SEEKONK, Mass. — Just two months ago, many were counting Doug Coby out of the championship chase on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
And quite frankly, how could you blame them?
The Milford, Connecticut driver dug himself a deep hole, with three finishes outside the top-10 in the first four races of the season, and struggled to get going on a consistent track.
Over the last few years, that wasn’t the case. Coby was always the driver to get going at the beginning of the year and put together a string of consistent finishes that often put his competition out of reach during the late summer and early fall.
This season has been different.
Coby started the year with a 13th at Myrtle Beach and a 31st at Thompson. After a strong second at Stafford, Coby fell again at Langley and finished 15th after some contact late in the race while leading. After Langley, Coby was outside the top five in the championship standings and it seemed like he would need a miracle if he wanted a fourth straight title.
Just when some counted him out, Coby started proving them wrong.
Over the last seven races of the “summer stretch,” the 38-year-old has put himself back on the map in the championship fight.
Coby started his comeback run in June at Thompson with a top five finish, then followed that with a third place at Riverhead, a track he hasn’t been too successful at before.
After leaving New Hampshire Motor Speedway with an 11th-place finish, Coby kicked things into high gear. Since the Aug. 4 stop at Stafford, Coby has four straight finishes inside the top-two, including his first win of the 2017 season this past Saturday night at Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway.
“Everyone has been fast this year,” the reigning series champion said following his Seekonk win. “I’m not going to take anything away from anyone else who won any races. We kind of feel like we had a dominant car at a couple of races and we just didn’t make the adjustments.”
“This (Seekonk) was a different race. These guys can’t come in and put on a soft right-rear tire. You need a car that will be balanced and handle the whole race. We had one tonight.”
Current series points leader Ryan Preece has four victories this season, while Timmy Solomito has three wins. Patrick Emerling, Bobby Santos and Rowan Pennink also scored wins before Coby was able to roll into Victory Lane.
“It sucks that it’s late August and our first win of the year, but it’s great momentum for our team; it’s a great time for us,” Coby said. “Usually you want to start the season with momentum, but it seems for us that it’s coming late. There is a lot of racing left. We’re going to a lot of tracks we are stout at.”
Heading for the Toyota Mod Classic 150 at Oswego Speedway, Coby has a wave of momentum on his side. And he couldn’t be heading to much better tracks for him.
Last season, in his first ever visit to the “Steel Palace” at Oswego, Coby dominated and went to Victory Lane.
Sitting just two points behind Preece in the championship chase, Coby has suddenly become the man to beat going down the stretch, especially considering Preece will miss the September race at Loudon, due to racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.
The championship experience his team has over the last three years should help them tremendously.
“I look at the points … it doesn’t mean I change what I do, but I like to be aware of where we are and where everyone is and what the scenarios are,” Coby said.
“There is stuff that happened this year. The second-place finishes were really motivating for us. The seconds actually helped his crawl back into this deal.”
ABOUT THE WRITER
Kyle Souza is a Journalism major at the Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. Souza is Race Chaser Online’s New England motorsports insider, covering everything from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and the PASS North Super Late Models.
When not writing, Souza works at the Seekonk Speedway as the track’s Friday night public address announcer. Souza also writes for Area Auto Racing News, based in Trenton, N.J., and is a freelance reporter for NASCAR Home Tracks, covering the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Email Kyle at: [email protected]
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