Coby didn’t have the easiest path en route to his Sizzler win. Although he led the last 62 laps, he had to do it from the rear and with a couple of lucky breaks. Coby started in the rear of the field after taking a provisional starting spot due to a disappointing qualifying effort. Then the young Connecticut driver had to dodge several bullets.
The first blank in the chamber came when Coby pulled his Chase Racing #77 down pit road on lap 72. When he and several other cars turned onto pit road the lights went out on the pace car leaving Coby, Donny Lia and Zach Sylvester in a precarious situation. The teams finished their stops just prior to the green flag and came up to speed in danger of going a lap down.
“We were still changing our left rear tire and my sister is screaming on the radio ‘they’re going green, they’re going green’. I don’t even think they called one to go. If they had she would have told us one to go and we would have hustled up on the pit stop. Donny (Lia), Zach Sylvester and I were in danger there of going a lap down. I had stickers on so I had to be patient and make sure not to go crazy.”
Luckily for Coby and company the caution came out a few laps later saving them from the leaders. That is when the race started to play right into Coby’s hands.
DOUG COBY BREAKS THROUGH BIG AT SPRING SIZZLER by Matthew Dillner
Dodges Bullets and Lia for First Mod Tour Win
If you are a Modified driver, one race that you most likely have circled on your calendar as a race that you want to win is the “Spring Sizzler” at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT).
To put it in perspective, when asked what it would mean to win the Spring Sizzler, Modified veteran Ed Flemke, who has yet to take a Sizzler win was brought to tears; ”I can’t say what it would mean. I don’t want to die before I win it. That is how much it means.”
and my name will never leave that trophy. When I am no longer racing and no longer around, people are going to look at that and say that I won my first Tour race at the Spring Sizzler in 2006. That is really cool.”
And the 35th Annual Spring Sizzler was a special one, coming just weeks after the passing of track owner Jack Arute Sr., a man who has meant so much to Modified racing and young drivers like Doug Coby.
“This is not just the Spring Sizzler. It’s an extra special Spring Sizzler being the first one that Jack is not here. I am like one of Jack’s kids.
“We all have great memories of Jack Sr. and I gave him the thumbs up on the backstretch with one to go. Before I got to victory lane I talked to Jackie (Jack’s son Jackie Arute) and told him I was thinking about his dad because I really was. This is his place. He’s kind of made it possible for someone like me to do this.”
And for Coby, the saying “there is no place like home” took on a new meaning after netting his first career win at a track where he cut his teeth.
“I started racing full-fendered cars here (at Stafford) 11 years ago and now I have won in every single division that I have raced at this track.
Yes, there are many reasons that some call it the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring.” For Doug Coby it may just be the greatest win of his career.
Coby, who had yet to even win on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, took the upset win from a provisional starting spot to become the 2006 Spring Sizzler champion.
“Whether it is 1982 or 2006, it is a special event and a special track,” said Coby after the win. “Now my name is on that trophy. That is something that is big for me personally as a driver. You think of your team and your family and then you think a little bit about yourself too,
“I cut my teeth here and sort of earned my place here I feel. I’m not trying to be cocky about that, but I kind of feel like, next to Ted Christopher, next to Mike Stefanik and Tony Hirschman and all those guys who have great history here, that of the young guys, I have the best history here. I think if you take everybody who is under 30 years old who’s ever raced here I have the most experience here. I rely on that and think about that when I am out there.
And Coby took full advantage of that home field edge holding off a hard charging Donny Lia for the win in the closing stages of the race.
“Donny’s raced here and Donny’s run good here but it’s sort of helpful and comforting to me to know that I have wins here in other divisions. It kind of comes down to a battle of turf in a sense. I feel that when we come to Stafford it is my turf. Teddy (Christopher) will ring my neck and say that it is his but forget that because that is Ted being him. When I am here I am in my element and I feel like I know the track almost as well as anyone here.”
Coby's #77 at speed.
Doug Coby and his team celebrate the Sizzler win.
There were a few things Coby was miffed at on Sunday at Stafford.
nervous and sends it in the way he doesn’t want to,” said Coby about the restart tangle between Sylvester and Hirschman. “Zach is a great driver who is very smart and very smooth so it obviously was a mistake on his part. I saw him lock up his brakes when he sent it in too hard and pushed up into Tony. In my dreams I would dream of something like that to happen. Only in the dream the caution wouldn’t come out and it would be the last lap of the race. When he slid up I was already waiting for him to do something like that so I could go by both of them. I guess it was our race today because it is not very often that you get passed by Tony Hirschman and he has fresh tires and he wrecks.”
From there out it looked like clear sailing for Coby. That was until Lia mounted a late race charge. When Coby closed on lapped traffic, Lia smelled the opportunity to close in on Coby for a shot at the win. But it was to no avail as Coby kept Lia at bay.
“The lapped cars were kind of a pain in the ass. It sucks that there has to be lapped cars because it would be nice it they were gone. I didn’t realize that it closed the deal up.
“Steve Whitt (who was fighting to stay on the lead lap) was fast enough to be where he was and wasn’t a problem. I told the guys that if it were two laps to go Steve Whitt would have had a problem because I would have made sure that I had gotten him out of my way. Nothing against Steve, but if you are trying for your first win, it’s the Sizzler and Donny is right there, it’s go time. It would have been nice if he had saw that he wasn’t racing anyone in front of him or behind him and just let us go. That is the job of all the spotters, teams and drivers to have that respect for each other. I know when I am a lap down and Steve Whitt is leading a race I will move over for him.
“I just wish that everybody would stop racing for a second and think ‘where am I right now?’ It’s the last lap of the Sizzler, lap 199 and I am a whole lap ahead of you so move the hell out of my way. That is what I am thinking. Fortunately, he didn’t cost me or Donny the race. I think Donny got closer to me because of it.”
“The caution came out four laps later and I told the crew that this was perfect because we got to scuff in our tires,” explained Coby. “When I started to look at all the cars in front of me peeling off to pit I said ‘look who’s in up front, it’s me, Zach and Donny.”
But just when it looked good for Coby, defending race winner and Tour champ Tony Hirschman came tearing through the field past Coby and challenged for the lead. But on a late race restart, pointman Zach Sylvester and Hirchman made contact, opening the door for Coby to slip on by.
“I kind of thought back to some wins I have gotten here in other divisions and how they have come that way on green-white-checkers where the leader gets kind of
Donny Lia at speed.
“We were kind of equal at the end,” said Lia, “but he was just better off the corner than I was on both ends and I could get close but not enough. I was doing everything I could. I was trying to find different lines to run but we just didn't have a car.
“Doug did a good job, they had a good car. They were better than us at the end. I was hoping he'd make a mistake there, and he didn’t, so good for him. He got his first win in a big race and that's a good deal. You know we would have liked to have won, but we'll have to wait until another day.”
And it was certainly Coby’s day. After all the dust settled and the cars were loaded on the trailers Coby reflected on his first ever Mod Tour win.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Coby while leaning on his trailer. “It is a very elite group of people that have won in this series and to be put in that group now is great.”
“There are Series out there that are tough and then there are series like this that are in a different league. To break into the winner’s circle of this division with Tony Hirschman, Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher it is unbelievable. When I scan though the sheet for this date on April 30, 2006 I’m always going to see my name on top with a 29 in parentheses because we had to take a provisional.
“It’s a huge race and a great way to have it come full circle.”