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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


by Denise DuPont

When we look at the roots of short track racing there is the actual race surface that the teams compete on and then the roots of the racers and teams themselves. Where and how racers began their need for speed and competitive spirit is just as big a story as the tracks they raced on.
My racing roots are very similar to those of the current modified racing championship teams. Be it the car owner, the driver, the guys that turns the wrenches, or racing fans, our families have been very instrumental in our racing roots.

Northern Modified Racing Homegrown Family Roots

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) 2015 championship driver Doug Coby looks back at his roots and knows his desire to race and compete early in his childhood was fueled by his parents. They saw Renee Dupuis out on the small ovals beating the boys in her family owner quarter midget and made the move to get their daughter on the track. They bought her a quarter midget and got the family ready to go racing. Well as it turned out young Kelly Coby was not ready to give up her social life to start racing. She opted to go to a friend’s birthday party rather than race and that launched Doug’s race career.

So as the story goes: “Rene Dupuis was racing quarter midgets at the time and my sister wanted to be a girl that could beat up on the boys all the time. And that is why my parents got the first car. They bought my sister a quarter midget and she did not go to the first rookie practice because she had a birthday party to go to. They let me go instead and it has been going strong ever since. My sister did end up racing a few years later though.”

The Coby family race roots go deeper than that the quarter midget competition though. Doug’s dad and his uncle sat behind the wheel of modifieds well before the start of their families. “My uncle raced when we were kids and my dad raced modifieds before I was born,” stated Coby about family. “So racing was already in our family. So it is pretty cool that the family story has evolved over time and that I got to do stuff like this now is very special. “

Once he sat behind the wheel Coby knew this was just the beginning of something to come, his racing future. “I never thought that it would keep going this long. My parents look back on it now and they say “It looks like we got him into something good and now it has been a long time!”
Looking back at his race career Coby now knows that racing is who he is and not just what he does when he gets behind the wheel. Racing is an integral part of his life. “It has been thirty years in a row of just what I do. I guess racing is not what I do it is who I am. It is something that I have always done. It is just that competition which is the same thing in business. You always try to succeed and try to do better. I think that is why Mike and I are very similar. We have businesses that we run and obviously we try to make them better. And we treat racing the same way as our business and we just try to chip away to make it better every year. So it ultimately led us to where we are and the future is going to be about moving forward and making things better than the year before. You make some changes and try some things. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Usually it is and an educated guess more than an educated decision. That is why it is great working with Mike – it is always calculated and professional at all times.”

The #2 Dunleavy's Truck & Trailer Repair/HEX Performance/A&J Romano Construction sponsored modified team captured their second championship in three years in 2015 for car owner Mike Smeriglio, III. The Smeriglio owned team earned the coveted trophy based on the strength of an outstanding season. They finished with seven wins and eleven top fives in fifteen races showing the true racing professionals that they are. “It is the biggest compliment that anybody can give us about being professional. It is easy to fail and it is very difficult to be successful. That has just been how I was raised – treat others how I want to be treated while always trying to put your best foot forward if you possibly can. I will take a little bit of the credit for the team’s success and professionalism but it is also about Phil (Moran) and Doug. You always try to do the right thing and it is not always easy. I have learned talk to the driver about 15 to 20 minutes after the race unless it is a win and then I bring out a thank you very much. That is what we pretty much what we do.”

So like most us racing enthusiasts, Smeriglio also attributes his involvement in racing to his parents. His dad took him as a toddler to a local track and his love for the sport only grew from there. “My dad took me to my first race at Danbury Raceway (Fair Racearena) when I believe I was about four years old. Joie Chitwood was performing there and from that young age I had the bug. My dad was involved with a couple of race teams there. When Danbury closed I was about sixteen so I really could not participate there in racing.”

So Smeriglio went forward from his first home track and launched his racing career. “I always had the enjoyment factor of racing. I was fortunately blessed to get some corporate sponsors right out from sitting in grandstands, believe it or not with Randy LaJoie. Then I worked my way right up through the SK racing at Stafford all the way up through here (NWMT).”

