By: Kyle Souza / Photo: Michael Jaworecki/My Race News
Two races in, Doug Coby Racing has a seventh and third place finish, and things seem to have taken off in the right direction. After his car owner Mike Smeriglio III retired weeks after Coby won his sixth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship last year, Coby decided to take things into his own hands after an offseason filled with question marks.
He launched Doug Coby Racing, bought a car off Smeriglio, and was ready to roll with 2020. Then COVID-19 hit. And things slowed back down. But now, with two races in the books for the Whelen Modified Tour season, Coby is itching for his first win with the new team.
He’s the owner and driver all in one.
“It’s the same,” Coby said of how different this season has been at the track with his own team, compared to last year. “Everyone’s jobs on the car are the same, so everything is the same.”
In the opener at Jennerstown Speedway, Coby qualified second, but struggled late after a pit stop and finished seventh. In the second race of the season, the Independence Day 200 on July 4 at White Mountain Motorsports Park, he rode inside the top three for the entire race after qualifying second. He would finish third after a wild battle between Justin Bonsignore and Matt Hirschman for the win.
Coby debuted a new LFR chassis at White Mountain, adding a second car to the stable.
“Truthfully I’m just ticked off about second in qualifying in both races, it’s $1,000 per race for the pole and every little position counts,” Coby said. “I’m not worried about points — but second would have been a lot better than third, money wise. I’m not racing any differently. I’m trying my best to keep the car clean. If I had to be aggressive out there I would have been, but I just didn’t have the car really to make any crazy moves. The crew guys have been awesome, and everyone is doing a great job.”
In the Whelen Modified Tour’s debut at White Mountain, Coby, like many other drivers, was originally concerned after practice about a bump down the backstretch, that dropped cars off the surface to the right briefly, then abruptly back on track, hitting the chassis on the ground in most cases. In the race, he used it to his advantage in the final laps, a bit of a surprise to most.
After starting second, he was on the bumper for Hirschman for the first 100 laps as the two worked through lapped traffic. But he lost a tick of speed in the final long run of the race that hurt his chances.
“I was really good for the first 100, I think I could have used the outside on Matt if I was really aggressive,” Coby said. “I didn’t want to kill myself over the bump, but I tried the bottom once or twice, and then decided to see how it was on the outside because we were going to be lapping cars. My car was really good on the outside and really good over the bump. We just lost some every restart, taking 10-15 laps for the car to come in. By the time it did, they had stretched it out.”
By the end of the night, Coby, like many other drivers, were praising how well the track raced, and how much they enjoyed the facility as a whole.
“We didn’t know how to adjust for the track or what to change, but it was a blast. Matt and I were talking after the race, and we didn’t win, or have a car that was driving perfectly, but man, it was a fun chess match,” Coby said. “Usually it’s a chess match between the drivers, but this was a chess match to figure out where you could find grip. Some of the short tracks, when the grip goes away, it’s gone. This track, grip might have gone away where you were on the track earlier, but you could search around and find something a little bit better where it would work.”
With the season delayed three means due to COVID-19, and just two races in the books as the middle of July approaches, Whelen Modified Tour teams are still not sure where the next race will be. The next race on the original 2020 schedule will send teams to Stafford Motor Speedway on August 7 but that race is highly in question due to COVID-19 guidelines in the state of Connecticut. Races at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (August 19 & October 11), Jennerstown Speedway (August 22), Oswego Speedway (September 5), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (September 12), Riverhead Raceway (September 19) and Stafford (September 26) are still on the schedule on NASCAR.com as of July 7. Riverhead Raceway announced last month they were rescheduling their June date for October 17. Wall Stadium postponed their race for July 11, but no official announcement on the postponement was released by NASCAR.
Sources close to My Race News have learned that NASCAR hopes to extend the season to the end of October, with races on October 17 at Riverhead, and likely at least October 24 at a track to be determined. Races at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway and South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway are also possible at some point in 2020. A source also confirmed to My Race News a second stop at White Mountain Motorsports Park, and a stop at Vermont’s Thunder Road Speedway are also in discussion.
But, none of them are set in stone at this point, as COVID-19 continues to develop — so Coby is hoping things become a bit more clear soon and he can plan for the rest of the year.
“Yes and no,” Coby said, when asked if the delay and uncertainty is concerning. “The concern that I have is that if all of a sudden we can schedule a bunch of races, I would be more concerned about that than not racing… I don’t love that they might schedule a race a week or two weeks from now, I think that’s a little bit hectic for us. But they are doing the best they can. To find a facility like this (White Mountain), that paid us a respectable purse, had fans in the stands, and it was blast and not terribly far… hopefully they are talking about a second race here. There is no reason why if they want us here in August we shouldn’t come back to this track, because it was awesome.”