Matt Kobyluck ninth at NHIS after controversial late-race accident. Mohegan Sun Racing's Matt Kobyluck put himself in position to win the New Hampshire 125, a NASCAR Busch North Series race held at the one-mile New Hampshire International ...
Matt Kobyluck ninth at NHIS after controversial late-race accident.
Mohegan Sun Racing's Matt Kobyluck put himself in position to win the New Hampshire 125, a NASCAR Busch North Series race held at the one-mile New Hampshire International Speedway, when he took the lead on a restart just four laps from the end of the race. He was taken out of the lead, though, by another driver on a green-white-checker finish, being spun into the first turn wall, but returned to the race to record a ninth place finish.
Kobyluck, from Uncasville, Connecticut, had a fast car right off the truck as he was the fastest car in the Thursday practice session. In Friday morning's session, he was second fastest and then prepared the car for qualifying. In time trials, he recorded the eleventh fastest lap to take the inside of the sixth row on the starting grid. In the final half-hour practice session before the race, he was again second fastest.
"Qualifying kind of bit us in the butt," he said before the race. "We were real good Thursday in practice, and we were real good Friday morning in practice when we were in qualifying trim. We didn't change much, but what did change was the track. The track changed tremendously from our practice session to qualifying. We were real free during qualifying and we weren't free at all in practice. We had a fast car during practice, so we'll start eleventh and we'll get to the front relatively quickly."
Kobyluck quickly moved to eighth position in the race's opening green flag run, which ran to lap 38 of 125. Caution came out and the field came to pit road for a scheduled stop, and Kobyluck's crew impressed, getting its driver back on the track in fifth place. He ran the next long green flag run, which went from lap 54 to 115, between fifth and eighth position.
"We had set the car up for the long run where at the end of the race so when we had the most laps on the tires and the least amount of fuel, we would have a quick car," he said after the race. "It worked the way we wanted it to be other than that at that stage of the race where our car was the best, the pack was so strung out that we were having a hard job catching up with the leaders. We were pretty much thinking that we were going to finish sixth, even though for the last twenty laps of the race we were a tenth or two tenths faster than what the leaders were turning. But there was too much track position to make up so we were going to settle for fifth or sixth at that point."
Caution came out on lap 115, and that changed the face of Kobyluck's race.
"It played into our hands that we were going to have the opportunity to race for the win," he said. "The caution came out with ten to go and it went green with four to go."
On that lap 121 restart, those at the front of the field did not go at the restart point, and then the green waved. Kobyluck was on the gas, but saw those in front of him slowing up, so he took to the outside to avoid contact. He passed cars on the outside until he was alongside the leader, and took the lead going into turn one.
"It was addressed clearly in the drivers meeting that restarts were going to happen one of two ways," he said. "It either happens by the leader getting to the point where we're allowed to fire from, and firing in that general area, or the flagger dropping the green flag. On Saturday, for whatever reason, Tracy Gordon didn't fire in the area where he could have, and the green flag dropped before he fired. When the green flag dropped, everybody anticipated him to fire and he still never did. The four guys between me and him were all jammed up behind him. I was right on the tail of Jamie Aube. I went to fire and he went to fire and then he got off the throttle. To avoid making contact with him I turned hard to the right to not run into the back of him. As it ended up, the outside was wide open and I just kept my foot in it and kept going up through the gears. Before you know it, I'm crossing the start/finish line and going for the lead. It wasn't something that we had expected or even anticipated to do, it just happened to work out that way with whatever games Tracy Gordon was playing there with the restart, however he was trying to manipulate it. He got beat at his own game. We came down into turn one and we were in the lead solely because of how he conducted himself on that restart."
Caution came out later that lap for another accident and this set up a green-white-checker finish. Gordon lined up behind Kobyluck, and the two took the green and headed into the first turn.
"I was fully expecting Tracy to give me a little bit of a nudge to try and get the spot back if he got a run," he said, "but what I wasn't expecting was for him to make as much contact with me as he did, to take the car away from me and send me into the wall."
Gordon touched Kobyluck's left rear fender as the two headed into the first turn, and Kobyluck wound up spinning out of the lead and backing into the first turn outside wall. Caution came out and Kobyluck drove his severely damaged car to pit road. The crew checked it out and sent him out to finish the race. He actually picked up a position on the final two-lap run to the finish, and took the ninth spot at the checkers.
"I certainly didn't expect for him to make the contact he did with me to send me into the wall," he said after the race. "He got me out sideways a little bit, and then he hit me again and finished me right off. It was contact and conduct that I don't think is acceptable by anybody in our series. In the last laps of the race we were racing for the win, but he was upset that NASCAR had reviewed the restart and stood behind the call that it was a clean restart.
What upset Kobyluck most was that Gordon had said over his radio that he was going to put Kobyluck in the wall.
"For him to actually say it is one thing, for it to actually happen is another," he said. "It really showed a lack of respect. We're out there racing for the win, we're not out there racing to see who we can wreck. If his intention going in there was to wreck me, he obviously accomplished what he set out to do. I was upset that he would actually take the initiative to do something like that.
"We move on, and the lack of respect that gets showed, it says something about someone's integrity," Kobyluck continued. "It says a lot about their character, it says a lot about how they really want to race on the racetrack. It's unfortunate because our series really doesn't need people conducting themselves in that way because it's only going to look bad for the entire series."
Kobyluck, who hopes to talk with Gordon before the series' next race at Dover International Speedway next Friday afternoon, will then attempt to put the New Hampshire 125 behind him and concentrate on the series championship battle, which he is still very much a part of.
"The only real positive to our race was that we were able to regroup, stay on the lead lap, and finish ninth," he said. "We lost some ground in the championship chase, but we're clearly not out of the picture. We're sixty points out with three races to go, and we're going to race the rest of the season with the same diligence and 110% effort that we have thus far. If we come out on top, fine; but if we don't, at least we'll have given it the best effort that we could."