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It's Wednesday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

IF THERE WAS ever a stock car racing adage that was true, it was on display last Saturday night at Waterford Speedbowl when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned after a six-year absence.

As the old saying goes, you've got to lose a bunch of races before you can learn how to win them.

Example A: Ryan Preece.

Example B: Doug Coby.

On paper, Preece very well could be running away with the Whelen Modified Tour championship himself after five races this season. He's been among the fastest cars in virtually every practice session, and he won three consecutive pole awards to open the season.

But Preece has won just once – at Monadnock Speedway – a place where track position is as vital to a driver's success as it is anywhere on the circuit.

Preece, of course, isn't running away with anything. In fact, it's Coby who is threatening to beat his Tour competition into the ground before the season even reaches its halfway mark. Coby picked up his third win of the young season at Waterford and now holds a comfortable 20-point lead in the standings over reigning champion Ron Silk and a 23-point advantage over Preece in third.

Coby seems to have learned what Preece hasn't, at least not yet. Coby hasn't finished outside the Top-2 since finishing eighth – with a damaged race car, no less – in the season opener at Thompson International Speedway in April.

“I grew up racing. I started racing when I was six,” Coby said. “The feeling of winning – whether you're six (years old) in a quarter-midget, or you're in a Tour car or an SK Modified or a Pro Stock for the first time – it's the Continue...

Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region for the most impressive on-track performances.

It was a huge weekend of racing around the northeast, with touring shows and weekly events that provided some truly remarkable results – including several drivers that continued on impressive rolls over the first half of the season.

Without further ado, let's see who made The Podium this week:

1. Corey LaJoie, Concord, N.C.

LaJoie won his second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race in the last three events, assuming command of the Visit Hampton VA 175 at Langley Speedway with 10 laps remaining Saturday night en route to victory. LaJoie previously picked up his first career series win three weeks earlier at Bowman Gray Stadium.

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WATERFORD, Conn. – Doug Coby used to wonder when he'd win a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Waterford Speedbowl, wonder if he'd ever enjoy the kind of dominant run that the likes of some of the sport's best had enjoyed in their careers.

With his third win in the last four races on Saturday night, Coby doesn't have to wonder anymore.

The Milford, Conn., driver dominated the Tour's return to the Speedbowl, leading a race-high 119 laps en route to the victory in the Mr. Rooter 161 after holding off Ryan Preece on a green-white-checkered restart.

“I've been trying to win at this track for a long time in a Tour car,” Coby said. “My first career win should have come (here) back in 2004... and that was one that got away. We were terrible in practice, so anyone who thinks, 'You guys are always fast, you're up front and you qualify good – we were really struggling today. (The team) put their heads together, came up with a setup for time trials, got us up front and this car was just flawless.

“This win is a win for them.”

Coby heads to the next event on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule – at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14 – with the series points lead and three wins in the first five races of the season.

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Toyota/Save Mart 350 Fantasy Preview

For those of you that missed the announcement, Infineon Raceway is no more.  Oh, there's still a road course that winds through the vineyards of the Sonoma Valley, it just no longer goes by the same name.

On June 1, the raceway's 10-year partnership with the Infineon company ended, and it is still in the rebranding process as it tries to find a track sponsor.  For the 2012 NASCAR race, it will simply go by "Sonoma."

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It's Wednesday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHAT WOULD AN auto racing column be without mentioning Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday?

It was good for NASCAR on a lot of levels, none bigger than likely cementing the sport's far-and-away most popular driver as a legitimate Chase for the Sprint Cup contender. It was so good that I floated the idea that maybe it was, well, too good...

Let's preface all of this by saying that I'm not a guy who believes in conspiracy theories. I'm just not that guy. But if ever the stars all aligned just right for a sport in dire need of a kick in the pants, this was the time.

Consider the following:

  • NASCAR's most popular driver mired in a four-year, 143-race winless streak heading into last weekend...

  • A fan base still clinging to memories of Dale Earnhardt Sr., who died more than 11 years ago...

  • A win for Dale Jr. on Father's Day, almost exactly four years to the day of his previous win...

  • A race event that was sullied by discussion of speeds at the newly repaved Michigan being “too fast”...

  • Severe left-side tire problems that prompted NASCAR and Goodyear to ship in an emergency batch of left-sides for all its Sprint Cup teams, necessitating an extra 75-minute practice session on Saturday evening...

  • Half-empty grandstands virtually all season long, continued criticism of television's coverage of races, and a dearth of caution flags (and subsequent restarts to generate excitement late in races)...

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

Non-touring “open” shows were the theme of last weekend, with some performers really shining through in the extra-distance competitions around northern New England. Modifieds, Late Models and even Sportsman-type cars were all on the docket.

