Tuesday morning, Modified fans from New England to the Deep South were checking their own eyesight when they saw the latest update for Tour-type Modified entries in February’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). But it’s not an illusion; Doug Coby has confirmed to Speed51.com that he and the No. 2 Mike Smeriglio Racing team are entered for all five nights of Modified competition.
The five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion will be making only his second ever appearance at the New Smyrna Beach oval next month, and it will be the first time that he has attempted the entire five night World Series Modified schedule.
“We’re going to head down and race all five nights,” Coby told Speed51.com. “It will be my first time ever running the whole of Speedweeks; we did the Richie Evans 100 back in 2014 when I first drove for Mike and the 2 team. We got some stuff we want to try. The season starts so early at Myrtle Beach and now South Boston this year. We got to get the car on the track, and we want to try a couple of things.”
Over the years, Coby and the No. 2 team have been frank about pegging all of their focus on running the Whelen Modified Tour, with a few exceptions. However, Speedweeks hasn’t been one of those exceptions… until now.
With the addition of the races to start the NWMT season in March in the south and the elimination of preseason testing, it has become more and more difficult for MSR to get a leg up on the competition.
Now, their difficulties in 2018, plus the championship performance of Justin Bonsignore, have Coby and the team marking New Smyrna on their season schedule.
“What ultimately led to the decision to go down was getting our a—- kicked by the 51 (Bonsignore) last year. We need to get the car on track to get better before the season starts,” Coby stated. “Ultimately that’s what everybody does is when you’re chasing somebody who’s beaten you, you got to step up your game and try to get back up to where you want to be. That’s our plan, to come out of the gate with a nice solid week at New Smyrna and we can learn a lot for some of the tracks we race on the tour.”
While going down for the entire Florida Speedweeks is the dream of many drivers, it has not been one Coby has shared over the years, despite the prestige and history.
“It’s never been something I really wanted to do,” he admitted. “It’s expensive for the car owners, it’s a lot of tires, and if you end up wrecking there’s a lot more work, plus you could potentially end up putting yourself back with a chassis maybe getting destroyed. But we feel that our program is at the point where we have enough cars and motors that we won’t be putting ourselves too much at risk for the start of the tour season.”
That being said, Coby is sure that it won’t take long for him to feel that warm Florida atmosphere, both figuratively and literally. But, he won’t let that distract him from getting started on working towards that sixth Whelen Modified Tour title.
“As a driver, it’s nice to go to Florida, get on the track for an entire week, and get the competition started early, especially with Myrtle Beach not being my best track. It’s exciting being able to go down, but we’re there to do work, to learn, and get that little something extra. We thought we made some improvements at the end of last year and we want to continue that and start at Myrtle Beach a few steps ahead.”
Still, everything comes back to the desire to win every race out. That is still the goal for Coby. He is also looking forward to finally getting to learn New Smyrna itself, after his lone appearance five years ago, when the No. 2 team was in the area for the short-lived Battle of the Beach at Daytona International Speedway.
“We’re definitely going there to win. My first time in 2014 I had never seen the track before and qualifying got rained out, we started 14th and finished fifth. If we can get enough practice to figure out what the car wants, we should have a car that will run competitively all week, and win a race or two.”
Coby is also excited about the drivers that he will be going up against, with names such as Matt Hirschman, Patrick Emerling, Andy Jankowiak, Timmy Solomito, Anthony Nocella, Jimmy Zacharias, and Ryan Preece among the now 20-plus entries.
The resurgence of Tour-type Modifieds for the World Series at New Smyrna has come as a result of a number a tweaks and adjustments all across the board for Speedweeks the past few seasons. Changes that also made Coby and the Phil Moran led crew more receptive to filing an entry.
“It’s going to be a stout field of cars. They’ve been getting more and more since they changed some of the rules around and started policing tech a little bit better. That’s what’s given us the confidence to down there and be able to be competitive with our package.”
As for the surprise, even amongst his own fans Coby believed it to be expected, but perhaps not to the degree he was thinking. Now, he hopes to give his supporters a week to remember, while starting on the road to another title on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“I think everybody is going to be a little bit surprised. Nobody’s ever asked or considered that we are going. I’m surprised that it took until us filing our entry to make the list for people to say, ‘Oh wow!’ We’ve been talking about it as a team for a couple of weeks, and I’m surprised nobody spilled the beans. It’s exciting and I hope we have a good run for everyone.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com