Five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby kicked off the 2019 season with a win Saturday afternoon at Myrtle Beach Speedway, but the victory didn’t come without frustration.
Coby, who had qualified first for the race, was sent to the rear of the 32-car field by NASCAR officials prior to the start of the 150-lap race. The call was made after Coby ran over a nail while driving his car from the pre-race pit party to the designated staging area. The resulting puncture on the left-front tire forced the Mike Smeriglio No. 2 team to change the tire. NASCAR ruled that the change was unapproved and issued the team a penalty, sending them to the rear.
Coby, crew chief Phil Moran, and his entire team were in disagreement with the call. Despite eventually winning the race, Coby remained highly critical of the decision made.
While appearing on Speed51’s Morning Bullring talk show Monday morning, Coby explained what took place and gave his point of view on the penalty.
Before getting to his side of the story, the Connecticut driver first reasserted the great pride he takes in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and why he is being tough on his standpoint.
“One of the things that people forget about me is that I’m a huge fan of our series and I’m a fan of Modifieds, where our place is in all of racing, because I think we have a great product, great cars, teams, drivers, crew chiefs, and nobody can ever say I think of myself and my team. I try my best to always talk very highly about who we have and what the product is that we have to watch,” Coby stated.
“I’m very critical of our rules, our packages, and our race procedures to make sure that it’s fair and that the fans understand what’s going on.”
Coby then went on to explain the chain of events that took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“What happened at Myrtle Beach was that after the pit party, I was the pole winner so I was the first car to pull off after the pit party,” Coby began. “I was told to follow the NASCAR truck to where they wanted us to stage, and they took us behind the backstretch wall, which is a strip of paved asphalt that nobody drives on because we all pull on to pit road, which is further down on the backstretch.
“We pull in to stage and right before the race we took a look at the left-front tire and saw a nail sticking straight into the tire. We called the NASCAR officials over, they saw it, and confirmed it. They got on the radio to the tower and said it was there. We pulled it out in front of the officials and the tire immediately started losing all of the air. Obviously, we had to change the tire.”
He then went on to explain NASCAR’s response and the reason they gave him for sending him to the end of the line.
“The decision is, do you make the polesitter go to the rear for having to change a left-front tire, or do you let him keep his spot because as a series you were the ones who made us drive through what’s essentially the junkyard part of the speedway? There was no discussion about that. The immediate response was, you are going to the rear for an unapproved tire change.”
One of Coby’s major points was the confusion that the situation caused for different parties invested in the race.
“Phil was obviously fired up about it. Situations like that, you’ve got race fans watching the polesitter drop to the back of the field and they didn’t know why, the announcers didn’t know why, nobody watching on FansChoice knew why. I think it looks confusing and bad for the series.”
Despite having over a day to cool off, Coby did not take back what he had said Saturday afternoon.
“My comments on the radio and even in post-race interviews, I stand by everything. I think it’s a bad decision,” Coby said matter-of-factly. “I think it’s a judgement call that could’ve gone in a favorable direction for a team, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s my team, Jon McKennedy, Tommy Catalano, or anybody else. I think what they should’ve done is told everybody this was s*** luck, it shouldn’t of happened, and we’re going to let the 2 (Coby) change the tire and start up front.”
Even with victory and the early points lead in hand, it was still little comfort to Coby.
“It’s a good story, I guess. Makes something we’ll remember, my team will remember for a long time. I still don’t think it should’ve happened that way,” he stated. “I got caught up in a Lap 25 wreck, which also blew my top because I couldn’t believe how much we’re all conserving and saving tires, that there’s contact with anybody. I got pushed up into the wall and hit the right-side pretty good. Luckily, I hit it square and didn’t bend anything.
“I guess the theme is, I don’t think it should’ve happened the way it happened, but the fact we won the race shouldn’t overshadow the fact it was a bad decision, and it could’ve had some important consequences for not only myself, but other competitors too. I really believe that anyone who thinks otherwise are people who hate me for the sake of hating me.”
As of Monday morning, Coby has not had the chance to speak with NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race director Jimmy Wilson or any other NASCAR officials. However, he did indicate that it will happen sometime soon and that he hopes that positives can be taken from this in the future.
“I did not have a chance to speak to anybody after the event. I had a lot going on with interviews and whatnot,” he explained. “I went over to the tech area and the car was ready to go back to hauler, so I just went back to the hauler. I’ll see if Jimmy Wilson gives me a call or text this week. If they have any questions, they know how to reach me. If I don’t hear from them, I’ll reach out to them. I got a good relationship with those guys as much as I can say. Jimmy and I have gotten into it before, Jimmy knows that some of my opinions on the rules are generally meant with having good intentions behind them.
“I think it’s something that needs to be brought up. They tell us all the time in driver’s meetings that there is judgement calls in our sport, from whether you jump the restart or pull out of line too soon. They will send an entry blank with 30 cars starting and when 32 show up they make the decision to start all 32, which I think is a good thing for all the teams that show up. It’s just something that needs to be worked on and the whole series is always a work in progress from a rules standpoint.”
Race fans can listen to Coby’s full interview from The Morning Bullring on-demand by clicking here.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour next heads to South Boston Speedway (VA) on March 30 before returning home to the Northeast for Icebreaker weekend at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) April 6-7.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com