These days when it comes towards racing and family time there is not a good balance for Smeriglio’s family. Off the track owning a race team takes a lot of time and energy. “Unfortunately family takes a back seat to racing with all the traveling and commitments,” confessed Smeriglio. “And I always miss the April races because I am an accountant and on April 15th I must hunker down. I already saw the 2016 Thompson schedule for April 10thweekend, so I am not going to make that one. In the end, yes it is a balancing act. But when you have great guys behind us, I know do not have to always be there.”
Southern Modified Racing Homegrown Family Roots

Coming from a close knit New Hampshire family Andy Seuss’ race passion was ignited by his parents and grew over the years. Seuss captured the 2015 NASCAR Southern Whelen Modified championship this year making it two in a row. Seuss comes from humble roots in Hampstead, NH where he went from the town terror in a go cart to the town race hero in a modified. “My family has always been really big race fans,” said Seuss very excited. “My dad use to race snowmobiles before he started his business. Where he worked they also owned and raced Super Modifieds. Bentley Warren and Eddie West were the drivers for them. My dad would bring me to the tracks and I would meet the drivers and teams. So I grew up at Star and Lee Speedway where I would just idolize the local heroes. I begged my parents for a go cart to run around the neighborhood after which I terrorized the neighborhood making a lot of people mad. Then I learnt about go cart racing. I remember our first go cart race. We could not afford a new one so we had to buy a single used go cart and it only had the four tires with it. So we started out racing without a spare tire. It is neat looking back at the road that took us on. That was Sugar Hill Speedway in Weare, NH. We traveled a little bit until I finally got to go race at Star Speedway. I turned sixteen and got a ride in a small block Super Modified. I thought I was the king of the world then because growing up, I had watched it, appreciated and idolized it and now I was part of it. At that time it was pretty amazing to me.”

Seuss started his racing career in his neighborhood and has always accepted each new opportunity to race with a big smile on his face. “For me growing up in a small town and having our own race team it could not have happened any other way,” stated Seuss. “It was always a team effort with so many people that included my parents, our family and along with them people from the local towns. I have been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time many times. We went to Lee USA Speedway at one Ockoberfest weekend and just happened to pit next to Gary Casella. The modified division had a short field and he had a spare car at home and he went and got it. So I got my first modified start that way. We then hooked up with people like Jerry Morello when the Modified Racing Series was very young and we started racing with them. “

“So the big sponsorship never really came along for me for whatever reason but we were able to scratch our way up the short tracks with our own cars,” expressed Seuss about his race past. “Strategically my big break was winning the Nashville (Fairgrounds) Speedway race in 2006. Even if people knew what it took to get to that one race they would probably never believe me. We had previously destroyed the car. We reused all the same parts of the car after cutting it up. We even used the clip after welding it back together. We loaded the car and drove a truck with four people in it to Nashville, TN. Then we came out a winner. That was when I met David and Jeff Riggs and that was where we started the ball rolling to start driving for them the following year. Then we received an opportunity with Eddie Harvey. We have been very fortunate to be around the people that I have been around. So it has been a neat deal.”

It has not always been easy racing on and off the track because along with the victories come the heart breaks and tears along the way. Andy lost his mentors and supporters David and Jeff Riggs just as the team started up the ladder of success in a southern modified. David always treated Andy like a son teaching him what he knew so his racing so his legacy could live on. Seuss took what the Riggs’ family shared with him and went forward to win his first NWSMT championship with the Eddie Harvey owned Northeast Race Cars/Ideal Finance team in 2014.

Andy went forward married the love of his life (Jenn) just weeks after longtime friend and supporter Lyle Patterson was stricken with cancer and died. These were major losses in Andy’s life but being the true champion that he is, Andy went forward and made his mentor’s and supporters proud with his second championship this year. “Coming from a family team it is a little bit different and you learn that fast in NASCAR racing. On a championship week you have teams from all walks of life and from different series. It is actually very neat how many people identify my family and everyone that comes along with us and sees that though social media and NASCAR Home Tracks how close we are.”

Looking at how quickly some young racers today move to the top, Seuss is very proud of his career and how he got there. He worked hard for everything he has earned and has enjoyed the opportunities he has been dealt. “It has been interesting and when you look at how many paths it took. It would have been very easy to just write a check and just show up. But my story is a little bit different. I got to see just about every short track on the East coast and won at a lot of them which is really neat. And I would not change it for anything.”

