MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Doug Coby was simply not going to be denied during Saturday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
After winning the pole but being forced to start last due to an unapproved tire change before the green flag, Coby romped through the field despite nearly being collected in a lap-27 melee as well.
Rallying again, Coby ultimately used three fresh tires to charge from 14th to victory lane in the final laps.
The five-time series champion restarted 14th when the green flag waved for the last time with 34 to go, wasting no time cutting through traffic like a hot knife through butter. He picked up 10 positions in four laps and then used a third-to-first sweep to pass both Kyle Ebersole and Justin Bonsignore on lap 122.
Once out front, Coby simply set sail. He opened up a one-second margin by the time the scoreboard hit 15 laps left and was on cruise control after that, taking the checkered flag more than three seconds clear of runner-up and defending race winner Jon McKennedy.
It was the perfect cap on a day that seemed destined to be against Coby from the start, with the Milford, Conn., native vocal in victory lane regarding the officiating call that sent him to the rear early.
“What happened at the start of the race, after the pit party out here, was that NASCAR decided to drive us in all the junk behind the track … and as the first car through there, we picked up a nail or something in the left front tire,” Coby explained. “Phil (Moran, crew chief) saw it right as we were ready to go. The officials saw it too, and it was leaking air real bad and it was going to go flat. The rule is that I guess you’ve got to go to the back for that (tire change).
“I don’t think that’s a good rule for any series to have. I’m really supportive of good rules and I’m really critical of bad rules, and that’s not a good rule,” Coby continued. “I’m sure that none of the fans had any idea what was going on and that’s not good for racing. Luckily we were able to bounce back from it.”
Saturday’s performance marked Coby’s milestone 25th-career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory, seventh on the all-time list and most among active drivers.
It’s a mark that Coby noted is “special,” particularly given the fact that he’s chasing wins and not points at this juncture of the year.
“I think everyone always figures that no matter what happens at Myrtle Beach, the (No.) 2 car’s going to come out in a hole, because they just can’t get a handle on the place. Well, now we’ve run four races here and won two of them,” Coby noted. “This just shows that we can get it done if things go our way.
“It’s a good feeling, to start off the season on a high,” he added. “Two years in a row, we only had one win apiece, and that was frustrating to us. … The wins are what matter to us right now, and this one is definitely special, but we’re going to put it in the past pretty quick so we can focus on the next one.”
McKennedy came up one spot short of recording his second-consecutive Tour victory at Myrtle Beach, pointing out that Coby’s three new tires to his own pair of fresh Hoosiers on the final stint were likely what made the difference.
“I think at the end, we put rear tires on and elected to save our other tire in case there was another caution, and it just went green all the way,” said McKennedy. “He put his three on and I think that’s what won him the race. I just got really tight in the middle of the corner, and that’s where Doug was really good. He could make up a car length through the center just about every lap.
“I’d guess that the old right-front (tire) is what bit us. We never put one on the whole race. That’s just the gamble that you take here.”
Jimmy Blewett, who ran second to Coby for much of the final 30 laps, faded back to third at the finish due to battery issues inside of five to go. Patrick Emerling and Chris Pasteryak completed the top five.
Anthony Nocella was sixth, followed by Burt Myers, Andy Seuss and Eric Goodale among lead-lap cars.
After saving two tires in the pits and hoping for a late-race yellow flag that never waved, reigning series champion Justin Bonsignore finished a lap down in 12th in the first race of his title defense.
Saturday’s event featured six cautions for 33 laps and 14 lead changes among eight different drivers.
Doug Coby, Jon McKennedy, Jimmy Blewett, Patrick Emerling, Chris Pasteryak, Anthony Nocella, Burt Myers, Andy Seuss, Eric Goodale, Frank Fleming, Matt Hirschman, Justin Bonsignore, Blake Barney, Kyle Ebersole, Dave Sapienza, Ken Heagy, Kyle Bonsignore, Matt Swanson, Woody Pitkat, Craig Lutz, Calvin Carroll, Rob Summers, Wade Cole, Timmy Catalano, Ron Silk, Tommy Catalano, Melissa Fifield, Timmy Solomito, Jamie Tomaino, Gary Putnam, Samuel Rameau, Walter Sutcliffe Jr.