LOUDON, N.H. - Race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is right around the corner, which means the drivers participating in the inaugural Whelen All-Star Shootout on Friday, July 11 and Whelen Modified Tour New Hampshire 100 on Saturday, July 12 were getting their cars tested and tuned on Monday. Speedway vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens recently made the announcement that the Whelen Modified Tour and the Southern Modified Tour were combining for a 30-minute, two-segment feature event on Friday, as the northern and southern qualifying drivers go head-to-head for the first time at the Magic Mile.
Doug Coby, who has won twice at NHMS - in Sept. of 2012 and the following July - is preparing for this season with a brand new team and a new car, hoping to be one of the faster and better cars come July.
"I think coming here to Loudon we're expecting to come up and contend for the win," said Coby, who's driving the No. 2 Dunleavy's Repair Chevrolet. "There's a lot of good cars on the Tour; there's probably 10 to 12 cars that could win this thing. And that's why we're here testing to try and get that little bit of extra edge because when we come back in a couple of weeks we'll have limited practice time and we want to be a couple steps ahead of everybody."
Coby, as well as other drivers at Monday's test session, expressed excitement as the northern and southern modified tours combining, giving all the drivers new competition to prepare for.
"That's going to be awesome I hope a lot of fans show up to see that," said Coby of the Whelen All-Star Shootout. "Imagine what a great weekend somebody could have if they win the All-Star race and then the points race (the New Hampshire 100) on Sunday. Hopefully that's us and we'll give it a good run."
Todd Szegedy, who won last September's Whelen Modified Tour race here in the Granite State, gave some sound advice to the southern drivers competing at NHMS for the first time.
"These types of tracks are a different driving style; there's a lot of momentum and not a lot of braking," said Szegedy. "You have to keep the speeds up and you've got to be able to know the draft. A lot of tracks you go to you don't notice the draft, but here you do. My best advice for them is to go out and practice with the cars."
Szegedy is excited for the combination of the two tours and for some fresh competition.
"It's going to be neat because you're going to have the best of the best riding together and I think it's going to be a good race. At this track you can come from the back, you can qualify last and have a good car come from the back I mean we've all done it. So nobody's the underdog. They're all great cars and great drivers."
Justin Bonsignore says that the advantage is more about having a good car to drive. Bonsignore has suffered in the competition the last couple of years with engine failures, which set him back from winning a title - but with a successful start to the season this year, he said he is a lot more confident. And that makes his team more confident about racing in Loudon this July.
"This is the coolest place to go on the circuit and it's the place you want to win the most on the circuit," said Bonsignore, who has qualified to race in the All-Star Shootout. "It's something different, hopefully we'll get a good turnout with the fans, and usually the common theme here is that we put on the best show."
The Whelen Modified Tour All-Star Shootout will be the first event on Oxford Casino Pole Day and will run at 2:10 p.m. on July 11, followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying sessions for the Camping World RV Sales 301 and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East's Granite State 100.