It was perhaps the most asked question in all of short track racing over the winter: who is Doug Coby going to drive for in 2020? After months of wondering, the six-time and defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion decided on driving for himself for the first time since moving to the Tour-type Modifieds many years ago.
At first, the speculation was that Coby, retiring team owner Mike Smeriglio III and trusted crew chief Phil Moran were working on a package deal to sell all of the No. 2 team’s assets to a fresh owner, while keeping the entire operation together. Indeed, this had been the plan, but reality took an abrupt turn when no deal was struck and the cold winter days dragged on.
After the sale of two of the race cars to NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rookie Tyler Rypkema just after Florida Speedweeks, the wheels began to turn in this new venture that will be known as Doug Coby Racing.
On Monday morning, Coby appeared on The Bullring to explain the process of how he decided on becoming a car owner.
“I bought one of the cars that we had in the stable. We had three complete cars, the car I had bought the motor was sold out of it as well. I bought my favorite car from the race team," Coby said. "I started talking to my sponsors about what I was going to do. Truthfully, I bought the car just to have in my memorabilia collection.
“When the team was for sale, everything was in a sense protected in my brain. I was just working on putting a deal together to have somebody buy the team, and then when the deadline passed when we couldn’t really get a deal together, and the equipment started getting sold, that’s when my fight or flight response kind of kicked in.
“The hauler was the first thing to go and that obviously wasn’t a huge deal. But, when Tyler’s team bought the two cars, and I knew that they were leaving the shop pretty quickly, really that car was the only other one left. That’s the one I had told Mike and Phil if we could hold off selling until the end, I would really appreciate the time to figure out if I could buy. Basically, just made the decision when it was the last car there I wanted to have it. Buying it and racing it are two different things, but I bought the car and it kind of took off from there.”
Despite the initial wholesale plan going awry, there was very little concern from the Connecticut driver, mostly because this was a road he had been down before; not just before he started winning Whelen Modified Tour titles, but even after he had one under his belt.
“The history of my career shows that I’ve bounced around from team to team due to lack of funding for many years. Then when I got into some championship cars with the 52 team of Wayne Darling and did really well. Then moved to Mike’s team with the success there, I just had that stability. So it was just kind of kicking back to the way things used to be. I will say after this season, the sense of urgency was a little different than what it was 10 or 12 years ago, when I had to do whatever I had to do."
While losing the opportunity to retain two of the racecars, in addition to other items, Coby’s main concern in the entire process was people rather than equipment.
“When you see the light, the mission is to keep that together, that’s why we tried to sell the whole team as one package and got pretty close on a deal. Then, for whatever reason it just didn’t get done. My biggest concern was being able to work with the people I had been successful with the last eight years, and that’s what led to the formation of the new team,” Coby explained.
With the same people, including crew chief Phil Moran leading the helm, as well as the continued backing of multiple sponsors, including his primary Mayhew Tools, Coby feels that he is in a position to pick up where they left off in 2019. He'll enter the 2020 season looking to add more wins and a seventh NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title to his resume.
“We got a lot of stuff in the works right now. Obviously, we’re just getting started; we have the basics in place right now, the people, the funding, and everything you need to be successful we have in place," he said. "One of the reasons I feel comfortable doing this is that we have what I consider to be the best in the business, Phil Moran setting up the car, and me maintaining the shop with everything we need.
“Just like every team in the off season is upgrading equipment and making changes to their team, we’re right along with them building what we need to be successful. Luckily for us we have a pretty good pulse on what we need, we’re not throwing darts at a dartboard, we have what we need to go out, win races, and compete for a championship. We’re putting all that in place, it’s exciting times to be focused on a direction, and know what we’re doing and have the support of all our sponsors and crew. We’re looking forward to South Boston and kicking off the season.”
To hear more from Doug Coby, including some reflection on his career to this point, check out the replay of The Bullring by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51