Don’t ask Doug Coby about pressure when it comes to the expectations being heaped upon him in 2014 as he makes the move from Wayne Darling’s team to Mike Smeriglio Racing on the NASCAR Modified Tour.
Want to ask Doug Coby about pressure as a NASCAR Modified Tour driver?
Ask him about the 2010 season when he drove for five different teams in eight events or the span from 2007 to 2010 when he drove for nine different car owners in an effort to prove to those around the series that he belonged in a full-time ride.
Ask him about the 2012 season when long-time part-time team owner Wayne Darling made the decision to run the series full-time for the first time in the hopes that Coby could bring the team a championship.
Yes, Coby knows plenty about pressure when it comes to being a driver on the NASCAR Modified Tour, so there’s little about the 2014 season that has the Milford driver worried he might crack under expectations.
“I guess if I was little bit younger there would be some pressure, where if you don’t do good you might lose your ride type pressure,” said the 34-year old Coby, a veteran of 12 years on the NASCAR Modified Tour and the 2012 series champion. “But I’ve been in that situation way more times than anybody on the Tour right now. With all the cars that I’ve driven. I feel confident to be able to hop into a car and run well with it. The [Wayne Darling] car aside, I think I proved that in the [2007 – 2010] years when I drove all those cars. The best part about this deal for me is the stability, that’s why I did it. I don’t think any of us are looking at this as a deal where you have to go out and win three races in the first year and a championship. We’d love to, we think we can, we might. But if we don’t, we’ll come back in 2015 and try to make the team better.”
Coby’s drive for a second series title begins Sunday with the running of the NASCAR Modified Tour season opening Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway.
Though a tone of success has already been set when it comes to Coby and the new team around him. In his first event since replacing 2003 series champion Todd Szegedy with Smeriglio’s team, Coby won the NASCAR Modified Tour exhibition Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 18.
But it was a side-trip to New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway for the Richie Evans Memorial 100 Tour Type Modified event on Feb. 21 that had Coby impressed with what he was seeing from his new team.
“Daytona was awesome,” Coby said. “I think the best thing about the whole Daytona trip, winning aside, was the fact that we were the fastest in both practices, we qualified fifth, we ran no worse than fifth.
“And then we went over to New Smyrna and we were the fastest in the first practice session, we ran pretty fast in the next one and we started 14th and finished fifth. I think that might be more of a telling sign of the way the season has the potential to go on the Tour. That track is so odd compared to the other tracks we race on, but I had never seen New Smyrna before, never watched there, I had seen some videos of there and that was it. And [crew chief Phil Moran] hadn’t been there in a couple years. So I think that was a really good sign for all of us that we went down there, I was comfortable in the car, comfortable with the setup. We made some adjustments and I think if we had raced more than one night [at New Smyrna] I think we would have been even better.”
Coby had five wins, eight top-five’s and 11 top-10’s in 14 events on the way to the 2012 series championship. He backed that up in 2013 by winning two events and running second in the standings to series champion Ryan Preece despite missing a start at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway after losing his car in a qualifying crash.
And while 2012 may have been the biggest surprise championship in years on the Modified Tour, there’s little doubt that in 2014 Coby is on the very short list of favorites to win the series title.
“The potential is there for us to do really well but I think the potential is there for us to be really average,” Coby said. “I think it’s on us to make sure we make the right decisions for adjustments on the car and I make the right decisions in traffic and we make the right decisions on pit stops to keep the performance level where we expect it to be.”
Beyond the Modified Tour Coby will stay busy in 2014. He’ll once again run full-time in the NASCAR Weekly All-American Series SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway. He will also make some spot starts with the Czarnecki Brothers Modified Racing Series organization and with Bertrand Motorsports on the Northeastern Midget Association.