What started as a one-race deal for Doug Coby to drive Tommy Baldwin Jr.‘s No. 7NY Modified in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead Raceway last year has become so much more.
The pairing, which won that race at Riverhead as well as events at Lee USA Speedway and Langley Speedway, has set its sights on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2023.
Baldwin, who won the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour owner‘s championship last year with Coby, Jimmy Blewett and Mike Christopher Jr. splitting time in the No. 7NY, spent most of the offseason working on the deal to put Coby in his race car for the full year.
“I think we all talked about it at the end of the year, myself, Jimmy Blewett and Doug, and we decided that it would be best to try for a driver and owners‘ championship and having one driver through the whole year and having another car for Jimmy doing some races here and there,” Baldwin said. “We felt that was probably best for this year.
“Doug brings that Tour championship form. He‘s used to doing these races. He understands where he needs to be, what‘s going on during the races. Jimmy does, too, we just decided as a group to do this this year.”
Prior to teaming up with Baldwin at Riverhead last year, Coby had only planned to compete in a handful of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events after scaling back his own operation.
However, after winning back-to-back races at Riverhead and Lee, Coby and Baldwin decided to work together as often as they could. Coby ended up competing in 12 of 16 races last year, nine for Baldwin and three in his own car.
In the nine races driving for Baldwin, Coby never finished worse than 10th. He finished the year ranked ninth in the Tour standings and led more laps than any other driver despite missing four races.
“It was a very nice surprise to say the least of how quickly we gelled and got along and how he adapted to how we do things,” Baldwin said. “He came from a completely different environment where he was at, the thought process and doing stuff. For him to come in and adapt real quick was huge for us. We didn‘t really have to change much.”
Coby will chase his seventh NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2023, which would tie him with Tour legend Mike Stefanik for most championships. Richie Evans holds the all-time record for NASCAR Modified championships with nine.
Coby, from Milford, Connecticut, said that after the success the combination enjoyed during the 2022 season, it was natural to try and put something together for the full 2023 season.
Thankfully, Coby‘s long-time sponsor Mayhew Tools stepped up to help make the deal happen.
“It came together pretty naturally based on performance from last season,” Coby said. “We clicked right away when I first drove for him at Riverhead and Lee and clicked with the crew. Just found a good fit for his program with all the drivers that he works with.
“It just makes the most sense I think for me to run with him in as many Tour races as we could, and I was able to get enough sponsorship from Mayhew to do all 19 Tour shows.”
Prior to 2022, Coby explained he spoke with Baldwin about potentially putting a deal together for Coby to race the No. 7NY. However, those talks fizzled out and he instead settled on a part-time program in his own car.
“He and I did talk before last season to see if we could do something last year,” Coby said. “It just got, with me and my team and losing Phil (Moran) to Tyler (Haydt) and Ron (Silk)‘s team and having to move my cars to a race shop and having to figure out sponsorship and how much it was going to cost and if we were going to split a season, it just got to be too much for me.”
Everything changed at Riverhead on May 14, 2022, when Coby was a late fill-in for Blewett, who had to miss the race to care for his sick daughter.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“It just kind of worked out,” Coby said. “I think I‘m a little disappointed; last year I missed New Smyrna and Richmond before we started running well together. I think if I had gone to New Smyrna and Richmond I think I might have had a shot at a championship.”
Baldwin and Coby are hesitant to call themselves the favorites to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship this year, and with good reason.
Jon McKennedy is returning to defend his title, and perennial contenders Justin Bonsignore, Ron Silk and Eric Goodale are all expected to make championship runs.
As far as Baldwin is concerned, the goal for 2023 is the same as it was in 2022: Win as many races as possible. If Coby and Baldwin win enough races, the championship will take care of itself.
“My goal still hasn‘t change after all these years,” Baldwin said. “My philosophy is you win races, you‘re going to get the most points. So that‘s what we‘re going to go do. We‘re going to try and win races first and see where we‘re at towards the later part of the year.
“If we have to change that as far as little points chasing at the end, that‘s a different story. But right now we‘re going for wins and maximizing as many points as we can.”
Coby and Baldwin will look to open the season with a victory in the New Smyrna Beach Visitors Bureau 200 at New Smyrna Speedway on Feb. 11. The event will be available to watch live exclusively on FloRacing.