Doug Coby had one NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win prior to turning 32.
One hundred nine starts over eight plus seasons, driving for nine different car owners.
Eight years later, the Milford, Connecticut, driver has turned the ultimate example of patience, perseverance and the drive to succeed, into a racing career worthy of being mentioned in the same breadth as NASCAR’s all-time greats.
With his seventh-place finish on Sunday in the 2019 season finale, Coby clinched his sixth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship. With his latest trophy, he joined a historic list of NASCAR drivers that have six of more championships across all of NASCAR’s divisions. He is just the 13th driver all-time to put his name on a list that includes the likes of Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Richie Evans and Mike Stefanik.
“It’s really just hard to put into words,” Coby said. “We try to come out here to win every race and try to come out to have the best season of anyone, and our team just finds a way to do it. I don’t talk about numbers, and think about numbers — I have a long way to go in my career, and this could be it. I always try to remember that my last win could be my last win, and my last championship could be my last championship. Well earned by my team, I will tell you that much.”
COMMENTARY: Coby keeps getting better with age
It was September 29, 2002, when Doug Coby made his tour debut. After winning two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championships at Stafford Motor Speedway, Coby unloaded in tour competition at his home track, driving for Don King, and finished 19th in his series debut.
Fast-forward 17 years, and you see Coby ascending himself up the ladder in NASCAR’s oldest touring series, stamping his mark of domination, and the true class of a champion, both on, and off, the track. Coby is everything the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is chalked up to be. He’s one of the laden veterans that has been around the block before.
His sixth tour title broke a tie he had held with Tony Hirschman Jr., and moved him second all-time behind Stefanik in the modern era of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
The last eight years have belonged to Coby. Sure, there might have been two seasons in which he didn’t capture the ultimate goal — but that only motivated him to chase another one.
Perhaps in a sign of things to come, he led 25 laps and finished third for car owner Wayne Darling in the 2010 finale. In his first full season with Darling in 2011, he picked up career win No. 2 and established himself as a title contender.
In his first championship season of 2012, Coby won five times in what will go down as his true breakout year.
Consider that, before that season, Coby had two wins, 21 top fives and four pole awards. He ran the full schedule just three times, finishing seventh in 2005 and fifth in 2011.
In the eight years since, he’s won 26 times with 72 top fives in 120 starts – an astounding win every 4.6 times he’s strapped himself into his tour modified for a race.
And he’s added five more NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships to his trophy case.
Statistics that will put him in the record books as one of the best the series will ever see, no matter what the 40-year-old does from here on out.
Being just one championship away from tying Stefanik with seven is special for Coby — but as one who makes a norm of not talking about stats, he downplays it for now.
“I don’t really want to talk about it. Talk about it when it happens,” Coby said. “I was good friends with Mike — and I think he respected me as a young and upcoming driver. That’s what we shoot for. I knew Mike well enough to know that he would be appreciative of the opportunity for me to even do that, because he knows the hard work he needed to do in order to do it. Everyone remembers his championships, but I’m sure he had years where it was close, or he should have done better, and I certainly have had my fair share of those. Mike has his idols, and I had mine. Hopefully I’m one of those guys that some of these younger guys are on the track learning from like I learned from Mike.”
The last two years specifically, Coby has been in the middle of the octagon with Justin Bonsignore. They might throw jabs with each other on social media, but, off the track, the candid friendship is something both of them appreciate. Bonsignore, who won the championship in 2018, won eight races and clinched the championship a race early.
Coby won just once and finished a distant third. Remarkably, it was his worst points finish since 2012.
While third in points may be a highlight for some, Coby knew his team he needed to be better if they wanted to return to glory this season.
And boy, were they better.
He opened the season off the truck by winning the Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety Kleen at Myrtle Beach Speedway. How paramount was that in this year’s title run.
“I think really big,” said Coby, who won the pole but was forced to start from the rear after sustaining a flat tire just prior to the green flag. “I’ve won there two out of the four times I’ve raced there, and this year, it wasn’t a close win — we were on rails. It let everyone know that the No. 2 car was going to be back.”
Back they were.
Coby would win again at Seekonk Speedway just two races later, extending his points lead to more than double-digits early, while Bonsignore struggled to get out of the gate. He went through the entire summer up by double-digits, and entered the finale at Connecticut’s historic Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park ahead by 19.
How fitting, though, that Coby gets a flat tire early, and his saw his lead shrink to nine in the final tally. It’s just the second championship that he’s finished with less than a 10-point cushion. Outside of Bonsignore, Coby watched Ron Silk win three races and Craig Lutz breakthrough for nine top fives and his first career win.
“My opinion is, we are in a better position as a team when there is more good cars, I need people to compete with Justin, because when I’m a little bit off, I need someone else to steal some wins from him,” Coby said. “When other cars run as good as they are, I feel like if we can be consistent, we need people to get three or four wins. I feel like that puts us in a more equal playing field.”
Coby finished second to current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece in 2013 and parted ways with Darling.
The following year, he began his incredible run with Mike Smeriglio III. Coby had run once for Smeriglio, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2007, when an ignition failure cut his race short after just 14 laps.
The second time around, proved much more successful.
“He’s not going to jeopardize himself for a couple of positions — he’s sharp, direct, and so witty,” Smeriglio said of Coby. “He’s so talented. Most importantly, his will to win — it may not be every single lap, or every single position, but he knows he wants to win championships and he’s going to do everything from the first practice all the way through the last race to do it. That’s his will to win.”
Five of his six titles have come with Phil Moran as crew chief, and multiple have come with Rob Fuller in the chassis department, with his company, LFR Chassis.
“Rob Fuller has been a big part in the setups on this tour and he’s been a big supporter of our team, and we started this together with the switch to LFR because of Fuller and Phil Moran’s ideas about a race team. Every championship, I say my team doesn’t give up, and we proved that by losing, then coming back and winning. When you lose one, the response is really neat to see,” Coby said. “We have a good baseline and then I tell them what I need and where I need it, and they know the changes that are appropriate for not only the track, but for me, and the track. We make changes over the course of the day, and it comes from Phil, me, a couple of other crew members… it’s a team effort. I don’t know if you took anyone of us away if it would be as successful as it is. You need chemistry and they need to understand when I say it’s not good, how not good it is. They know from me how I can escalate. They trust me with that.
With six in the rear-view mirror, all eyes are already turning to 2020, after a bit of celebration in Charlotte in November. The team is loaded for more.
“The seventh could never happen, it could be a storyline that you guys never get to write,” Coby told media at Thompson. “I’ve been seeing Jerry Cook at almost every banquet, and he really wanted me to get six. I’m going to keep plugging along — long way to go in my career, so don’t write me off yet.”