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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour




NWMT Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
Polly Reid

It was all about surviving the last race of the season. Twenty-eight points ahead of Ted Christopher going into the World Series, only 150 laps at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park stood between one team and a title. Surviving eight cautions including being the last caution for a right front flat setting up a green, white checker finish, Doug Coby of Milford, CT brought it home for the Mike Smeriglio, III owned, Dunleavy’s Repair/HEX Performance/Fox sponsored Chevrolet crossing seventeenth, the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion.

“I’m a little loss for words,” said an elated Coby. “This was a very tough winter for a lot of people, racing is a tough sport and you make decisions to move forward. Everybody on this team made a tough decision this winter. Driver changes, team changes, there was a plan and it paid off. This is all about Mike Smeriglio, this team, his family and all the hard work they put in on the modified tour. He is the most deserving car owner in the pit area to get this championship. Phil Moran is a top notch crew chief, he knows what he is doing - the guy can put a car together- this is really about those two- it’s a great feeling to be able to drive this car and represent them and our sponsors.”

Coby rolled off the starting grid fourth in the NWMT Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart and settled into third in the early going behind Preece leading and Woody Pitkat in second. A close call on lap sixteen when a car that had just gone a lap down, spun in turns one and two slid down the track wiping out the right side on Pitkat’s car. Coby was able react and continued unscathed restarting second alongside Preece.

Holding his own settling into sixth, a caution just before the half way mark brought Coby and the leaders down pit row, the MRSIII crew making adjustments getting the 2 car off pit row first. Restarting ninth, Coby settled back into fifteenth until the next caution waved on lap ninety-nine when Coby was called in for tires. “We planned all along to pit late which we did,” said Coby. “I wanted to have good tires whenever a green white checker came. I’ve been here before when we pitted half way and had no tires left for the green white checker. I knew everyone would be aggressive so I wanted to have an option of where I could go on the track, high or low with good tires.”

Another near miss for Coby came on lap 122 when a pack going into turns three and four went three wide and unfolded into a melee right in front of Coby. Contact was square and since Coby never lost forward momentum was able to restart thirteenth with twenty - two to go.

The game changer came with ten to go when Ted Christopher tangled with Tommy Barrett coming out of turn two. Christopher headed behind the wall, done for the night. By all accounts, at this moment, Coby was unofficially the champion. “Teddy had a tall order today,” said Coby. “He probably had to lead the most laps and win and have us have a really bad day - I just knew with the cars, so fast here- Ryan, Woody, Justin, Silk, Rowan - I knew that Ted wasn’t just racing me, he was racing them. Ted is a competitor and he split a season this year with two different teams, the old 46 team and his own team and that’s a feat just to survive the season, get all the guys on board and contend for a championship- they did an awesome job. Bobby Katon is a great car owner for the series and I know Ted is driving the 13 out there but Bobby is instrumental on how that team came together this year. I know people expected us to contend for a championship, I don’t think any of you or any of us expected them to be seriously in contention at the end of the season so that’s a great job for them - they just came up a little bit short.”

The final caution of the Sunoco World Series was actually Coby who came to a stop on the turn three outside wall with a right front flat. Penalized a lap for stopping on the track, Coby was forced to pit for a fresh Hoosier and joined the field for a green, white, checker finish. As Ryan Preece took the checkers, Coby crossed the line seventeenth, the 2014 NWMT Champion.

“We had a great year,” said Coby. “I’m really happy for my guys for putting up with me and doing all the things they do away their families, traveling, working on the car I mean you hear every driver say it but we mean it and I really mean it - this is for my car owner Mike Smeriglio and for Phil, the hard work they put in - I’m just happy I could be the piece of the puzzle they thought they were missing and brought it home for them.”

This is the second NWMT title for Coby who earned the honors in 2012 with car owner Wayne Darling. “It’s pretty cool,” said Coby about his second championship. “It’s important to remember this is our first year together. This is cool. We have to maintain for the future but I think everybody on the team is on board with that. The plan is to go after championships - it’s awesome it happened our first year together. I’m excited to see what else we can do together.”

A love for the sport that started when his dad took him to his first race at Danbury Fair Racearena when he was four years old, champion car owner Mike Smeriglio III has learned a lot since his days with driver Frank Wainwright in 2006 at Stafford in the SK modified division. Smeriglio has quickly climbed the car owner learning curve going from student to teacher, assembling a championship team. “I felt a lot of happiness and comfort with this entire season. I never felt Doug put us in a position to ever, ever worry. Whether it’s qualifying, on the race track - he’s never put the 2 team in any vulnerable position and because of that, it just led us to a lot more confidence and a lot more comfort.”

“I’m so proud of the guys, so proud of everybody,” continued Smeriglio. “The 2 team has been around for a while, there are guys from other teams that have had championships, there are a handful of us who just got their first, it’s a great feeling and hopefully there is more to come.”

“When you look at results, you’re only going to see Doug’s name at Daytona, Stafford- you’re not going to see much but there is no other team this year that ran as consistently from practice, to qualifying, from the beginning of the race to the end of the race. To be your best the entire weekend, that’s what Doug Coby is all about. And Phil, I trust Phil with my life.”

This is also the second championship title for crew chief Phil Moran who has found a home with the MRSIII team since 2011. “I can’t say enough about the team,” said Moran. “A lot of the guys came with Doug, basically the over the wall guys except for Alex who is also over the wall but Alex is an engineer- smart, knows what Doug wants, knows what Doug likes and has made my job easy. He made the transition real easy because he knew what Doug wanted in the car. Every crew chief looks for someone to back them up - when you make a decision to do something you look for somebody who makes you feel like you made the right one and Alex was the one I was able to bounce a lot of stuff off of. Doug, he kept us cool right up until the World Series became the World Series. The wrecks started happening, that’s when he started losing it a little bit then when we saw Teddy was out, it was like Ok, job is done.”

“We had a great year - we finished every lap except one and that was the penalty lap today,” said Moran. “It’s pretty impressive- the guys in the shop, you can’t praise those guys enough, you just can’t. With Bob (Tulipani) and Hoppy (Harold Peterson) in the shop, they make my job easier. Bob is incredible - in the Cup world, you would consider him the car chief, he does a great job. And Hoppy’s been with me since 2003 - he’s the best. I can’t say enough about those guys.”

“It hasn’t sunk in yet but it’s pretty cool,” continued Moran about earning another title. “The biggest thing is, this is for Mike and the guys. All the guys on the crew, they are volunteers, they do it for the love of the sport and that’s what makes me feel good. Mike is a great car owner- he tells me when I get a little bit out of control but he never holds me back with what we need. Because I’m old school and I know what it takes to run one of these race cars, it’s expensive and I try to keep it so we can keep racing. There is nobody better. Next year, we want to do it again.”

“There are things we’d like to improve upon,” said Coby. “We’d like to win more races and I think we’re going to do that. Now everybody on the team can relax, we won the championship and now it’s time to focus on building our program and building our relationship together so it lasts.”

Doug Coby, car owner Mike Smeriglio III, crew chief Phil Moran and the entire MRSIII team will be honored as the 2014 NWMT Champions in Charlotte, NC on December 12th for the NASCAR Touring Series Awards held at the Grand Ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center located at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. 

Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 24, 2014

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