Down To The Wire: Was Whelen Modified Tour Dynasty Five Minutes From Not Happening?

Phil Moran (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

In 2014 Doug Coby replaced Todd Szegedy as the driver for the Mike Smeriglio Racing NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team. 

Ultimately the recipe of Coby, crew chief Phil Moran and team owner Mike Smeriglio blossomed into one of the most historic dynasties in Whelen Modified Tour history with the team winning four consecutive series titles and five title overall in six seasons together from 2014 to 2019. 

So how close was it to not happening? Maybe about five minutes. 

Coby won his first Whelen Modified Tour title in 2012 driving for team owner Wayne Darling. Coby then finished second to Ryan Preece in the series standings in 2013 with Darling. When Szegedy and the Smeriglio team parted ways, it was Coby they wanted as his replacement. 

In a recent interview on the Bottom Shot Podcast, Coby talked about how he angered Moran by making him wait for a decision. 

On Episode 71 of Unmuffled, Moran gave his side of the story of waiting for a decision from Coby to join the team. 

“It wasn’t just the ‘Give me time to think about’. It was, ‘Give me a month.’” Moran said of Coby’s initial reaction when he was offered the ride. 

“We made a list of drivers that Mike [Smerilgio III] had come up with,” Moran said. “Mike put it all out. Mike is very organized as far as paperwork goes and things like that. He made up a spreadsheet with so many drivers on it and he gave one to the three guys that worked in the shop with me that were dedicated and would always show up at night and would always come in. We sat down and he said ‘I want to write down their faults, their plusses, if you would want to work with them’ and so on and so forth. We went down the list and Doug kept coming up as one of the drivers that we all kind of agreed on. 

“So we had called him up and said we’d like you to come and drive and he goes ‘Well you know I have friends, a lot of this and a lot of that with the [Wayne Darling owned] 52 team.’ And I respected that very much. It just came down where I finally called him … one afternoon at like noon time and I said ‘Listen, I’ve got deals coming, I’ve got people that want to know what’s going on, I’ve got a lot of work to do on these cars, I need to know what’s happening. Are you going to drive for us or not?’ [He said] ‘Well I don’t know yet, da-da-da.’ I said ‘Listen, you’ve got until … five o’clock this afternoon. If I don’t have the answer by then you’re out.’ And it was literally about five minutes to five when he called me and says ‘Ok, I’m in.’” 

On a special storytellers edition of Unmuffled we went deep with Moran through his history in Modified racing from his start with legendary team owner Art Barry in the mid-1980’s, to stints with the Pasteryak family, team owner Don Barker, his time working in the NASCAR Cup Series for Bill Davis Racing and Tommy Baldwin Jr. and to his return to Modifieds and his immense run of success with Mike Smeriglio Racing. 

To listen to our full interview with Moran sign up for our RaceDayCT Insider program through Patreon. Your support can help ensure that professional coverage of short track racing can continue at RaceDayCT. For just a $5 a month pledge fans can have access to all our Unmuffled podcasts and other exclusive content. 


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Comments

  1. Obviously they didn’t check with DADOPE , he could have really helped them with his wealth of knowledge about everyone and everything

  2. 😝 😆 😂 🤣🤪😜😝 😆 😂 🤣🤪😜😝 😆 😂 🤣🤪😜😝 😆 😂 🤣🤪😜

    That’s funny!!!!!

    Look back in history and what Super Doug had to say about the transition from Darling to Smeriglio. He said it ultimately came down to the fact that his career up to that point was incredibly insecure, being a journeyman, and driving for shoestring budget outfits that he had to make the move to a more secure situation.

    Super Doug is a salesman, and salesmen never jump at a deal, you make them wait. For dramatic effect. To try to make it look like you are in control, to try to make it look like you have options, you deserve better. Super Doug did not want to look desperate by accepting the offer right away. This is just like real estate sales, make like there are other interested buyers. 🤣🤪🤪🤪😜😜😜😜

    Fast forward several years… So look at the situation now, even as a 6x champ, he couldn’t get a ride and had to start his own operation. Looks like Super Doug was pretty damn lucky Moran put up with his petulance.

