The 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Series concluded its most competitive championship battle to date at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on October 18th to close out the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing weekend presented by XtraMart. The Sunoco World Series 150 began with the tightest championship battle in series history with three drivers within four points of winning the title and even a little early snowfall for spice right before the green flag waved.
Doug Coby and Ryan Preece entered the season finale event in a tie for the championship and Woody Pitkat sat only four points out of the lead with at least a third place finish in the points mathematically secured. Coby won the pole for the event while Pitkat and Preece started in the top five to make for a tight battle throughout the race as each sought an edge in the championship battle.
While Coby and Preece had relatively calm runs in the 150-lap feature, Pitkat had an up and down fight for his first Whelen Modified Series title throughout the event enduring an early crash, a penalty by NASCAR and issues on pit road to finish fifth. Preece ran in the top ten all race long and finished seventh after his car fell off late in the event, but it was Doug Coby who secured his second consecutive series championship and the race win after making a pass on runner-up Justin Bonsignore with five laps to go.
The championship is Coby’s third in the past four years and makes him the first driver in ten years to win two consecutive championships in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series. It also puts him third on the all-time championship list, behind seven-time champion Mike Stefanik and five-time champion Tony Hirschman.
Coby credited his team for helping him sweep the World Series weekend, winning the pole and the race and claiming the most laps led in the 150-lap feature. The race win also made Coby only the third driver, along with Stefanik and Steve Park, to sweep every race at Thompson during the Whelen Modified season.
“Just so proud of everyone and how they battled the whole season. We won seven races out of fifteen and six poles and it’s so competitive in our series it just shows how much effort they put in to be here,” Coby said. “It sucks that the race season ends you know. We really want to keep it going and this would have been a great one for us to keep going – What a great day for us.”
Ryan Preece secured a runner-up spot in the points standing with his top ten finish and Pitkat placed a career-best third in points. Pitkat commented on his dramatic race saying it was a hard fought battle to stay in the title hunt.
“We were pretty behind the 8-ball,” he said. “It was a tough outcome. You know what was going on and what you’re going for. It’s a big deal. You’re going for a championship – unfortunately we just had to battle all day. I never give up and I just drove my butt off all day.”
Pitkat did have one reason to smile on the day however, taking the Sunoco Modified Series title earlier in the day despite Preece, who was within striking distance of the title, taking the race win. Keith Rocco, who was second in the points coming into the event, was unable to compete after his car was disqualified following his heat race earlier in the weekend.
Pitkat had a relatively dominant event in the 30-lap feature, but was unable to hold off Preece in the closing laps and had to settle for second place on the track, but first on the season.
“It’s pretty amazing, the team that we put together here,” said Pitkat after the race. “It’s like the little train that could really. It’s a low budget team – Obviously we were real consistent this year. Nothing fell off the car, which was awesome. We really wanted to win tonight. I really thought we had it. Obviously it wasn’t meant to be. It really stinks when you come to this last race and you get these people that haven’t run up here all year and they cause cautions out there at the end of the race when we could have had it won. It is what it is. Hats off to Ryan and those guys. They had a heck of a year.”
The XtraMart Limited Sportsman Series kicked off the final day of the Sunoco World Series at the Big T. The event saw past champions Scott Sundeen and Larry Barnett, each seeking another title, with only two points separating them coming into the weekend, while Corey Hutchings had an outside shot at claiming the title himself.
In the end Sundeen came out on top while Hutchings took home a victory in the final race of the season. After the race Sundeen said he was excited to add championship trophy number five to his collection.
“It actually feels awesome. I think this was the toughest one to win with it going down to the wire with Larry (Barnett),” said Sundeen. “I know I can race with Larry anytime, inside or outside, because I know we might touch sometimes, but we’ll never take each other out. I told him this morning if I lost the championship to him, I don’t want to lose to anybody but I’d rather lose to him.”
While he didn’t take home the title, Corey Hutchings said he was content to walk away with some hardware of his own and end the season on a high note.
“We came up a little short on the points but we had a great season,” he said. “I’ve had great success (at the World Series). I wish I had more success on Ice Breaker weekend. I love this weekend. It’s the best weekend of the year. Ending the season on a high is great because it’s a long off-season. Winning the last race is the ultimate high.”
In the International Super Modified Series (ISMA) a first time champ was crowned in Dave Shullick, Jr., a second-generation driver whose father is considered a legend in the series. Shullick came into the event seeking his first title and not only took the championship, but his first race win at the Big T.
“It was pretty awesome,” Shullick said in victory lane. “Winning finally (at Thompson) means a lot to me. I love this place. That’s three for three in New England this year so we’re excited about that. It’s awesome (to win the championship). In a sport where your father is a legend you always look for things that he never did and this is one thing he’s never done so this is awesome.”
Anthony Payne went on to claim his first NEMA Lite Championship, adding his own name to the history books as he joined his father Joey as a NEMA champion, making them only the second father-son pair to each win a championship in the series.
With the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing weekend in the books Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park closes out its 75th anniversary season in style. The Big T will return to action in 2016 with its annual Icebreaker event in April.
XTRAMART LIMITED SPORTSMAN FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Corey Hutchings (Salem, CT); 2. Joshua Wood (Palmer, MA); 3. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 4. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA); 5. Jack Aquilina (Oakdale, CT); 6. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT); 7. Matt Lowinksi-Loh (Milford, MA); 8. Corey Fanning; 9. Chris Meyer; 10. Mike Malburn (Sterling, CT)
SUNOCO MODIFIED FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 2. Woody Pitkat (Stafford, CT); 3. Kerry Malone (Needham, MA); 4. Ted Christopher (Plainville, CT); 5. Ryan Morgan (Mystic, CT); 6. Bert Marvin (Colchester, CT); 7. Nick Ladyga (Voluntown, CT); 8. Jason Sundeen (Douglas, MA); 9. Stephen Kopcik (Newtown, CT); 10. John Studley (Framingham, MA)
ISMA SUPER MODIFIEDS FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Dave Shullick, Jr. (N. Ridgeville, OH); 2. Rob Summers (Vernon, CT); 3. Mike Lichty (Innerkip, Ont.); 4. Trent Stephens (Ravenna, OH); 5. Ben Seitz (Bourne, MA); 6. Chris Perley (Rowley, MA); 7. Bobby Santos (Franklin, MA); 8. Mark Sammut (London, Ont.); 9. Otto Sitterly Canajoharie, NY); 10. Jeff Locke (Raymond, NH)
NEMA LITES FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Scott Bigelow (East Hampton, CT); 2. John Zych, Jr.; 3. Randy Cabral (Plymouth, MA); 4. Anthony Payne; 5. Avery Stoehr (Lakeville, MA); 6. Paul Scally (Raynham, MA); 7. Dan Cugini (Marshfield, MA); 8. Paul Bigelow (Kensington, MA); 9. Meg Cugini (Marshfield, MA); 10. Dennis O’Brien (Deerfield, NH)
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED SERIES FINISH: 1. Doug Coby (Milford, CT); 2. Justin Bonsignore (Holtsville, NY); 3. Timmy Solomito (Islip, NY); 4. Todd Szegedy (Ridgefield, CT); 5. Woody Pitkat (Stafford, CT); 6. Patrick Emerling (Orchard Park, NY); 7. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 8. Ted Christopher (Plainville, CT); 9. Chase Dowling Roxbury, CT); 10. Donny Lia (Jericho, NY)