(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)
“Patience is a virtue.” “Good things come to those who wait.” “Great works are performed not be strength but by perseverance.”
Pick your favorite quote about fortitude. Chances are, it will apply to Doug Coby, the driver whose enduring patience has resulted in two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships in the last three years.
In an age where rising stock car racers emerge seemingly younger by the year, Coby didn’t get a shot in a championship-caliber ride until age 32. It was an opportunity, at one point, he thought may never come.
The Milford, Connecticut, native made his first Whelen Modified Tour start in 2002 at 23 and his first full-time season was 2004. While he competed with only two different teams up through the 2007 campaign, Coby had yet to reach his potential. Eventually instability set in.
Coby spent the 2008-10 seasons bouncing around from team to team, making spot starts here and there with no real direction. It was during that period, however, that Coby actually felt that he became more stable as a driver.
“Right around the time when I turned 30, I felt that I was at the top of my game driving a modified,” Coby said. “I had made a couple of changes like where I was working and how I was approaching life and approaching racing. I knew my attitude was in the right spot for me to start driving better.”
Instead of getting impatient or discouraged at the lack of stability in when he was racing and who he was racing for, Coby embraced the opportunity to learn more about different teams and cars, and to showcase his talent.
“I was really comfortable in the car, comfortable at the different tracks we were racing at, and I really got to explore a lot of different teams by driving one or two races a year for a bunch of different people,” Coby said. “That promoted me a lot to the series, which allowed for different opportunities to come my way.”
In 2011 Coby latched on with Darling Racing and ran a full season for the first time in five years. A fifth place finish in the final standings was the best of his career to that point. One year later he was a champion.
After a runner-up finish in his title defense, Coby moved to Mike Smeriglio III Racing for the 2014 season. Expectations were high. Very high. The MSIII team was itching for a title, and Smeriglio identified Coby as the driver to succeed in that mission.
“There was a plan in place from Mike to pull all of the pieces that he would need to put a championship team together,” Coby said. “From the first time that we all sat down together, winning a championship was kind of what we set out to do from the beginning.”
Even though Coby had matured, had proven that he could win a title, and had confidence that he was at his peak; the new situation was a lot of pressure.
“That was kind of the nerves that I had of coming to the team,” Coby said. “I was brought to the team to do a specific thing: to win a championship. In the beginning that kind of made me think, ‘What if this doesn’t happen?’ Not only what if it doesn’t happen this year, but what if it doesn’t happen at all? What if this whole experiment is a failure?
“I could kind of tell pretty quickly, from what I knew of (crew chief) Phil Moran and the equipment they were bringing on board, that we were going to have everything we needed to win a championship. But I know from my own experience that you can’t count on all of that stuff coming to fruition.”
All of the elements came together exactly as planned though, and in immediate fashion. Coby drove the No. 2 Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair/HEX Performance Chevrolet to victory in the pre-season UNOH Battle At The Beach on the temporary short track at Daytona International Speedway in their very first race together. The points season that followed included another win at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway and consistent top finishes that saw the No. 2 sit outside the top five only four times in 13 races.
“We thought we had a good team on paper and we backed it up with our performance. That was really important to all of us,” Coby said. “Everybody may have talked about us as being a championship contender, but we actually went out and did it, and that was a really cool feeling for us throughout the year.”
So even though the mission was accomplished, the expectations that were formed last winter when the Coby-Smeriglio partnership came together, well, they’re not going away anytime soon.
“I want people to look at the 2 car, and look at me driving it, and say if you want to win a points championship then it’s going to go through us,” Coby said of his expectations heading into a 2015 title defense.
Now five years beyond what he originally identified as the peak of his racing acumen, and with two championships to his credit, Coby has another opportunity to self-evaluate.
“I feel like right now at 35, I’m the same driver that I was at 30, I just have better opportunities now to show that,” Coby said.
Coby will be formally crowned as just the fifth multi-time titlist in Whelen Modified Tour history when he receives the championship ring and trophy at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards on Dec. 13 in the Charlotte (North Carolina) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.