Whelen Modified Tour Notebook: Divide And Conquer For Doug Coby At Seekonk

Doug Coby celebrates the win in Saturday’s Whelen Modified Tour Seekonk 150 at Seekonk Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

By Denise DuPont and Shawn Courchesne

SEEKONK, Mass. – As the old cliché goes, practice makes perfect. At Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway it’s a mantra Doug Coby clings to tightly.

Seekonk has been a place where Coby has had much success, and the Milford drive credits much of that success to getting it done in practice at the track. 

Coby is a driver who is never ready to settle with the car off the trailer. For practice, he is ready to take his Mike Smeriglio Racing Modified out on the track and provide feedback to crew chief Phil Moran on how the car can be tweaked a notch to his preference. Once the car is ready to his liking, Coby continues to build his strategy and start running the race in his mind. 

“At this track it is the car,” Coby said. “Whether I am driving a [Phil Moran prepared] car or [a John McKenna prepared car] or Tim Bertrand’s Midget, those guys know what they are doing and make it so that I can tell them what we need. 

“We do make a lot of changes during practice. We don’t just unload here with any car that we have been that fast with. We always make changes to make it better. I have learned that when you win a couple of races at a track, you feel like you lose a couple of races at a track and you see who has a better car then you know what you are missing. Other guys focus on getting it, getting it at practice and not settling for a good car. I just want a great car.” 

Seekonk is such a small, fast track and things happen quickly. So it is key to start or make you way to the front as soon as possible. 

“To start on the front here is a big deal,” Coby said. “When I am here I want to start on the front. Third or fourth is OK too. So if you are anywhere up front and you have made the right adjustments like we did then you can just ride around and then for every caution just count off laps and save tires until the next caution.” 

As the initial green flag flew Saturday in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Seekonk 150 Coby knew that typical Seekonk dominator Matt Hirschman was off, despite the fact that the Northampton, Pa. driver jumped past him for the lead early. Coby took the lead back from Hirschman on lap 14 and never trailed again. 

“Tonight I was just really concerned about how Hirschman is here, not to take anything away from Justin [Bonsignore]” Coby said. “Everybody knows that Matt is the guy on tracks like this. He has a great setup and he is a great driver. When he got out front on me, I want to pressure him a little bit to use his stuff up. Because if you don’t he will just cake walk you. His car was just not right in the beginning so I thought I would get out front. I was sure he did not want to fight me for it. Two years ago we got together because he felt he was a little better and we made contact. Tonight his car was off and it was like he just let go and it worked out in my favor.

“The way the race unfolded it was kind of easy to be on cruise control after I got clear by two and then saved the tires for next caution. If there were a lot of cautions it would have mixed it up quite bit. There would have been more opportunities for people to move me around and make me us my car up. It seemed like the way the cautions fell, everybody would get single file and then I would lap the same three or four lapped cars during each 50-lap run. So actually it worked out for me. So the way the race rolled, I thought I would just lay back and save tires until the next caution.

“When somebody has a good car up front [at Seekonk], whether it is me, [Hirschman] or [Chris] Pasteryak or anybody who has won races here, if there are not a lot of cautions and one car gets up front – and then somebody like [Bonsignore] who had to race from eighth to get to second – I have it in my mind that I have not raced yet, so I just push him to push him further. So that was what my plan was. I just think that he had a better car than that tonight. From what I heard he was kind of tight tonight. So he was more focused on his car and trying to turn it then my car so I was just trying to drive away.”

Running three 50-lap races in his mind, Coby broke the race into manageable chunks that he could conquer and build on. Structuring the race into smaller blocks allowed Coby to win three races in one as he faced the challenges and switched plans for each one. 

“I was counting three 50 lap races in my head.” Coby said of his strategy. “When the first fifty were over, it was time to race and get to the next fifty. And then I go the last fifty the hardest.”

Bonsignore, of Holtsville, NY, came to Seekonk looking to defend his 2018 Whelen Modifid Tour win at Seekonk. But the car setup was a little off and Bonsignore had to handle a tight car and Coby’s challenges at the same time. 

“Coby had a good car and he deserved the win.” Bonsignore said. “Our setup has been really close to him. Obviously at Thompson we had it really close and got the win there. And then I think at Stafford we had one of the better cars and he ended up getting the win.” 

Coby left Seekonk holding a 27-point lead over second place Ron Silk in the standings. Bonsignore, the reigning series champion, sits third, 43 points behind Coby. 

“He has a little bit of a head start on us know right now,” Bonsignore said. “We have had a slow start. I figured we would get some momentum going here. Then we have a lot of good tracks coming up. We have Thompson and Loudon and of course Riverhead. … So we will take the momentum we built here and go to Thompson [Wednesday] and see what we got.”

Craig Lutz of Miller Place, New York came to Seekonk with a car fresh of the jig. He qualified fifth and was in contention with the leaders several times. He made his way up to second and held off the advances of Silk to finish third. 

“This was a good rebound from Wall,” said Lutz, who had a rough night at the Jersey Shore 150 at Wall Stadium on May 18. “Feat unto itself. We got it fixed up and came back here on the podium – it was an awesome day.

“… There is definitely nothing like it. It is a track where you can almost hold the wheel in one spot and go around the track. You have to go slow to go fast here. And we were able to do that for a while.” 

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  1. There is nothing like it is there. You can hold the wheel steady because it’s closer to a circle then an oval. It’s a big old skid pad.
    Great insights to the 2 and their mantra of excellence. But Bonsignor lurks and it’s now onto one of his strengths then to another one of he strengths. This is barely the end of the beginning with a lonnnnnng way to go.
    You’d expect the two to knock heads at Thompson at the front. A huge wild card being Preece and what he can pull out of his hat with that mysterious new car and one hand tied behind his back.
    Lutz fresh off the jig aye. At LFR? Or is it Troyer/LFR?

  2. Great article. Love the in-depth interviews and quotes.

  3. One thing Coby has going for him is his confidence. That confidence is backed up by having a constantly good car, and team behind him. But, it is early in the season to be talking championship. One or Two bad nights, can take anyone right out, on the other hand, if someone gets on a roll could see the whole picture change.With the LFR/TROYER deal some of the so-so cars may really increase there performance,adding more contenders.

  4. The one thing Coby has going for him is Phil Moran. Coby needs to get Phil Moran to stop smoking.

  5. The one thing? The champ has won in other cars. Phil is terrific but it’s more than just one guy.

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