    If Moran picked someone else, it would be, “Doug who?” DC would have continued as a journeyman. Again, I’m stunned that an owner would not be enticed by all that sponsorship Super Doug and Moran could bring to an operation.

    So what did I say on the other thread about an announcement on Super Doug running this season, that he was waiting for dramatic effect? Right on the 🤑!!!!

    🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯 🎯

  3. So, a few questions. If MS3 had not hired Coby, would he have stayed in racing as long as he did? Would the team have won any championships? Who would have been the driver had Doug said no? And to think it all came down to 5 short minutes.

  4. To clarify , would Doug Coby have stayed racing? Would MS3 have stayed racing? And would Coby have won championships without MS3, and vise versa?

  5. Dareal, do you really think that this whole deal with Coby was done months, or weeks ago, and he waited till now to make an announcement for dramatic effect? Ok, put the crack pipe down, it’s rotting your brain. Anyone with any common sense would know that if your a new car owner, you announce that fact ASAP in hopes of securing sponsorship. If no one knows you’ve started tour own team, they aren’t going to approach you offering money. No one says ” oh, by the way, when you get something set up, I’d like to sponsor you”. That’s just one aspect, there are many more. I think Moran may have embellished just a little, with the whole 5 minute deal, or Doug had other offers to think about back then. I really don’t think he waited till the last minute both then and now, for dramatic effect. Get real! Just my opinion.

  6. Yeah Rob p., you might have a point. Maybe it wasn’t for dramatic effect, but embarrassed that a young 6x champ can’t get a ride and has to start his own operation.

    Look, clearly there has been some wondering since MSR III announced it was shut down. So it makes sense that people wonder what will happen with the preeminent Crew Chief and a champ driver. Since I saw the announcement that MSR III was shut down, I have been waiting to see the status of Phil Moran. Phil Moran prepared cars are top performers.

    Rob p. wrote, “To clarify , would Doug Coby have stayed racing? Would MS3 have stayed racing? And would Coby have won championships without MS3, and vise versa?”

    Darling made it clear that he had to shut down when Coby left for MSR because most of the crew also went to MSR. So Coby probably would have stayed with Darling and continued racing until that operation folded for some other reason. It was a potent but shoestring operation. After all, Coby told Moran he had friends and this and that about his Darling team. 🤪😜🤣. Read the article Rob, the MSR team had a list of candidates and if Coby didn’t commit they had several other options to go with. There were plenty of good drivers available. And make sure you understand… MSR III poached the driver and crew and that ultimately shut down the Darling operation. It happens. Any driver is available. Any seat is open. Coby won a championship with Darling, so he might have again if he stayed with Darling. That also depends on who MSR would have picked instead of Coby. There were plenty of drivers that could have helped elevate the MSR III team. Todd kept the car a top 5 contender, but was not able to close the deal and get to the top.

    Folks, read the article… MSR III had a list of drivers and went out to POACH a driver. It’s that simple. Same goes for a seat that you think is full… it can be emptied. Happens all the time.

    Rob p., have an adult read the article to you and then explain what it means.

  7. Fast Eddie says

    If I remember right, Coby went ride hunting because #52 didn’t have the resources to continue full time on the WMT. They were only going to possibly run a limited schedule. I don’t think it was a case of #2 “poaching” Coby from #52. When Coby made the move, some of the #52 crew went with him.

  8. Fast Eddie, the 52 became a team of combined resources if I recall correctly and was on financial life support. The plug could have been pulled at any time, it was an operation at risk. Well known.

    Read this again:

    “So we had called him up and said we’d like you to come and drive and he goes ‘Well you know I have friends, a lot of this and a lot of that with the [Wayne Darling owned] 52 team.’ And I respected that very much. It just came down where I finally called him … one afternoon at like noon time and I said ‘Listen, I’ve got deals coming, I’ve got people that want to know what’s going on, I’ve got a lot of work to do on these cars, I need to know what’s happening. Are you going to drive for us or not?’ [He said] ‘Well I don’t know yet, da-da-da.’ I said ‘Listen, you’ve got until … five o’clock this afternoon. If I don’t have the answer by then you’re out.’ And it was literally about five minutes to five when he called me and says ‘Ok, I’m in.’”