Championship car owner Eddie Harvey is a perfect match for Seuss and his passion of racing. Growing up Harvey also inherited his father’s (Howard Harvey) love of speed and racing. “My father was the one that first got me interested in racing. So I would say that I was born into it.I had the opportunity to work with some great people with the likes of - Tommy Elliott, Charlie Cramer, Jamie Tomaino, John Blewett, Tony Hirschman…. When you work with people like that through the years it is hard to get out of the sport. “

This year the #11 Ideal Racing team had a lot of ups and downs starting the year on the low side the team rebound for the top series position. So what did Harvey and his team do when the year started off tough with a nineteenth place finish at Caraway Speedway? “The thought of winning, getting better and getting over any obstacles and getting better and better each week made me and the team go forward.” And go forward the team certainly did as they completed the 2015 season three points over George Brunnhoelzl, III to secure their second-consecutive Whelen Southern Modified Tour crown.

So we are looking forward to see you at the Ice Breaker in April at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park to help us continue our race family tradition.

Notes from the 2015 Modified Racing:

What are your plans for next year?

Doug Coby
“For next year we are all set with the same deal we will do that to defend while we try to get a little bit stronger. We have some ideas for what we can do to make our car even better. We just cannot now sit back because we are on the top because somebody else is always there trying to knock you over. So we just will improve here and there and come back and try to win more races.”

Mike Smeriglio III
“Next year it will be hopefully status quo. If we could just maintain and do what we do best then that goes a long way.
Doug Donleavy and John Romano are our primary sponsors will be a part of it again next year, so I could not be any happier. I am not sure we are going to be able to duplicate as many poles and wins but we certainly will do our best to see what we have.”
“Each new year you go forward with a plan to get better, what is your plan for next year? I am not sure that it will be possible to get any better. But if we can maintain the championship back to back to back that is how these guys are driven. It is humbling and an unbelievable feeling to try to duplicate what we did this year.”

Andy Seuss
“Next year it will be more of the same racing deals. I have a great opportunity to drive again for Eddie Harvey. He is updating his equipment and going to LFR chassis. During the last two years we have seen the world of modified racing equipment change quite a bit. We ran a lot of older equipment this year. We are going to stick with built motors by Rahmoc Enterprises. They gave us incredible power and were reliable all year. We are very happy with our relationship there.”
“Hopefully we will also grow our bigger track portion of my life. Last year I tried to get into a little bit of ARCA racing in. We partnered up with Bryan Dauzat. We found that we did not have our ducks in a row. We attempted our first race this year. We have a new spec motor from Ilmor so we can be on the same level as the rest of the field. We are really looking forward to that. And hopefully I will have an opportunity to drive some truck races for Jim Rosenblum and the FDNY race team who we hooked up with again at the end of last year for Talladega. We are hoping to do Daytona.”
“So in 2016, we will be just building and trying to move forward. Modifieds we need to just do the same but to maintain our success we are looking for more consistent wins and to be more dominant. It will be a new challenge with a different chassis and trying to get better. I am really looking forward to running with the same guys. It has been fun to be a part of their team over the last few years”.

Eddie Harvey
“Next year we will do the same thing that we have done the last several year – keep on winning and winning championships.”

This type of race season has not been seen since the likes of Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman – your thoughts:

Mike Smeriglio III
“I really think that it is a tribute to Doug Coby. I think that he is a very calculated, smart driver and he knows what you are supposed to do and does it. The LFR chassis helped tremendously. But in the end it is all about Phil Moran and our team.”

Accomplishing the two Southern Modified Championships

Andy Seuss
“It is incredible. You do not realize what you are doing when you are doing it. When you are not doing it you know you have a goal to win and get a championship. So you take a step back and look at the people who are accomplishing it and idolizing them and trying to figure out what do I have to do to be them.”
“Winning the championship this year has not sunk in yet. It is just what we do and we have been fortunate to have better luck than in the past. We have had better races and more speed and things finally fell into place. But in the end it really took someone grabbing me by the shoulders and telling me that I am now that person that I wanted to be for me to realize that I have accomplished my goal. Now it is really neat knowing I have done that.”
Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com
: December 21, 2015

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