LOUDON, N.H. — When the field came off Turn 4 to take the checkered flag in the Whelen Manufactured in America 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Anthony Nocella found himself running in the fourth position.
Rather than settle for a Top 5, Nocella instead celebrated his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory after race leaders Patrick Emerling and Eric Goodale crashed on the frontstretch while battling for the win.
Nocella has worked tirelessly during the past several years to stay competitive with the top drivers on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and was overwhelmed to finally break through in his own car at the series‘ most prestigious venue.
“I‘ve ran [the Whelen Modified Tour] off and on over the years,” Nocella said. “We‘ve been close to getting some wins and have worked very hard, but just hadn‘t gotten one yet. It‘s awesome to finally get a win [at New Hampshire] of all places, especially in my family-owned car.”
Prior to his triumph on Saturday, the closest Nocella came to a victory was in 2017 at Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway, where he finished second to six-time series champion Doug Coby.
Nocella put together that performance while driving his family-owned car, which he was piloting Saturday evening for the first time since 2020 after spending most of the past two seasons driving for Danny Watts Jr.
Nocella’s familiar No. 92 showed speed from the opening laps. Nocella managed to mix it up with the leaders and briefly led early before gradually fading to the rear during a long green flag run.
Once the caution came out for Tommy Catalano‘s expired engine with less than 20 laps left, Nocella knew that he had an opportunity to charge back up to the front if he made the right moves on the restarts and in the draft.
“We had a great car at the start but got too loose and faded back,” Nocella said. “This motor didn‘t really like getting bogged down, but I knew we had a shot with the short run. I expected [Goodale and Emerling] to drive it in hard and wash up. That‘s exactly what happened and thankfully we were in the right lane.”
Nocella watched as Emerling sailed his car around Goodale in Turn 3 on the final lap to take the lead. Goodale attempted to cross Emerling over, but ended up turning him around, allowing Nocella to slip under both of them to narrowly claim the win ahead of Kyle Bonsignore.
THE LEADERS CRASH!
— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) July 16, 2022
Once the shock of how the race ended subsided, Nocella made sure to appreciate the magnitude of obtaining his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory at New Hampshire.
In the series‘ history at the facility, names like Coby, Ted Christopher, Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggiero, Ryan Newman, and many more have all visited the track‘s Victory Lane. Nocella dreamed of joining those drivers one day, but never imagined that accomplishment would also serve as his first Tour win.
Nocella plans to celebrate his New Hampshire win with his family and crew for as long as possible before going right back into the shop to make sure he can add more victories to his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour résumé.
“This is a big one for sure,” Nocella said. “We‘ve been working hard for this and it‘s awesome to finally get it at [New Hampshire].”
RACING REFERENCE: Career NASCAR stats for Anthony Nocella
With Kyle Bonsignore placing second, the damaged cars of Emerling and Goodale crossed the finish line in third and fourth, respectively. Jon McKennedy completed the top-five, which helped him gain precious ground on Ron Silk in the battle for the series championship after Silk was involved in an early crash.
Rounding out the top-10 were Ryan Preece, Coby, Donny Lia, Corey LaJoie and Craig Lutz.
A replay of the Whelen Manufactured in America 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway can be seen on the USA Network on Friday, July 22 at noon.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action on Friday, July 29 for the Clash at Claremont 150 at New Hampshire’s Claremont Motorsports Park. The race will be streamed live on FloRacing.