By: Kyle Souza
Six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby is no stranger to winning on the race track. Over 18 years in tour competition, Coby has 28 wins, 93 top five finishes and 30 poles to go along with his six championships. He’s going down as one of the best drivers in the modern era of the tour — there is no doubting that.
What some people don’t know about is Coby’s life off the track. During the week, it can be a bit difficult to get in contact with the Milford, Connecticut champion unless you are waiting on a phone call telling you the deal you wanted to sell your house has been completed. Coby is the co-founder and Member Manager of Property Edge, based in Southington, Conn., and spends most of his weekdays, and even weekends, on the phone, or showing houses. A quick look at his Instagram page will show more photos of his latest home sale or his family pets.
There is more to life outside of just winning races.
Recently, his two worlds officially collided. After capturing a sixth title, Coby’s car owner, Mike Smeriglio III, decided to retire. The equipment went up for sale, and after an offseason filled with uncertainty, Coby ended up making a difficult decision. He’s going to open his own team, Doug Coby Racing, and head to the tour opener at South Boston Speedway on March 21 looking to keep winning momentum rolling.
“I’ve basically spent from the middle of December until now running another full-time job other than running my Real Estate business, trying to make this team work, constantly texting, making phone calls, putting numbers on paper… this wasn’t something that happened when we were working on a deal and it didn’t work and you snap your fingers and make it happen. I’ve done a lot of work this winter to get to the point of understanding a lot about how the team was working that maybe as the driver I didn’t really care or need to see because it wasn’t my business… trying to put a team together and leading the effort was something I became really familiar with,” Coby said. “I was really engaged over how to make it work and moving things around… it’s like a mini replica of my real estate business. I flip houses for a living so there are a lot of risks that we take and a lot of numbers and a lot of calculations done, and some of them work, some of them don’t.”
Luckily for Coby, he has some major pieces in play that helped him seal the deal on running with his own operation. Coby retains crew chief Phil Moran, who he won five of six championships with, and also much of his crew that worked on the Smeriglio ride. Outside of that, he’s also purchased a car from Smeriglio — one that he knew he needed in order to make it work how he wanted.
Smeriglio sold two of his cars to Tyler Rypkema, who is planning to compete on the tour, and his hauler to Bob Katon and Kevin Stuart’s tour operation, with veteran driver Ron Silk. Coby needed to pounce on the final major remaining piece.
“I just felt like the best opportunity was to keep our people and the equipment together, and I wasn’t in control of the equipment because it started to get sold,” Coby said. “One thing led to another and I knew I had to get this one car whether I was going to race it or not… I was able to work a deal with Mike that was good for the two of us… this can be the cornerstone piece of equipment for trying to build something. There were a lot of people involved in this from sponsor to crew, including some new people, who are going to make this a really good thing moving forward. This is something brand new and there are going to be some bumps along the way, but I feel like we are in a good position to move forward.”
Keeping his major players around as part of the crew was a major factor for Coby, who has been adamant about retaining as much as he could from previous years in hopes of continuing success.
“When I started looking at the numbers, and my priorities as a 40-year-old who has been through unstable situations, my priority concern was keeping our team together. The hardest thing to find is people who like each other and get along. I’ve said from day one that the reason we were so successful was not because of any special equipment, but it’s the fact that we have good people. I always said it would be a huge shame for this to go away simply because Mike retired… the guys could have taken their own path but all of them said that whatever I was going to do they were doing it with me… this was really a situation where we really are all thinking the same thing and I wasn’t willing to let it go. There were going to be risks no matter what happened.”
Now that Coby has his major ducks in a row, including some sponsorship, the mindset turns towards visiting South Boston, in just a few weeks, and trying to begin a quest towards a seventh championship. Last year, Coby took laps in this same car at South Boston as part of a test session. Coby and his team stopped at the Virginia oval on their way to Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina for what was the 2019 tour opener. After just a few laps on one of their cars, the engine expired, and the backup car they took out of the trailer was the same one they are heading there with now.
He’s ready to roll.
“I know people have been commenting on some social media forums saying it’s a different world that you will see me driving differently, but there is a zero percent chance of me doing anything different. I’ve always taken care of my equipment and always put the car in the best possible spot whether I own it or someone else owns it,” Coby said. “I just don’t see anything being drastically different when you take a car that has 10 wins on the tour and you go to South Boston with a team and a car that we think can go and win the race. There could be some hiccups and things we have to account for… a different hauler, some new pit equipment, things like that… but these things are not going to be an excuse for us to go out there and run poorly. We’re starting miles ahead from where we could be.”
His mindset is still championship chasing.
“You’re not going to be able to take it out of our system that we expect to win every race we go to, that’s just our team is always going to think… we’re hoping and expecting to win, and if we don’t, and we come away with a car in one piece and a top-five, that’s always been good. We’re built to win championships with our mindset.”