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BUMP STOPS: Weather, Whelen Modified Tour and When Will ACT's Brian Hoar Get His Due?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

 It's Thursday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WE'RE BACK IN the saddle again here in the infield at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, just about 100 yards from the namesake of this blog – the Granite Stripe start/finish line.

This, to me, remains the biggest weekend of the season at The Magic Mile. It's got everything, and it comes a perfect time of year, too. The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup makes its annual stop in New England, the Camping World Truck Series always provides one of the best on-track events of the year here, two of the northeast's racing bedrocks are on the card – the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Whelen Modified Tour – and the ACT Late Model Tour showcase Invitational returns.

Five great racing events. Perfect early autumn temperatures. The intensity of late-season points battles.

Now, if we could just get Mother Nature to cooperate.

 

Admittedly, the schedule for the weekend isn't a great one. In fact, as I write this, it's raining pretty steadily across the speedway grounds with a practice session for the K&N Pro Series scheduled to start in short order.

There are two things I know about the weather as it effects us today – one, we're not going to start on time today and, two, don't be fooled by the weather forecast.

Yes, it is supposed to rain for a good part of both today and Friday. But as the weekend weather outlook improves remarkably. I'm no meteorologist – but I have been known to place a wager on a race horse or two – and my money right now would be on a busy day on Saturday and the Sylvania 300, as scheduled, on Sunday.

So, there's that.

DOUG COBY IS one Modified driver worth taking a serious look at.

Though Coby's win two weeks ago in the UNOH Showdown at Thompson International Speedway was only the second win of a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour career that spans back to 2002, Coby is a driver that is undoubtedly overlooked by both followers and competitors aligned with the Tour.

For one thing, Coby is serious about his career. He's serious enough that he's cobbled together two different race teams in order to run the full Whelen Modified Tour schedule this season. He sits fifth in the overall standings in 2011, on pace for his best showing at season's end since he finished seventh in 2005.

This weekend's New Hampshire 100 at NHMS could be as big for Coby as the UNOH Showdown win in terms of placing his career squarely on the map.

Coby's record at New Hampshire is strong – very strong, when you consider that his efforts have often come in part-time opportunities. In August, he finished 10th in the Granite State Classic 95, just a few weeks after starting sixth and finishing fourth in the F.W. Webb 100 dominated (albeit illegally) by Sprint Cup invader Ryan Newman.

Last season in this race, in a one-off ride with the Ed Partridge-owned team as a teammate to Ron Silk, Coby started all the way back in 35th before being the race's biggest mover into fourth at the checkered flag.

Coby has posted a Top-10 finish in five of his last six New Hampshire starts. His lone finish outside that was 11th.

If I'm going with someone outside the usual crowd to visit Victory Lane this weekend – someone other than Newman, Szegedy, Christopher, et al – I'll throw $20 on Coby across the board.

I KNOW THAT if Coby doesn't, indeed, hit the Top-3 this weekend, at least Vermont Motorsports Magazine will show up a month from now to remind me I was wrong.

THIS IS THE conclusion that I have come to this week: Brian Hoar will go down one of, if not the most, under-appreciated race car driver in the history of stock car racing in New England.

Hoar has career 33 wins in the ultra-spec ACT Late Model Tour, some 14 wins more than the next guy on the career wins list. He's won an unprecedented seven Tour races in 2011, locking up a record eighth career championship two weeks ago by winning the Can-Am 200 in Quebec.

The Tour still has one points race left on the schedule.

Hoar picked up his first career victory at New Hampshire in the inaugural ACT All-Star Challenge last month – meaning the 39-year-old driver from Williston, Vt., has won on everything from the biggest track the series visits to its smallest little bullrings. With just one glaring exception on the resume – the Oxford 250 – Hoar has won every marquee Late Model event there is in the northeast and Canada.

But Hoar's accomplishments aren't limited simply to the ACT Late Model Tour.

In a brief NASCAR stint, Hoar won a K&N Pro Series East race at Thunder Road International Speedbowl, picked up four career K&N Pro Series poles and even held the track record at New Hampshire for nearly eight years.

His record in the K&N Pro Series, it's important to note for the sake of a "best of New England" argument, came at a time when the series was known as the Busch North/East Series and did, in fact, feature some of the region's most prominent race teams all in one place on a week-to-week basis.

Despite Hoar's dominance in the championship chases year after year, Hoar doesn't take the approach of a true points racer. My favorite Hoar quote of all-time came earlier this season, when he was asked about his goals for the ACT All-Star Challenge at New Hampshire in August.

"Besides winning?" Hoar responded. "I wasn't aware there was any other goal."

Well said.

SOME VERY DISTURBING news out of New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week.

Allen Lessels of the Manchester Union Leader is reporting that track GM Jerry Gappens doesn't believe the IZOD IndyCar Series will be back to NHMS in 2012.

You can read the full story by clicking here.

For reasons that I've outlined before, this is very disappointing. I'm not sure why fans in the region aren't interested in IndyCar racing. It's fast, obviously, it's exciting, it employs some great personalities, and it's truly unique.

Maybe, just maybe, there will be an 11th-hour effort to save it at New Hampshire. One can hope.

SONS OF ANARCHY is losing me.

It's testing my patience. Of which, you know, I have very little.

THIS WHOLE "CONTROVERSY" about Matt Kenseth's finishing position at Chicagoland Speedway last week in the Chase opener is laughable to me.

Kenseth, who was out of fuel, was pushed by J.J. Yeley on the final lap, which is a no-no in the NASCAR rulebook.

Anybody who thinks pushing someone in a bump-draft during a race at a restrictor plate track is akin to pushing someone who is out of fuel on the final lap is just plain grasping at straws.

It's that plain and simple.

There's competition, and then there's needing assistance just to get to the end. They couldn't be more different.

YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the Big Mac, and don't forget to tip your waitress. Montgomery Gentry is here, so stick around.

– TB