Perspective: Whelen Modified Tour Greats On Doug Coby’s Developing Series Legacy

Doug Coby (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Doug Coby (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Doug Coby heads to Thompson Speedway this weekend looking to make some significant history as it relates to the greats of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Coby, of Milford, goes to Sunday’s season ending Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco World Series 150 looking for his third consecutive series title, and fourth overall.

Coby takes a 20-point lead over second place Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, N.Y. into the race. Coby needs to finish 16th or better Sunday to clinch the series title.

If he completes the feat he would become the first driver since the series’ inception in 1985 to win three consecutive titles.

He would also join seven-time series champion Mike Stefanik and five-time series champion Tony Hirschman as the only drivers with four or more series titles. Stefanik, Hirschman and Coby are already the only drivers with three or more titles.

And the success that has put Coby into the rarified air reserved for the series greats has come in a relatively short span. Coby, 37, had one victory in his first 111 starts with the series. He made his first series start in 2002. Since the 12th event of the 2011 season he’s had 21 victories over a span of 76 events.

In addition to winning the most championships in series history, Stefanik is also the division’s all-time winningest driver with 74 victories. Stefanik made 453 series starts over 29 seasons. He recorded series victories in 24 different years. Coby has victories in seven seasons.

“He’s been at the game a while and he’s obviously mastered his craft,” Stefanik said of Coby. “It doesn’t hurt to be sitting in the [No. 2] car. It obviously has everything they need. [Car owner Mike Smeriglio III] makes sure they have everything they need and [crew chief] Phil Moran is certainly a big part of that. Usually the credit goes to the driver and I always felt that the situation usually allows you to run at the level you’re capable of running. Certainly Doug is able to run at that level for one because he has the ability to do that and two, because he has all the right pieces and parts around him.”

Ted Christopher, the division’s third winningest driver of all-time, with 42 career victories, sees Coby likely passing Stefanik’s numbers if the Smeriglio owned team stays intact. Christopher won one series title in 2008.

“If that team stays together, he could pass [Stefanik] easily,” Christopher said. “They’ve got the best guys and they’ve got the money behind them and Doug is driving real good. They go to the same venues all the time so he’s always going to be pretty good. I think he could do that.”

Stefanik agrees that his records could be in danger of disappearing.

“This could go on for a long time as long as [Smeriglio] stays in the game and Doug is still middle-aged as far as racing on the tour goes,” Stefanik said. “Thirty-seven, he’s got many years ahead of him if he chooses to stay active. I stayed pretty active to my later fifties and he’s certainly capable of doing the same thing. If he stays status quo he could rewrite the record book. It’s great to be on top. I’m sure he’s enjoying the ride. I used to talk about it like a wave at the ocean. Eventually the wave crashes to shore. The only way that wave crashes to shore if Phil Moran left or [Smeriglio] chose not to do it anymore and you’ve got to move on and go somewhere else.”

Said Hirschman: “I wish him the best. It’s not that I’m looking forward to him tying my five championships or getting ahead of me or even catching [Stefanik]. But we know records are there to be broken. I wish him luck.”

Hirschman said Coby likely used his well his opportunity racing and learning with veterans in his younger years.

“I remember when he got started in the Modifieds,” Hirschman said. “… He always did pretty much well right from the start. He probably learned from the best, racing with the best back in the days when he got started. You know, myself, [Stefanik], [Reggie Ruggiero], all them guys that were the guys to beat back then and he learned well. Now he’s putting that to good use.

“There’s probably no other drivers on the tour that has got them team behind them that’s as well prepared as they are. And then experience-wise as a driver, you’ve got to look at that. We still think of him as the young guy, like a kid, but he’s not. He’s sort of the veteran on that Tour if you look at the years he’s been running it.”

Ruggiero, the division’s second winningest driver of all-time, had 44 victories over 24 seasons. He made his last start in 2009 and had victories in 15 different seasons. Ruggiero points to a different level of competition helping Coby’s achievements.

“I really haven’t been paying attention to the tour,” Ruggiero said. “I really don’t know Doug at all. He sort of came in after I left. I see that he’s been winning and stuff. But I see the Tour, if you just look at the car numbers, the car counts. Let me put it this way, when I started with the tour, when it started in 1985, you had all you had to do just to qualify. Nowadays everybody makes the race. Did the competition get less? Maybe.

“But, I’m glad he’s doing good. I’m glad he’s going to have his fourth championship. I never won one. We always ran up front, but we never won a championship. Not a big deal. I respect him, whether he runs up front, or he’s a point racer. I really don’t know because I don’t watch the races.”

