Each era of Modified racing has had its legends. The 70s and 80s belonged to Jerry Cook and Richie Evans. The 90s and 2000s belonged to Mike Stefanik and Tony Hirschman. And now the current era belongs to Doug Coby.
Coby continued to build on his Modified legacy on Sunday afternoon by winning his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship. With the title he joined a prestigious list of drivers, including all of those drivers listed above, who have won four or more NASCAR Modified titles.
“It’s pretty neat. It doesn’t matter what era you’re in, it’s very difficult to win the championship,” Coby said on Sunday. “It’s still 17 races and a war that you have to win, we won a lot of the battles. Today Justin and their team won the battle and did what they had to do. We put ourselves in a position all year, we had a really clean season. I don’t think there’s any question that this season we just chipped away every week and got our wins. We won at Oswego and Loudon, what a special season that is, to have the three Stafford wins it’s really neat.”
There was a point in the race on Sunday when Coby had gotten trapped on a slow inside line with championship competitor Justin Bonsignore near the front. Despite losing many positions, Coby didn’t check in with his crew for a points update; he just continued to work.
“I didn’t ask them. I was following the 36 for a while and I don’t know where I was running at that point,” he said. “I saw Justin wasn’t leading yet, I knew that and that gives me a little more of a comfort factor. At that point it was no problem racing one car at a time, don’t take anything for granted, people can screw up in one lap. I just wanted to get in front of some guys that were struggling setup wise, so the guys I was racing with could then mix it up a little. We did what we had to do, it’s a different mindset when you’re trying to wrap this up. You got to think big picture and big picture to me doesn’t necessarily mean slacking off and just riding around, it means putting yourself in a safe spot.”
The theme for Coby’s fourth championship seems to be that of sacrifice, not so much for the time and effort he puts in, but everyone else on the MSIII Racing team.
“This is a huge sacrifice for everybody and you think about that every team has 10 to 15 people that don’t get a whole lot of credit but do a whole lot of work,” Coby explained. “Everybody has a job to do, there’s so much sacrifice not only in our team but all these teams. This is largely a volunteer crew series, that’s why the championships are so special because you get to go to Charlotte and everybody gets dressed up, sits down, relaxes and realize the achievement. We’re so fortunate, three years in a row to be on top and it’s really hard to stay on the top. It’s harder to stay on top then it is to get there.”
The feat of winning four championships in five years has also made Coby a villain to some. If you scroll through social media following a Coby victory, or in this case a championship, you will find more than a handful of disgruntled fans. But that is a role that Coby has started to embrace.
“There’s a lot of people now that don’t like to see us do well, that’s a different position for me to be in,” he said. “I think other than the last four years, there was a lot of people that prefer to see me do well. I was the lesser of two evils, now I’m the evil one, and I know that. It makes it that much harder and that much sweeter when you can come away with a really clean season, no controversy, no nothing.”
When it’s all said and done, it is not a position that Coby ever expected to be in a few years back. At one point in his career, he was struggling to find a consistent ride on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Now he’s established himself and his team as a dominant force in this era.
“Five years in a row, some of my guys from the 52 that came to the 2, that’s five years in a row battling at the World Series for a championship and we got four of them,” Coby said. “That’s something I never would’ve thought in 2012. I never would’ve dreamed that I’d switch teams and that a brand new team would gel together that quickly and win three championships in a row.”
Coby still has a ways to go to catch the likes of Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Mike Stefanik and Tony Hirschman, but there’s no doubt that the current era of Modified racing belongs to the 37-year-old from Milford, Connecticut.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (MA, CT, Long Island)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photo