DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Doug Coby did not have the fastest car in Tuesday night’s 150-lap event featuring NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers in the Northern and Southern tours. No, that car belonged to Ryan Preece, of Berlin, Conn., who dominated the 26-car field.
But Coby, of Milford, Conn., proved to be at the right place at the right time to win the first race in the Battle at the Beach doubleheader, when he started third on a last restart with three laps to go and went to the lead when Preece went wide in Turn 2.
Coby, the 2012 Whelen Modified champion, staved off a takeover attempt by runner-up Jason Myers and third-place finisher Luke Fleming, a pair of Southern Modified drivers.
“I never thought when I was a kid that I would move up into racing like this and win a tour championship,’’ said Coby, who drove the same Modified car Steve Park drove to victory in last year’s inaugural Battle at the Beach on a .37-temporary asphalt oval on the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway.
“To win a race at Daytona International Speedway, I mean, what a feeling,’’ Coby said. “Obviously, the team won last year with Steve [Park] and Todd [Szegedy] led a bunch of that race, so I think everyone knew we had a great car.
“You can have a great car, you can have the winning car, but when all is said and done, you’ve got to be the guy across the finish line first.’’
Preece, the reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified champion, looked to be the driver who would finish first when he dominated the first 146 laps. But Preece finished fourth.
With seven laps to go, Preece’s unbridled run was halted by a Turn 1 collision with Dave Sapienza , who was four laps behind the leaders.
Preece’s left rear made contact with Sapienza’s right front and caused damage, forcing Preece to fall off the pace on the last restart with 147 laps complete.
“It kind of baffles me,’’ Preece said. “You don’t want to cry, but it’s Daytona and it would have meant a lot to me and it would’ve meant a lot to my family. We had the best car here and sometimes the best car doesn’t always win.’’
Warming to task
There was a strong New England presence in the Battle at the Beach.
Tommy Barrett Jr. from Millis, Mass., started 15th and was the highest finishing rookie in sixth. Rob Fuller from Boylston, Mass., started 23d and finished 16th, four laps behind the leader.
Suarez starts 2 for 2
Daniel Suarez, who recorded a thrilling victory over Cameron Hayley by .083 seconds Sunday night at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, held off outside pole sitter Austin Hill to win his second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East events in as many starts this season.
Suarez, from Monterrey, Mexico, recorded his eighth podium finish in his last 10 K&N events.
“2013 was a great year for me and here we are opening 2014 in the best way,’’ said Suarez, who started sixth and led the last 119 laps.
Kaz Grala, a 16-year-old driver from Westborough, Mass., started 21st and finished 10th. Eddie McDonald of Rowley, Mass., started 22d and finished 19th, while Jerry Dawson of Saugus, Mass., started and finished 25th, completing 81 laps.Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.