Said Stefanik: “Doug has obviously sharpened his talents and skills over the years and he certainly must be enjoying himself. That’s what it’s all about, winning races and winning championships and they’re doing that. They’re getting it done. They’re fast everywhere they go and they’re getting it done.”

By The Numbers

Mike Stefanik (Photo: Howie Hodge for NASCAR)

Mike Stefanik (Photo: Howie Hodge for NASCAR)

Mike Stefanik

Active: 29 seasons – 1985 – 2014 (no starts in 1999)
Championships: 7
Wins: 74
Seasons winning races: 24
Series starts: 453
Average finish: 9.5


Tony Hirschman (Photo: Howie Hodge for NASCAR)

Tony Hirschman (Photo: Howie Hodge for NASCAR)

Tony Hirschman

Active: 22 seasons – 1985 – 2007 (no starts in 1992)
Championships: 5
Wins: 35
Seasons winning races: 10
Series starts: 320
Average finish: 10.6


Reggie Ruggiero (Photo: NASCAR)

Reggie Ruggiero (Photo: NASCAR)

Reggie Ruggiero

Active: 24 seasons – 1985 – 2009 (no starts in 2002)
Championships: 0
Wins: 44
Seasons winning races: 15
Series starts: 419
Average finish: 12.1


Ted Christopher (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ted Christopher (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ted Christopher

Active: 26 seasons – 1987 – 2016 (no starts in 1991, ’92)
Championships: 1
Wins: 42
Seasons winning races: 13
Series starts: 363
Average finish: 12.6



Doug Coby (Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Doug Coby (Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Doug Coby

Active: 15 seasons – 2002 – 2016
Championships: 3 (leading standings with one event remaining)
Wins: 22
Seasons winning races: 7
Series starts: 187
Average finish: 11.6



  1. Dolla Dolla $$$$ says

    Hahaha gotta love the REG!! Long live the REG!

  2. Well, Stefanik said it best, that is a pretty good car, for sure. That car sure has a lot of wins.

  3. No disrespect to Doug or the current WMT tour drivers, but i think Reggie hit on an important point – that the competition when he and Stef and Hirsch was MILES beyond what it is currently.

    Having said, the record books won’t care when someone reads them.

    That 2 team is great, and can still be great a long as it stays together. I will say the 16 team seems to have gelled,and the 51 has a couple of wins, but in all honesty, no one else seems to consistently have a chance to win.

    No excitement on the WMT these days for my $.

  4. Dolla Dolla $$$$ says

    Please stefanix had the 6x… Car was in the same ballpark as the 2…. You wanta talk best of the best .. Talk REG…talk George Kent… Talk All u want but these guys were the best of the best… George practically built his homemade chassis … REG well the REG was and always will be raceworks… Masters of the game… Long live the REG!!

  5. Facts Matter says

    And the Reg and the rest of them had tires they could come in with 10 to go start 10th
    and win can not compare the the eras and some had tires no one in the world could get
    with compounds spread across the tire and he still didn’t win a championship.

  6. Andy Boright says

    For Coby to have a shot at 7 or more titles, the series will need to be around for a while longer, who knows if it will even be around in 3 or 4 years?

    He certainly has benifited from a lack of competition. The series was much, much stronger back in the 80’s, 90’s, and even 00’s.

    Richie was still 10x better than anyone running the series today (including Coby).

  7. I wish the tour put some people in place to make an effort to enhance the series, give the teams and drivers more incentives to race. They are missing out with talented guys like Szegedy, Hirschman, Pitkat, Civali, and Christopher not racing full time. I believe these guys would be easily roped back in with the right enticement (paired with car owners given the same enticement). Preece moved on and that was a loss also. But you still have great talents like Santos, Lia, Silk, Coby obviously, and I see incredible talent in the Long Island boys- Solomito and Bonsignore. I don’t see raw talent in Blewett or Pennink but that’s definitely arguable (there’s no need to start an argument about my opinion there).

    The only point I’m trying to make is that times are different and I don’t think it’s fair to compare todays racers with yester-years. There are some hard working drivers racing modifieds right now and I don’t think they deserve to be put down and compared that way.

  8. The Reg!!!!!!!…REGGIE!!!…REGGIE!!!…REGGIE!!!!

  9. FCA, extremely well said. I second your opinion.

    There is no way to compare the different eras. Cars were different, engines were different, technology was different, rules were different, the economies were different, all that is very important.

    NASCAR needs to promote itself. They are no longer the 1,200 lb. gorilla, they have to compete and produce to get cars to run their series.

    Not only are there very talented drivers on the sidelines, there are a few teams running the off-Broadway series that could be running the WMT.

