It was going to be the first race to go without a caution flag in five years. Until it wasn’t.
The Stafford 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway put NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams to the test for the first 146 laps, with green flag conditions keeping drivers up on the wheel trying to stay on the lead lap. At the first caution, only six were left in contention on the same lap as race dominator Doug Coby.
From there, crew chiefs and pit crews helped decide the race — one that ended with Ron Silk holding his second straight checkered flag. Coby was left frustrated with his third-place finish, while Jon McKennedy brought Tommy Baldwin back to the podium in second.
Teams can only change one tire per pit stop at Stafford, and that rule put crew chiefs to the test. Who would pick the right strategy to prepare their driver for a two-lap dash to the finish?
All of that and more in the Rapid Rewind from the 10th race of the Whelen Modified Tour season.
THREE-WIDE PASS NETS SILK ANOTHER WIN
A daring move on a green-white-checkered finish in overtime earned Ron Silk his third win of the season on Friday. Silk, who had only one previous win in 47 career starts at the half-mile oval, had finished top-five his last two times at the track. And he was in position to do it again on Friday.
Silk was sitting just inside the top five when the caution flew with just three laps remaining, and he knew exactly what needed to happen in order to give him a chance in the final dash.
“I knew there were only six of us on the lead lap, so the worst you were going to come out was sixth,” Silk said. “I think you needed to take three tires. I think if five of us had stayed out and one guy came in and took tires, he would have won the race even with just two laps to go. Our tires were shot.”
— #MyTrackMyRoots (@NASCARHomeTrack) August 3, 2019
He restarted third, but when leader Matt Swanson slid up the track with Justin Bonsignore, Silk moved to the bottom, cut them three-wide, and drove away.
The success with Kevin Stuart Motorsports is well-documented over the last five months, but Silk is now becoming a severe threat in the championship battle. He is just 24 points from leader Doug Coby with six races to go, but he isn’t thinking title just yet. The 2011 Whelen Modified Tour champion knows what it takes to get the job done, but also knows each race is going to be important down the stretch.
“Last year, we didn’t run as well as we are running this year,” Silk said. “A lot of times you make your own luck, and my team has improved dramatically. The guys are doing a great job. I’m just pumped for them that we are having this success. It feels really good.”
“We’re not there yet (at the finale). We need to keep doing our job and running well. We are just going one race at a time and trying to do the best we can. That formula seems to be working for us.”
Silk tied Coby and Justin Bonsignore with three wins each in the first 10 races. The three former champions have won all but one.
“It’s been pretty good,” Silk said. “I hope we can keep it going. It seems like when you get on a roll like this, things feel a little bit easier. Things just seem to go right.”
DOMINATION ENDS WITH THIRD FOR COBY
Doug Coby was clearly the dominate car at his home track on Friday.
The Milford, Connecticut, native posted the fastest time in practice, earned his sixth Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award of the season, and drove away with the race until the caution flag.
He pitted multiple different times during the caution — the first time for Sunoco Fuel and the others for tires. Out of the six remaining on the lead lap, he took the green flag in sixth. He was able to charge back to the podium, but ran out of laps to try and run down the leaders.
He was looking for his 13th career Stafford win, but came up short. The two-time track champion wasn’t pleased with his third-place finish after such a dominating performance, but it kept a streak of top 10 finishes all of the race going for the five-time champion.
His average start this year is 3.1, and his average finish is now 3.9. Not bad for someone who leads by 24 points heading down the stretch in search of a sixth title.
MCKENNEDY, SWANSON HAPPY WITH TOP FIVES
Two solid days ended in two solid finishes for Jon McKennedy and Matt Swanson.
McKennedy qualified third, and ran inside the top five for the entire distance.
“I knew it was going to be chaos,” McKennedy said of the final restart. “Tommy (Baldwin) and the guys gave me a good car. We came out fourth and we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Silk was just in a perfect spot.”
It was just the sixth start of the season for McKennedy, who earned his third top-five finish.
Swanson, who started ninth, remained on the lead lap and was in position to try some strategy looking for his first career Whelen Modified Tour win. He restarted in the lead for the overtime finish, but had to settle for fourth.
“We actually only took a right-rear tire,” Swanson said. “I spun the tires on the restart and gave Justin a nose, and when I tried to make it up on the entry to the corner, I slid up the track and we made a little bit of contact. You have to do what you have to do to win these races. We’re really close.”
STAFFORD 150 RACE NOTES:
- Craig Lutz earned his fifth top-five of the season, and second at Stafford. It was a quiet, but successful, evening for the Miller Place, New York, driver, who sits fourth in the championship standings.
- Joey Cipriano III, a regular in Stafford’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified division, was running seventh when the motor failed on his car, drawing a caution with just a few laps to go. In just his second career Whelen Modified Tour start, Cipriano showed the home track advantage can pay off.
#NWMT Victory Lane Selfie 📸
— #MyTrackMyRoots (@NASCARHomeTrack) August 3, 2019