 0.625-mile oval, including a clean sweep of the four races in 2015.
"With all of the bad luck we had, it’s really been two years, last year was a tough season even though we won the championship, we had a lot of wins get away from us," Coby said. "Some we made on our own, but we are just a tough team. I said it through all of the wins and the championships, but we have a tough group of people. We were on top for a long time and it makes the rest of these guys dig really hard to get you."
Pitkat Finally Finds Some Momentum
Woody Pitkat has been through a lot in the last three years, but Friday, he finally found himself back at the front of the pack. The Stafford, Connecticut, driver showed speed throughout the Starrett Tools 150, and after a late charge through the field with fresh Hoosier rubber, Pitkat crossed the line at the finish in second.
The podium effort was the first one for Pitkat since August of 2015 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"I was a little bit nervous on the call (to pit), because I thought we still had a good car," Pitkat said. "They made an awesome call in the pits though. Tonight, I just said enough is enough. I knew we would race well. The crew chief has been working his butt off."
The run was also the first top five for Pitkat since October of 2016 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Last year, he ran the first seven races for Goodie Motorsports, and then parted ways with them and sprinkled in starts with Tommy Baldwin, Stebbins Racing and Danny Watts Racing over the final stages of the season. After running the final three events for Watts, he moved into a full-time effort in 2018.
Even though he missed two races this season, Pitkat is still happy with the momentum the team will carry from the second-place effort at his home track. He is second on the all-time wins list at Stafford with 77, only trailing the late Ted Christopher.
"I was just a little bit tight," Pitkat said of his chase of Doug Coby in the final laps. "I’m just happy for Danny, happy for everyone that never gives up. I told Danny since day one that I am loyal. We are just going to keep digging. We just want to keep battling, and try to get better and better."
Highs And Lows For Dowling
After scoring his third career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pole in qualifying for the Starrett Tools 150, things looked to be heading in a direction that could have ended with seeing Chase Dowling score his first win Friday night.
But it doesn’t always work out how you want it.
Dowling was penalized for unapproved adjustments after qualifying, and had to start at the tail of the 29-car field that took the green flag. He did show plenty of speed, working his way up towards the front, but his night ended abruptly on lap 83 when he hit the wall in turn one.
He remains second in the championship standings leaving the half-mile, but his climb towards the championship is a little bit steeper now. The Roxbury, Connecticut driver is 51 points from the lead with seven races to go — but if he can’t make a charge to the top of the standings — he would surely like to score his first win over the final stretch.
Time To Move On:
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams won’t have much time to think about what happened at Stafford. They will return to the track on Wednesday night with the running of the Bud 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, the 10th race of the season and the third of four stops at Thompson in 2018.
Thank you to all our friends at @StarrettTools for a great night last Friday. Thank you for supporting short track racing. Already looking forward to doing it again #ShortTracks #Nascar #Starrett150 #WeeklyRacing #ThankYou pic.twitter.com/vL8SVF1Vz4
– Stafford Speedway (@StaffordSpeedwy) August 5, 2018