    We need more owners to run their cars. The cars are out there. But the conditions are not right for them to run the schedule.

    As long as the 2 car stays that good, any living organism that drives it will be successful.

  10. How many championships did the 2 team have before Coby came along?0 Doug had more championships before he joined the 2 team then the team had so to say the team could win without coby may not be true. The whole team with co by driving is Definetly at the top but to think they would be there without Doug may not be true.

  11. well i think you can look at this in a lot of ways listening to four of the greatest mod tour drivers of all time …..what i got out of it was these guys all raced each other at the same time …along with steve park ..mike ewaninsko…jan leaty…tim connely…the list goes on of great drivers racing at the same time….there were ten cars or more each race that could win ….with full fields of cars you had to deal with on the track …there is a HUGE difference racing at stafford with 36 cars out there not 20 with maybe 4 that could win ….makes there numbers look a lot different than dougs ……now you take doug and the 2 car and put him in the field …he sure as heck would have a chance of winning races and a championship …but NOT at the clip he is doing today with no cars and way less stars racing at the same tracks all the time… watkins glen …nazarath…holland..martinsville…beach ridge..etc etc…second is the car owners cars and teams ..the 44.. the sheba 8 ..the chase 77 …the barry 21…the close 69 …the X-6…etc. etc….look at anytime in mod racing when a team dominated it always had everything in place to do it ….smart owners spending the money on the things that win races ….haulers don’t win races …well prepared cars do ….but you also need a crew chief to run the deal …on and off the track …that is the key …the 2 car has everyone beat there …he is on top of his game …riding that wave as mike said ….but they are not racing the cars and teams above ….its like heavy weight boxing …huge back in day ….great boxers …huge on tv …ali …fraizer …foreman …norton …the hey day …ali was the king …but he had great boxers to fight ….today its gone …tyson was the last but who did he fight …heck foreman was like a 100 and still boxing and beating guys ….lol…..the tour is nothing what it was in the hey days so it is very hard to compare any of todays numbers with when it was strong ….JMO

  12. Facts Matter says

    And none of those guys raced 200 laps and were told you get no tires unless one goes flat and if you win you get. 2500.00

  13. The only way to enhance the tour is money. You need purses that will lure cars. Also have to find a way not to conflict with track regulars. A guy running for his track championship is torn between a local night, with a VERY good chance at a win or top three, and decent cash considering lack of travel expenses. As opposed to a long haul. Hoping for a top 10 and same cash or only a little more. Has to be worth it. Show the money, I believe car counts go up and competition gets better. Just saying.

  14. Joe Lajoie says

    I’d be curious to see how much the na$car sanctioning fees are for these Tour races.
    How come I can go to Lebanon Valley and pay $20 to get in the gate to see a $17,500 to win DIRT show, while it’s $38.50 in the front and $50 in the back gate for a Tour race that they mysteriously won’t disclose what the purse is.

  15. Fast Eddie says

    Ken L, I think you are absolutely correct. Look at the car counts and rosters from the TTOMS races; high 30’s and low 40’s. Why? TEN GRAND! Look at the Pennsylvania and upstate New York teams that come to those races. For the most part, you don’t see them at a WMT race. Some of the TTOMS teams are getting more from a top ten finish than a win at a WMT race! Like you said, it has to be worth the trip for them to race.

  16. Fca
    You dont mention rocco

  17. Coby is the best ever
    No question

  18. To Joe La Joie, you are onto something there. I remember going to the SK 5K race. It had I believe 27 cars start show. Consis need to fill field. An absolutely fantastic race , Why? $5,000 to win a WEEKLY event. What is the purse for a tour race? What does track have to pay NASCAR? And I just saw this morning, Monadnock dropping tour stop. Not worth it for anyone. NASCAR doesn’t get it. Also look at the stands at cup races. Half full, They are killing the sport we love. Why? $$$$$$$

  19. jeffery, Rocco is another big name that slipped my mind. There should be enough incentive for him or a team to join the tour with him driving. I also missed Tommy Barrett. The mod tour should be striving to be a series of the best modified racers. Instead it’s a series that lacks vision, passion, and the knowledge to provide sustainability.

  20. Andy, I agree that Richie will always be the king of the sport. But everyone forgets about Geoff and the Armstrong #1. Over 50 wins in a single season against the best of the best. And I really don’t know how many modified wins in his career against the best if the best.

    Jeffrey, Rocco is just a little fish in a big pond on the WMT. And Coby is not the best ever, he couldn’t tie Richie’s racing shoes. And Richie did it with his own built cars, not a store bought car.

  21. Paul Thurlow says

    Funny to see “jeffrey” comment on this article. Good luck on Sunday.

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