Twenty-fourth or better. That is where Doug Coby has to finish on Sunday afternoon at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) in order to clinch his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in the last three years.
Finishing 24th or better in a race that has a maximum starting field of 32 cars should be simple, right? On a scale of one-to-10 someone would think that Coby’s confidence level has to be at least a nine, right?
“I think maybe a six or a seven right now,” Coby said with a laugh. “I’d be at a nine or ten if you just told me I just had to show up, but the reality is we have to race and race well and stay out of trouble. We can’t just show up and take the green flag and now we are the champions.”
While he knows that a second championship isn’t a lock, he isn’t exactly stressing about it because he knows what he has to do to get the job done.
“We have to go out there and have a good pit stop and play strategy and watch who we are around on restarts and watch out for dive bombs and all sorts of crazy stuff that happens at Thompson,” Coby told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I guess it’s weighing on me a little bit. Maybe not as much as two years ago. Certainly anything can happen when we have a full field of cars.”
As of Friday evening there are 37 cars on the entry list for Sunday’s 150-lap race. It’s by far the largest number of entries all season long and the most since June 2010 for a stand-alone NWMT race. 30 cars started the race at Riverhead Raceway (NY) in June, even though the entry blank said only 28 cars would start. Coby is hoping that something similar won’t happen on Sunday.
“Thirty-two is fine with me,” he said. “Thirty-seven is not. I missed a lot of races in my career by not qualifying. We’ve all gone home. That’s just a part of racing on the Tour. When there’s a full field of cars then some cars go home. Nothing against those extra five cars but I didn’t qualify for five or six races in my career so that’s just how it goes.”
With more cars on track, the chances of Coby getting caught up in someone else’s mess increases. It also means there are more cars that can pass him, which will aid Ted Christopher, who is the only driver mathematically able to overtake Coby in the championship standings.
“I could get caught up in someone else’s mess in a 23 or 24 car field,” he said. “There’s going to be some guys who are quick and then there’s going to be some guys who aren’t quick. It’s going to be chaos at certain times and all we can do is do the best we can and hope everybody plays nicely.”
Many things can happen in racing which are out of a driver’s control. Coby said his plan for Sunday is just to focus on what he can control and not worry about everything else.
“I’m pretty confident in the piece that we are going to have for this weekend,” he said. “But you never know. I’ve seen crazier things happen at the World Series.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Regional Editor (Long Island, CT and NJ) -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Feature Photo Credit: Speed51.com.