    You spend your career as a journeyman, presently on a team (Darling) that is at risk of shutting down. You get a call from Phil Moran representing one of the premier teams, and you play this stupid game? If you are ride hunting and you get a call from Phil Moran, your ride hunt is over immediately.

    I’m starting to feel sorry for Phil. Super Doug is nothing without Phil, and I hope Phil leverages that to the max.

  9. Another perspective not discussed is that when Todd was told that he would be replaced in the ride, he called Doug and told him he better call Mike because someone was getting the ride and Todd felt Doug was the right guy. I wasn’t working with the 2 team by that point, but I would have to believe Doug made the call at least to put his name in the hat. If you have a top team, drivers are always trying to poach the ride. If you’re a top driver, owners are trying to poach you to drive their car. I think the fact that the 16 team publicly closed up at the end of season didn’t make it any easier for MSR to find a suitable buyer, in the post season. The reason that buyers aren’t lined up to buy an operation like this has more to do with the fact that no matter the success of the racing operation, at the end of the day it’s a loser in financial terms. A person smart enough to achieve the wealth required to go racing is generally smart enough to stay the hell out of racing. You simply have to have a lot of disposable income and be OK with disposing of it.

  10. The way Coby described it in the Stafford podcast was that Darling might have to piece together a season with some one from the outside but that a full season was the intent. He was inclined to stay with the 52 seeing as how they had won the championship and came in second the succeeding year but the insecurity of the team having been so successful was a concern. He knew the 2 didn’t have a championship but that they had resources and were stable. His version does not make it sound like it was a full time vs part time decision at the time he made it. It was a resources issue between two teams. Were it a full time vs part time deal there would have been no last minute drama.

  11. darealDuckDuckGoose says

    To say or imply that Wayne Darling’s team was ever close to folding for to finincial reasons is complete codswallop.

  12. Fast Eddie says

    Steve S nailed it! ” You simply have to have a lot of disposable income and be OK with disposing of it”. Kind of like the old Junior Johnson statement. “You want to make a million dollars in racing? O.K., first you start off with two million dollars…
    I was going to buy the complete operation with my Italian cousin, Antonio Fundsalow and my Hawaiian cousin, Jimmy Lakomonie, but we ran into some financial problems along the way. 🙂

  13. Elect one thing is certain DADOPE since Coby spilled the news he must have written 20,000 words
    in the last week he is so wound up its crazy.

  14. I agree with fast Eddie. Steve S hit it on the head. If I would have kept the money in my pocket I invested in racing I could have retired many years ago. Poor investment in today’s economy.

  15. Spending money racing. Painful man very painful. And the money goes so fast.
    In the end it’s entertainment. You have to decide if you can afford it and if it’s worth the price you will pay for it. I don’t agree that Steve nailed it with regard to the observation that ” a person smart enough to achieve the wealth required to go racing is generally smart enough to stay the hell out of racing” It’s insulting to guys like Smeriglio and even Paul Newman when he was alive who recreated using racing, could afford it and it gave them great enjoyment.
    In your working lives how much did you spend on boats, motor homes, summer cottages trips to far of place, cruises and the like? Was it all wasted money?
    Ownership and teams turn over naturally over time. It’s not some indictment of the lack of affordability. That’s always been the case. It costs ungodly amounts to race. But there are the Catalano’s, Rypkema’s, Rameau’s and even Coby that represent fresh ownership blood in the NWMT. Lutz becoming more of a force, Solomito with a new car racing part time and Sapienza fielding a second car on occasion for a great driver. They aren’t degenerate racers that don’t know their limits wasting money. They’re buying entertainment like we all do consistent with their budgets. In most cases anyway. Really big budgets.

  16. There’s an old saying “Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?” True, so True. If you want to be a front running team in any division of racing your going to spend allot more then you planned to, and with very little return. Just my opinion.

  17. This racing is a hobby, not a business. Spending on this racing is not an investment. There is no chance at a ROI. If you are lucky, winnings and sponsorship pays a decent amount of the cost to run.

  18. I can’t wait to watch this play out.

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