Saturday afternoon was the return of the Doug Coby Show.
And not just in the sense that the 39-year-old, five-time Whelen Modified Tour champion led 37 laps en route to winning the season-opening race at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
No, he was literally the entire damn show.
Like, if you bought a ticket to the Performance Plus 150 Presented by Safety-Kleen, you should personally send him a ‘thank you’ for doubling the value of your ticket.
Let’s start from the beginning when Coby posted the fastest time in time trials to capture to pole for Saturday’s race. A likely prelude to Coby controlling the pace and leading the most laps, right?
NASCAR forced him to start in the rear after a screw in his left front tire forced the No. 2 Michael Smeriglio Racing team to make an unapproved tire change before the start of the race.
That’s when the popcorn moments of The Doug Coby Show began to present themselves.
And then Coby’s march towards the front began, driving from 32nd to 23rd in just 10 laps.
He was inside the top-20 by Lap 25 when Chris Pasteryak got into the back of Rob Summers and forced several cars to have lift — including Coby himself who received minor damage in the ordeal.
He provided another gem over the radio once the red flag was lifted in exchange for the yellow.
From there, Coby and MSIII Racing made the right calls and Coby executed behind the wheel. He first took the lead on Lap 122 after pitting for tires during a caution on Lap 110, and another yellow never emerged.
That would leave Five-Time unchallenged.
Coby not only led the rest of the way, but dominated to the tune of a 3.789 margin of victory.
Which, of course, elicited one more signature moment over the radio.
Without hearing some of the back-and-forth over the team communication for yourself, it would be easy to confuse Coby’s commentary for bitter anger. But the reality is that the five-time champion, true to his stature, channeled it into something more powerful.
He and his team were having fun, no matter how perilous the race looked in the early stages.
“I get frustrated, but I don’t get as frustrated as other drivers,” Coby told Short Track Scene after the race. “There are things where people are like, ‘Oh, he’s really pissed off’ and I’m not. I just always have something to say. I need to have the last word.
“My parents will tell you that about me from the time I was four years old.
In a figurative sense, he got the final word in on NASCAR, too.
“That was like the big middle finger, to go out and win the race after that, right? The last word.”
Coby suspects he might get a text or call from NASCAR Modified Tour director Jimmy Wilson over the middle finger remark, but he was also totally aware that people (like myself) were listening-in on the radio and wanted to make a statement of some kind.
“Think about the fans,” he said. “When there’s a single-car spin and that takes seven laps to clean up. That costs the fans green flag racing… The pace truck thing aggravated me because 30 feet and stopping, 30 feet and stopping. Just park us. Jsut wait. We’re in the car, clutch out of gear, clutch and out of gear, and it’s just dumb.
“I’m not afraid to say it.
“I always try to be politically correct, but when I do say things, I want people to listen to them and make them right. Like with the seven-lap caution on the first race of the year. It looks like we can’t get our act together. There’s people watching on FansChoice for the first time and I wanted us to put our best foot forward.
“And if someone gets penalized, it needs to make sense, and it needs to be easy for the fans to understand, and I don’t think ours was.”
That’s … a lot of big picture thinking and compartmentalizing for a guy that was tasked with having to drive through the entire field in a race where tire management and conservation is everything.
And here’s Coby behind the wheel thinking about how moments are being perceived by the fans, trying to actively entertain his captive audience, while also working to win the race.
That’s pretty rare vision from a race car driver, whose contemporaries are historically single-minded, especially while on the clock.
But for Coby, cutting up on the radio and thinking about the implications of every action and reaction is simply part of a strange stoicism that helps him deal with adversity, so he can complete the task at hand once a race resumes.
“My whole family is like that,” Coby added. “We get it out and we’re done within 10 minutes of whatever it was. We don’t hold grudges. Sometimes people think I don’t care, but the reality is that there’s just more important things to worry about.”
Coby says he needs to “exist in a positive place within the universe” for things to work out.
With that said, the Doug Coby Show had its least rated season in 2018, one that produced just one victory and a third-place finish in the standings.
He says the letdown of 2018 was actually preceded with how last championship season ended in 2017.
“If you look at the five championships, that was the one we’re least proud of,” he said. “We got into some bad habit and went the wrong direction with a couple of things. So where that started in 2017, even though we won the championship, that just continued over into 2018.
“So we made some changes, went to Speedweeks and tested. We figured some things out and believe we found a lot of the things that made us really good tonight.”
It was a good night for Doug Coby, and it was a good night for the fans that paid to see the Modified Tour open its latest campaign.
The 39-year-old got his last word in and it was a figurative ultimate middle finger, too.
The Doug Coby Show is back.