(Stafford Springs, CT)—With the 43rd Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler less than two months away from taking the green flag, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams are busy gearing up for “The Greatest Race in the History of Spring.” One team that will have a definite spring to their step in preparation for the Sizzler is the new owner-driver combination of Mike Smeriglio, III and Doug Coby, who will move over to the #2 Dunleavy Truck Truck and Trailer Repair team after driving the last several seasons for Wayne Darling’s #52 team. The Coby/Smeriglio combination got their relationship off to a great start with a victory in the Battle at the Beach in Daytona last month and Coby is hoping to carry that momentum over to the Sizzler.
“I hope it goes well,” said Coby. “Daytona was a great start for team morale and it was a good starting point for us. We were missing a few guys who couldn’t make it down there, but we got to work together for a couple of days and we ran the 100-lapper at New Smyrna, so it was a good experience for us getting the new team jitters out of the way.”
If past performance is any indication, then the new combination should be a formidable force at Stafford. Coby has won 5 of his 9 career NWMT races at Stafford and Smeriglio’s team recorded 2 wins, 14 top-5, and 18 top-10 finishes from 2006-2013 with Todd Szegedy behind the wheel of the #2 car.
“I’m really excited and I think we’re both a bit nervous,” said Coby. “They know that when I drove the 52 I won a lot of races at Stafford and they want to provide me with a car that can do that again and I want to make sure that I’m giving them the right feedback based on whatever I’m feeling in the car. I think we’re both kind of targeting Stafford as a benchmark to see how far along we are as a team and how well we’re going to work together. I think we’re going to test a couple of times at Stafford once the weather breaks and I’m hoping that will help us come up with a package that will work really well for the Sizzler. I would expect to be a contender for all 4 races at Stafford but of course that might not happen. If it doesn’t happen, we’ll work on it. It might not be instant, I’m prepared for that and I think the team is prepared for that if we’re not as fast as we want to be right out of the box. I think we could come out and win right away but it won’t be the end of the world if we don’t.”
Coby has two victories in the Spring Sizzler on his resume, and a third victory would go a long way towards setting Coby and his new team up for making a run at the 2014 NWMT Championship.
“I think that it’s been proven the past couple of years that you have to start the season strong to survive the summer stretch and be there at the end,” said Coby. “If you start the season off slow with a couple of wrecks or mechanical failures, it really puts you in a hole that is almost impossible to dig out of. Last year it was Ryan [Preece], the year before it was me, and the year before that it was [Ronnie] Silk. There is always somebody who puts together a string of top-5 finishes and a win or two that makes it tough to catch up to if you have a couple of finishes in the 20’s in the first couple of races.”
Coby’s driving efforts won’t be limited to just the Whelen Modified Tour during NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler weekend. Coby will also be trying to reach victory lane behind the wheel of Glenn Johnson’s #15 SK Modified® machine. Coby and Johnson reunited last year after several seasons apart and although they finished third in the points standings, they did not win a feature. Coby is looking to rectify that during the 2014 season.
“I feel really good, we should have the car done a little sooner that we normally do,” said Coby. “Glenn [Johnson] is working really hard on the car and we have some new things going on sponsorship wise and we’re looking to upgrade the program and make it so we’re contending a little better than we did last year. We had a solid year last year but Glenn is hungry to win some races and contend for the championship. We ended up third in points but I think that was more a case of us not wrecking as much as some of the other guys and that left us towards the top of the standings. I felt last year we had a better opportunity than the last time I drove for Glenn. I was surprised that we didn’t end up winning a race last season. There were a few nights last year where the car was really good and probably should have won. With the way the SK division is now, when you have a fast car you have to capitalize. You can’t just sit there and run second. I think this year you’ll see me be a little more aggressive to get that monkey off our back and win a race on the nights where we have the car really good. There are 10 or 12 really fast cars in the SK’s and if you’re the fast car on a given night, you really have to make it happen.”
As Coby chases after a victory lane appearance in the SK Modified® division, he will also be seeking to become the first driver to win a Stafford track championship in three different divisions. Coby won the Late Model track title in 1998 and he was the ProStock champion in 2000.
“It would mean more to me to win the SK championship for Glenn than for myself with all the effort Glenn has put in over the years with his sons and everyone that has worked with Glenn,” said Coby. “It would be cool to be the first driver to win a Late Model, ProStock and SK Modified® championship at Stafford. I’d be happy if we could win a couple of races and be in a position to wrap up the championship at the end of the year. We just have to see how it goes and capitalize on the good nights and not let the bad nights get you down.”
The 43rd Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler gets underway Friday, April 25 with a practice session for Stafford’s weekly divisions. The practice session will be open to the public at no charge. The run for the Coors Light Pole position gets underway on Saturday, April 26 with time trials for the Whelen Modified Tour cars, along with heat and consolation races for Stafford’s weekly divisions. In the 34 Spring Sizzler events run since 1980, the fast qualifier has gone on to win the race only 8 times. Saturday will conclude with feature events for the SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions as well as a feature event for the Northeast Mini Stocks. The Sizzler concludes on Sunday, April 27 with the NAPA Auto Parts Pit Party followed by Stafford’s SK Modifieds® and Late Models joining the Whelen Modified Tour in feature action.
Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $38.50 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. All tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax.
For more information on the 43rd annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler, or to order tickets, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.