13 Jun 2021
Doug Coby defeated an all-star cast of racing legends to win the very first Superstar Racing Experience event at Stafford Speedway.
Coby, a six-time NASCAR Wheelen Modified Tour champion, was entered into the event in a wildcard capacity as Stafford’s ‘Local All-Star’, having previously claimed 30 feature wins at the Connecticut track.
Coby started the night 10th on the grid of 12 as a result of the random draw that determined the grid for the first heat, a race he finished in sixth. The opening heat was a largely conservative affair, with drivers needing to preserve one set of tyres throughout both 15-minute heats and the 100-lap feature later in the evening.
With the finishing order of that first heat race inverted for the start of the second, Coby began that race seventh, but charged through the field.
When a caution – brought about by a spinning Willy T. Ribbs – resulted in a restart with less than two minutes to go, he pounced, passing Paul Tracy as the green flag dropped, and then made light work of dominant heat leader Michael Waltrip on the penultimate lap. The win in the second heat gave Coby pole for the feature race.
Early on in the feature Coby faced pressure from series co-founder Tony Stewart, who had passed Waltrip at the start of the race, but the three-time NASCAR Cup series champion couldn’t find a way past the resolute local driver.
The battle for the lead allowed a rapid Marco Andretti to close in on both drivers, and he took the lead on lap 12, having gained eight spots since the start of the race. In his pass for the lead, Andretti took Coby and Stewart three-wide, and bumped doors with Coby as he snuck up the inside.
Andretti’s lead wouldn’t last, however, with Greg Biffle – now driving a backup car after wrecking his primary in the second heat – snatching first just three laps later, Coby following him through and returning Andretti’s bump from earlier.
Over the next 10 laps, Coby battled hard with Biffle for the lead, spending all of lap 24 side-by-side with the 19-time NASCAR Cup series winner. He completed his move back to the front a lap later, but on lap 41 the race was neutralised once again, this time intentionally, with a competition caution being brought out in order to bunch up the field.
When the race restarted Coby, now in the lead, fended off Biffle once again, but now Stewart was bearing down on the pair. Another caution with 43 to go, caused by Helio Castroneves spinning fellow IndyCar star Andretti, gave Biffle another chance at grabbing the lead, and while he did briefly on the restart, Coby took it right back.
Damage sustained by Andretti in the collision with Castroneves would later lead to another yellow flag period in the dying moments of the race, as the damage sustained in the shunt ended up causing a front-right puncture for the third-generation driver.
The resulting two lap dash to the chequered flag didn’t faze Coby, who continued to hold off Biffle to claim a historic, and popular, win in the first-ever SRX event.
Biffle remained in second until the end of the race, while Tony Stewart completed the podium. Helio Castroneves was fourth, ahead of 2000 NASCAR Cup series champion Bobby Labonte, seven-time consecutive Trans-Am Series champion Ernie Francis Jr., and Tony Kanaan.
Ribbs was the final driver on the lead lap, with Tracy and Andretti one and two laps down respectively as a result of damage.
Waltrip and Bill Elliott failed to make the finish, the former being shown the black flag after sustaining too much damage after an early spin, while Elliott retired with fuel pressure issues that very nearly stopped him from starting the feature at all.
1. Doug Coby
2. Greg Biffle
3. Tony Stewart
4. Helio Castroneves
5. Bobby Labonte
6. ErnieFrancis Jr.
7. Tony Kanaan
8. Willy T. Ribbs
9. Paul Tracy (-1)
10. Marco Andretti (-2)
11. Michael Waltrip (DNF)
12. Bill Elliott (DNF)