Commentary

GOOD & BAD: 2021 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Season

By: Ashley McCubbin

Another year of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series competition is in the books, with Justin Bonsignore hoisting the crown once again. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

GOOD: Accident Avoidance

The ability to escape this incident following a restart, followed by the rain that shortened the Spring Sizzler would see Patrick Emerling visit victory lane in April.

A lot of people may call it lucky, but as the driver of the No. 07 stated, their strategy put them in position to capitalize and they had enough speed to contend with the leaders as the laps were winding down.

The victory in the second event of 2021 campaign certainly kickstarted a great campaign, that saw two more wins and 11 top-10’s in 14 races en route to a break-out runner-up points finish. His previous best ranking was fifth in 2015.

THE BAD: Seeing Ryan Preece and Ryan Silk come together in that matter. Just imagine if we would’ve gotten to see the pair battle it out for the victory. The pair did get their time in to shine this year, each scoring race victories with three and two each respectively. Silk wound up third in points, tying his best finish since winning the championship in 2011.

Matt Swanson was also left wondering “what if” for the rest of 2021. He dominated from the pole at Stafford, though a mechanical issue forced him to call back and make a trip down pit road. Instead of his first series checkered flag, he wound up getting caught up in an incident later on. Although fans are used to seeing the No. 3, they only ran five races with a best finish of fourth at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

THE GOOD: Doug Coby broke through at Riverhead Raceway for the first time (30th victory of his career at the time), after scoring six top-five’s over the last 10 events in New York. He also became the first driver from Connecuit to do so since 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.

Speaking of which, THE GOOD has to be their battle for the win as passes do not come easily there with just a single groove 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.

Coby fell out of the championship battle after missing an event, due to an opportunity to run with the SRX Racing Series at Stafford Speedway, to which he visited victory lane. The talent was proven in watching him fight back to fifth in points with two wins and 10 top-10 finishes.

THE GOOD: The aforementioned Preece’s razzle dazzle at Stafford Motor Speedway was to remember. The box score will show he led the most laps, in which he was dominant the first half, but that’s not the full tale.

A couple mid-race cautions, combined with a strategy call to take three tires after coming down pit road twice, while his competitors made one trip down for a pair, are ultimately what led Preece to victory lane. Sure, he had a lightning fast car, as showcased through dominating the first 98 laps untouched from the pole. However, this was no easy task coming back up through as he restarted seventh with 35 laps to go.

The road back to the front, he was also heavily challenged by both Doug Coby and justin Bonsignore, as each of them made Preece work to get by. It came as a shock, considering before the first caution there was a five-second straightaway lead for the No. 6 Modified. But it took a couple laps each time, and mixing up his approach to get the run underneath and move forward.

While it did not feature the close finish like we had the past two races, this goes down as another classic modified race where the heavyweights battle out in respectful fashion, coming down to the final five laps.

THE BAD: The late caution that set this in motion that night, ultimately. Trackpass did not show any stopped cars on-track or incidents, nor they did show the safety workers picking up debris. It makes you wonder if it was thrown by race officials in seeing how strung out everyone was, with only eight cars on the lead lap.

THE BAD: It became a problem that night, but as well as multiple times this year. Why do their races always turn into a bit of a demolition derby near the end. When can we keep our heads on straight and be a little smarter? I know the pay window is closing, but wrecking stuff isn’t a solution. Let’s use our heads some as we try to make moves to win.

Despite some negatives, let’s not forget that we had six different winners in the first seven races this season. This is why the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is not to be missed.

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