OBSERVATIONS: Miller Lite 200 at Riverhead Speedway

By: Ashley McCubbin

Through the years certain drivers have set the standard in the series they’ve competed in. For the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series, Doug Coby has fit the bill. While each win is special along the way, you could tell there was something special in the air when he won at Riverhead on Saturday night.

Despite having 30 wins to his credit, the driver of the No. 10 had never won at Riverhead. He had come close, pacing over 50 laps in four races, and six top-five’s over the previous 10 events. There was also a special sentiment in knowing it is a rare for a competitor to Connecuit to win at the New York oval, not having been accomplished since Ryan Preece in 2013.

It was also icing on the cake in knowing he had done so by passing his biggest foe in the series, the most recent champion and winner of the last five races, Justin Bonsignore. The No. 51 dominated the first half of the event, easily able to grab the advantage on the restarts through the first three-quarters. However, everything changed with 40 laps to go when Coby got the run alongside and ultimately drove away.

The battle for the lead was one of the small highlights of the night, given the challenge offered by Riverhead. While it’s a tough place to get a handle on, you also are unable to make passes quite easily. There seems to be a single groove just off the bottom that gives you enough momentum to hold your ground, and get the run off the corner to stop anybody whom may get underneath. However, if you find a driver that can wrap the apron, moves are able to happen – as Coby proved it.

Unfortunately, the difficulty to pass can create frustration, and sometimes the front bumper or more can be utilized to make things happen. Most times, those bumps are innocent, but certainly Ryan Preece learned by Chuck Hossfield that it can end your event early, too. As the NASCAR Cup Series regular has done all year, he showed speed in moving up to sixth after qualifying 12th. However, stuck in traffic and a stack-up ahead with contact saw the No. 6 in the pits early.

Outside of the battles, the other shocking factor was the drivers which found themselves a lap down, including current points leader Eric Goodale. While it shows the struggles the No. 58 team was experiencing, it also shows the level of competition in the series with at least 10 competitors having a legitimate shot to score a win.

One of those who have done so this year is Patrick Emerling, just two weeks ago at Stafford. He wasn’t flashy in his attempt at Riverhead, but showcased conserving equipment and being there when it mattered is important. A car that ran around sixth all night crossed the finish line in second, just padding the points. It may only be three races into 2021, but you can never start looking at the standings too early.

Everybody expects Bonsignore and Coby to battle for wins and titles; it’s what they have done on the tour for awhile now. However, throwing in the likes of Goodale, Emerling, and Ron Silk is why the modifieds are the series to keep an eye on each event.

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