DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Doug Coby’s accomplishment of three straight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships will go down in history as one of the most impressive runs ever on NASCAR’s oldest touring series.
But he hasn’t made the historic streak happen on his own.
Behind the scenes of his title run are two faces familiar to many in the New England modified scene. One is crew chief Phil Moran, who sets the car up for success before they get to the track and then turns the wrenches in the garage area based off Coby’s comments on the handling.
The second is the man who sits atop the MSIII Racing operation, car owner Mike Smeriglio.
Smeriglio has been Coby’s car owner for their entire three-year title stretch, a pairing that has been a successful combination right from the very beginning.
The team won their first race together at Daytona International Speedway in 2014 as part of the UNOH Battle at the Beach, since building on their success with a myriad of Tour accomplishments, including 13 points-paying victories, 15 poles, 30 top-fives and 38 top-10s in 45 starts.
“I don’t think anybody three years ago imagined it could happen,” Smeriglio said of the team’s success and Coby’s run of three straight titles. “It’s been a dream come true to have had the success we’ve had. We just believe in each person on the team and we do our best. I’m pleasantly surprised, but I know the team can win many, many more (races and championships).”
Smeriglio, like many others in the modified ranks and across the series, see the combination of Moran and Coby as one of the best — if not the best — in the garage area.
“Communication is so critical for the two of them,” Smeriglio said. “They understand each other and they make each other better with what they try to get out of each lap and each practice. They just are never satisfied and always strive for more.”
With Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair returning to the team as a sponsor for the 2017 season, Smeriglio was also pleased to seal up sponsorship with Mayhew Tools, as announced by Coby during his championship acceptance speech in Charlotte, N.C. on Dec. 10.
“I think it will help us in a lot of ways,” Smeriglio said of the Mayhew partnership. “We are so happy to be able to carry Mayhew’s banner … and more importantly get them recognized and hopefully bring other sponsors in to help other teams and really make the united tour the best that it can be.”
“Phil Kurze with Whelen Engineering has done a tremendous job in supporting the series, and we are hoping to bring on some additional national sponsors among other teams … and really put any concerns about the future of the Whelen Modified Tour to rest.”
Smeriglio has always been one of the strongest brand ambassadors in the Whelen Modified Tour garage, and he circles the Tour as one of the high points across his life, which extends to accounting and financial planning away from the race track.
“The people in the garage, the officials, the track owners; it’s my second family,” Smeriglio said in 2014, reiterating the truth of the statement during the championship banquet on Dec. 10. “You treat those the way you want to be treated back. I’ve always been given a lot of respect in this series, and because of that it’s my way of giving back.”
With three straight championships in the rear-view mirror and the team turning their focus towards securing a fourth in a row next season, does Smeriglio think Coby can eventually match Mike Stefanik’s record of seven championships?
“I think anything is possible but we take one race, one practice at a time,” Smeriglio said. “You just need to do your homework at the shop and Phil (Moran) is great at that. Behind the wheel, we have the best wheelman right there in Doug Coby.”
“Is it possible? Only time will tell.”
Smeriglio, Moran, Coby and the entire MSIII Racing team will begin their quest for another championship during the 2017 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season-opener, set for March 18 at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications contributed material to this story.
About the Writer
Kyle Souza is an aspiring 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 press releases for the Granite State Pro Stock Series. Souza also works for Area Auto Racing News, based in Trenton, N.J.
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