It's been nearly six years since Doug Coby has taken a shot at winning the North-South Shootout. The last time the Milford, Connecticut driver made the trip south to North Carolina for the end-of-year event was in 2009 when he finished third at Concord Speedway.
A lot of things have changed since Coby's last visit to the North-South Shootout. The race itself was moved to Sophia, North Carolina’s Caraway Speedway in 2011. He won his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2012. Then he won another in 2014. Now, Coby is now fresh off clinching his third NWMT title last weekend, the race is moving back to Concord and Coby is making the trip south once again to compete for the $10,000 payday in the Dunleavy's Truck and Trailer Repair Modified event November 6-7.
"I'm very excited to get down there," Coby said. "It's my absolute favorite track to race on, and it's my favorite end of year race. I'm very glad that we're going with the 2 car. We're taking the car that we just won Thompson with."
Coby posted on Facebook that he and his Michael Smeriglio III Racing Team would be making the trip south almost immediately after the announcement was made that the 13th Annual John Blewett III North-South Shootout was moving back to Concord.
"As soon as I saw it announced I told Phil Moran (his crew chief) we had to go," said Coby. "There's very few times that I feel we have to go do something. I think it was 10 minutes after I saw the announcement that I turned to Phil and said we have to go. He absolutely loves that place too."
He explained that the uniqueness of the race track and the speed that drivers carry there is why he loves the place so much.
"I think it's crazy fast. When you haul down the backstretch you're cranking there," he said. "Then it gets very technical kind of like a quarter-mile off of turn four when you have to get the car straight and not spin the tires. It's also very racy. It's a track that you think you can't pass on, but once the race starts there's lots of passing."
The 36-year-old driver is just days removed from clinching his third NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship, his second straight, and also a win at Connecticut's Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Coby said the two tracks are very similar, and that has him confident that he can take home the victory.
"I think the momentum from Thompson will definitely carry over because the setups are very similar," he said. "We typically run a Thompson setup down there, and it's been quite some time since Modifieds have really rumbled around there. We're taking the car that we just won Thompson with. We should be really good and it's also more track time and testing for that chassis. Maybe we'll learn something for Thompson next year."
Coby won all four races at Thompson this year, but has yet to win at Concord according to 51's The Third Turn. Winning this race would be the ultimate way to cap off a year that has seen Coby win seven NWMT races and the championship, but there's more to it than just that. There's also the fact that this race is run in memory of John Blewett III, a New Jersey driver considered by many to be one of the best Modified drivers at the time of his untimely passing in 2007.
"Winning the race in general would be very special, but the fact that it is his race makes it even more special," said Coby. "It's a big deal. I'm glad to go and be a part of it. It would be a huge deal to win it."
While Coby and Blewett were never really friends, Coby said he always looked up to Blewett and learned a ton from him.
"He was not my best friend," Coby said. "I really only talked to him a handful of times, but I've gotten to learn more about him since his passing. I've gotten much closer with his family because of it, and I just try my best to have people remember someone who really deserves it. He's that great of a driver and I think a lot of us younger guys really looked up to him because he was so aggressive and really didn't fear anybody."
In addition to that, Coby wants to win this race because he wants bring the trophy back to the North, the area traditionally known as "Modified Country."
"It's definitely a pride thing," Coby said. "They're very territorial of their southern turf and we want to go down there and win some money and win another race track. It's the North-South Shootout. It's a special race to bring together the best of the two series. We've proven that we have a really strong car and if anyone wants to take a shot at it then that's the place to do it."
Entry forms for the $10,000-to-win John Blewett III Dunleavy's Truck and Trailer Repair Tour-Type Modified North-South Shootout event, as well as the $5,000-to-win Mr. Rooter SK Modified event, are currently available by visiting www.northsouthshootout.net.
Practice day kicks off the 13th Annual North-South Shootout on Thursday, November 5. Additional practice and qualifying will take place on Friday, November 6, with the North-South Shootout main events taking the green flag on Saturday, November 7. The features will consist of a 125-lap race for the Pro All-Stars Series South Super Late Models, a 60-lap event for the Southeast Trucks, 75-laps for the Limited Late Models, the Mr. Rooter 50 for the SK Modifieds and the John Blewett III Memorial 125 for the Dunleavy's Truck and Trailer Repair Tour-Type Modifieds.
For more on the 13th Annual North-South Shootout, visit www.northsouthshootout.net.
-51 Sports Press Release
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com