Without further ado, let's look at who made The Podium:

1. Matt Hirschman, Northampton, Pa.

Hirschman won the SBM 125 at Star Speedway on Saturday night, an open show for Tour-type Modifieds. Though Hirschman is no longer a regular fixture on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, he has been one tough customer to beat on the open circuit.

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Racing is a family sport.  From dads and moms to sisters and brothers to aunts, uncles and cousins, racing families run deep.

Any given weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway proves this.  One example is the Amsoil NELCAR Legends Tour where dads serve as crew chiefs for their son or daughter, and mothers, sisters and girlfriends take the reins for team publicity.  Whether it's videotaping the action, watching from the spotters stand or tweeting a picture of the car in the starting grid, the race is a family event.

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Quicken Loans 400 Fantasy Preview

We at New Hampshire Motor Speedway can appreciate this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway.  Sure, the distance around the track is double that of our "Magic Mile," but isn't everything built twice as large in the Midwest?

Our main appreciation comes from the cold winters that go months without a wheel on the track.  While most of the warm weather places can go heat the track whenever they want, when we need the heat in winter, it comes in the form of a fireplace and some hot chocolate.

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It's Wednesday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHEN YOU'VE BEEN in the racing industry for nearly 20 years, you see a lot of races – I mean, a LOT of races – on short tracks from Maine to Florida, from North Carolina to California.

No, I haven't been to every race track in the country. Not even every NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track in the United States, but I've seen short track races in weekly divisions for everything from Modifieds to Mini Stocks.

But last Saturday night's Pro Series 100 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway for the track's Super Late Model division goes down as one of the best weekly division races I can ever remember seeing. There were multiple lead changes over the final 30 laps, cat-and-mouse games on late-race restarts, and the assorted beating and banging that makes Saturday night racing so popular.

David Oliver's win in the Pro Series 100 was a well-earned one at that.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

The weather finally broke after days of hard rains and intermittent showers in the northeast, and the change in weather produced some of the best racing of the season to date. From the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the were plenty of podium-worthy efforts.

Without further ado, let's look at who made this week's Podium:

1. Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, Calif.

The decorated USAC open-wheel racer earned the biggest stock car victory of his career on Saturday night at Gresham Motorsports Park, winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Slack Auto Parts 150 for his first career win.

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Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR Fantasy Preview

This weekend's race at Pocono marks a sign of the times.  NASCAR, or should I say #NASCAR, has made a push to be the social media leader among professional sports.  The Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR will be the first of its kind as it officially brands the sport via Twitter by promoting the hashtag.

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Bowman Gray Stadium is full of history. On Saturday night, Corey LaJoie made a little of his own.

LaJoie made racing look easy on the plucky Bowman Gray Stadium track, leading 118 laps and holding off Darrell Wallace Jr. on a green-white-checkered restart to post his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150.

At a track boasting victories from some of the sport's greatest like Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Glen Wood, LaJoie became the 122nd feature winner in Bowman Gray history. And the son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and Connecticut native Randy LaJoie did it by learning from a painful lesson one year earlier.

In the inaugural K&N Pro Series visit to Bowman Gray in 2011, LaJoie posted the first of his three career runner-up finishes in the series. It came after a chance in the outside lane on a GWC restart – a chance he couldn't capitalize on when Matt DiBenedetto held him off for the win.

He wasn't about to let the same thing happen again this time around.

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I had dinner with a friend last week, and to put it simply he knows nothing about NASCAR.  When referencing auto racing, he did the ignorant air quotes symbol in referring to it as a "sport."

Having been someone that's made the conversion to an auto racing fan, I'm well aware why people are skeptical it is a sport and I'm positive that their skepticism is bread from ignorance.  Watch the Olympics this summer and justify how some of those activities are more sport than auto racing.  (Seriously, didn't archery go out of style with the Renaissance?)

Despite my firm stance that NASCAR is indeed a sport, every once in awhile, I come across something that truly makes me respect the athletic ability that goes into it.  I had one of those moments yesterday when I ate lunch with Chad Walter, who serves as a Penske Racing crew chief for Sam Hornish Jr. in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Walter graduated from Cornell University and played defensive line for the Big Red's football team.  He put his Ivy League education to use as a part of the front wave of car engineers for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Hendrick Motorsports.  He also maintained his athletic prowess by serving several roles in a pit crew, including the big, burly jackman, before ascending to the top of the pit box.

We discussed the difficulty of pit stops and, while I felt ignorant asking the question, I brought up whether or not the team practiced pit stops, like the Cornell football team might practice a set play.

"Five to six times a week," he responded without hesitation.  He went on to explain how the team not only practiced the stops, but they wore helmet cameras and reviewed race tape to figure out how they could be more effective.

I'm willing to bet that your average football jock that doesn't respect NASCAR didn't know that the teams hold film studies with their "coaches," just like in football.  As I suggested, most of the la Continue...