Whelen Motorsports

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes: Thompson

NWMT • October 15, 2013

° 2013 Season Closes At Sunoco World Series
° Preece Positioned For First Tour Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 14, 2013) - It all comes down to Thompson (Conn.) Speedway as the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season concludes with the crowing of a champion in the Sunoco World Series presented by Xtra Mart on Sunday, Oct. 20.

Ryan Preece enters as the favorite to take home the hardware thanks to a 26-point advantage on defending champion Doug Coby. If Preece finishes 22nd or better on Sunday then the title is his, but that's easier said than done.

Preece, from Berlin, Conn., had a top-five finish well in hand last time out in the Fall Final at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, but experienced rear end trouble and exited the race 15 laps shy of the finish. Meanwhile Coby turned in a runner-up effort and Preece's 41-point lead entering that race was chopped to 26. He likely can't afford a similar scenario in the World Series because Coby has run better at Thompson than Preece in recent seasons.

Coby clinched his first Whelen Modified Tour title at Thompson in last year's finale. The Milford, Conn., native has recorded a win, nine top 10s and an average finish of seventh in 11 races at "Big T" since joining forces with the No. 52 Darling Racing Team. Preece has been a bit more up and down in seven Thompson races with his current team - the No. 16 of Flamingo Motorsports - with three podium finishes and four in double digits.

Both Preece and Coby will be chasing a bit of history in their title pursuits. Coby will look to become the first to win back-to-back Whelen Modified Tour titles since Tony Hirschman in 2004-05 and just the fourth different driver to accomplish the feat overall while the 22-year-old Preece would become the youngest champion in tour history.

RACE: Sunoco World Series 150 pres. by Xtra Mart
PLACE: Thompson (Conn.) Speedway
DATE: Sunday, Oct. 20
TIME: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV SCHEDULE: Fox Sports 1, Nov. 3, 12 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: .625-mile, high-banked asphalt oval
2012 WINNER: Bobby Santos
2012 POLESITTER: Eric Berndt
EVENT SCHEDULE: Saturday - Practice 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m., Qualifying 2:30 p.m.; Sunday - Driver Autograph Session 2:15 p.m.
TRACK TWITTER: @ThompsonSpeedwy
EVENT HASHTAG: #SunocoWorldSeries

The Race: The Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart at Thompson Speedway will conclude the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season and will be the third and final tour event this year at the famed northeastern Connecticut oval.

The Procedure: The maximum starting field for the Icebreaker is 32 cars, including provisionals. The first 27 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 (93.75 miles) and the tire change rule is three tires, any position.

The Track: A .625-mile high-banked oval that opened in 1940, Thompson was the first entirely asphalt track in the nation, and was the largest in New England for five decades. Thompson has played host to 122 Whelen Modified Tour races all-time, more than any other track, and is one of two facilities to welcome the tour in each of its 29 years of competition.

Race Winners: There have been 32 different race winners at Thompson, led by Mike Stefanik's 15 victories. Bobby Santos won this event last year as well as the tour's last trip there in August while Stefanik was victorious in this year's Icebreaker.

Pole Winners: There have been 41 different pole winners at Thompson, led by Tony Hirschman's 13. Eric Berndt earned the pole for this race last year while the first two race victors this year - Stefanik and Santos - won from the pole. Santos set the tour's track qualifying record at 18.237 seconds (123.376 mph) on April 10, 2011.

Diversity of Champions: If Ryan Preece holds serve and takes home the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title, he would become the sixth different first-time tour champion in the last seven seasons, and the fourth in a row. Preece would also be the eighth different driver in the last nine years to take home the championship trophy. Only Donny Lia has won more than one title in that span.

Rocco to Make Season Debut, First Career Appearance for Zachem: Last season's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Keith Rocco will look to make his first 2013 Whelen Modified Tour appearance in the Thompson Speedway finale while Max Zachem will attempt to make his first tour start. Rocco, who made his tour debut in the 2008 World Series, is slated to get behind the wheel of the No. 46 Berkley Auto Racing Chevrolet. He has seven top 10s in 12 career races. Zachem is entered in the No. 20 Ford for Mike Smeriglio Racing, where he's been a crew member in recent seasons.

Streak on the Line for Szegedy: Todd Szegedy brings a streak of seven straight seasons finishing in the top five in the final standings to Thompson. The 2003 titlist enters Thompson fifth in points, just two tallies ahead of Rowan Pennink. Szegedy sat 10th in points just two races ago, but a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a fourth-place finish in the Fall Final at Stafford Motor Speedway has positioned him to keep the streak alive.

Plenty of Points Positions Up for Grabs: In addition to the championship battle between Ryan Preece and Doug Coby, and Szegedy's quest for another top-five finish, there are a number of final points positions up for grabs in the Thompson finale. Donny Lia enters in third, just a single tally ahead of Mike Stefanik, while only six points separate Justin Bonsignore in seventh from Ted Christopher in 10th.

HOME TRACKS: Rocco Earns Thompson Title
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Connecticut state titlist Keith Rocco secured his fourth career Thompson Speedway track championship earlier this summer in a dead heat with Woody Pitkat. Rocco and Pitkat tied Sunoco Modified points at 450, but Rocco was earned the championship tiebreaker by virtue of his five wins on the season compared to Pitkat's two. The Thompson crown was one of two that Rocco captured in 2013 along with the Waterford Speedbowl track title while Pitkat ended up with the championship at Stafford Motor Speedway. Rocco will attempt to make his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start of the season in the Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart.

The most recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race was held on Sept. 29 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. Here are some highlights from the CARQUEST Fall Final 150:
° Donny Lia capped off a dominating weekend - and ended an 18-race winless drought in the process - when he took home the checkered flag in the fourth and final race of the year at Stafford.
° Lia's 17th career win on Sunday followed his 18th career Coors Light Pole Award earned on Saturday.
° Doug Coby kept his title defense hopes alive by finishing second while Rowan Pennink joined him on the podium in third.
° Points leader Ryan Preece - who entered the event with a 41-point lead in the standings - experienced a mechanical failure 15 laps shy of the finish and saw his lead dropped to 26 tallies.

NEXT TIME OUT: NASCAR Night of Champions
Before the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action next spring, there is one major event on the offseason schedule. The Whelen Modified Tour champion will be crowned as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions, which will include ceremonies for the seven NASCAR touring series on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.