Column By: AMY HARROP / RPW – LOUDON, NH – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series made its return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday with the Eastern Propane & Oil 100.
NASCAR veteran, Ryan Newman, started on the pole for the event. A lot of heavy-hitters were also in the lineup on Saturday, including Doug Coby, Ryan Preece, Ryan Silk, Justin Bonsignore and others.
After battling it out with Ryan Newman, Chase Dowling took off with the early lead.
It was a caution-plagued race in the beginning laps, with a lap one caution followed by Calvin Carroll getting into the wall on the frontstretch on lap 4.
Ron Silk, returning to the track after taking home a Valenti Modified victory during the New England Short Track Showdown weekend, faced troubles on lap 10 as he made contact with Craig Lutz in turn 4. The incident left Lutz with heavy front-end damage, but Silk continued on with little damage.
Doug Coby took over the lead on lap 13, but the #78 of Walter Sutcliffe, Jr. slowed on the frontstretch, leading to yet another caution.
Dowling jumped back into the lead on the restart, but a competition caution was brought out on lap 30. Racing veteran, Doug Coby, had hoped for his bad luck to turn around this weekend at his home track. But, he had troubles with his right front wheel under caution, which were caused by a tie rod issue. The incident set Coby behind the leaders, diminishing his chances of a top-10 finish.
The 3 leaders had taken off by lap 45, with Justin Bonsignore and Ryan Newman trading places repeatedly at the front of the pack.
Fan favorite, Max Zachem, headed to the pits with mechanical problems on lap 60, which was a heartbreaker for the #20 team.
Ryan Preece had high hopes coming into the weekend, running a double header in both the Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR XFINITY Series. He faced troubles on lap 71, with a left front tire going down on his #6 machine. The incident left Preece’s machine with heavy damage and the driver retired his car for the day.
Andy Seuss took a spin on lap 84 in turn 4, leading to a late-race caution. Anthony Nocella was among the drivers that elected to pit under caution. The yellow flag turned into a red flag as the track crews performed an extensive clean-up job spanning from the entry of turn 3 to the exit of turn 4.
The field returned to green on lap 89, but quickly turned back to yellow with a 3-car incident on lap 91 in turn 1. Anthony Nocella, Ken Heagy and Tommy Catalano were left with body damage after the incident, but all managed to drive away under their own power.
With just 6 to go, Bobby Santos, III captured the lead for the first time of the race. Dowling took over with 4 to go, but Newman jumped back into the lead with 3 to go after a 3-wide battle for the top spot. Santos stole the lead back with 2 to go, but briefly swapped positions with Ryan Newman.
Newman fell back to third on the final lap, leaving Bobby Santos and Chase Dowling battling it out at the front of the field.
The two drivers were wheel-to-wheel coming into the finish, with Santos winning the race by a nose over Chase Dowling.
The victory was Santos’ third consecutive Cup weekend victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and came after the team performed an engine change yesterday after practice.
“It just goes to show that you just don’t give up and put yourself in a position to win at the end of the race…we won the race and that’s all that matters,” he shared in his post-race conference.
Both Ryan Newman and Justin Bonsignore shared how “fun” the end of the race was for the two of them in their post-race conference, even though they didn’t win, all because of the hard (yet clean) racing in the closing laps of the race.
Modified racing is a staple here in New England and the Whelen Modified Tour didn’t fail to provide excitement on Saturday at NHMS.
The tour will continue on at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday, August 3rd with the Starrett 150.
The division will also return to NHMS on Saturday, September 22nd with the Mustket 250, which will be the staple event of the track’s Full Throttle Fall Weekend.
We hope to see you there!