For the loyal fans of both the Valenti Modified Racing Series and the quarter-mile Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH, the long cold off-season seemed like it would never end. That feeling was increased when the season opening Spring Dash 100 event for the series was delayed a full two weeks from its original date of April 18 to Saturday night, May 2 due to complications from the long winter. But the wait was well worth it as fans and teams were greeted to beautiful springtime weather and a track ripe for action.
The same patience paid off for veteran Ridgefield, CT driver Todd Szegedy, who after a season of uncertainty in 2014 and after posting a close second-place finish at Stafford (CT) Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 200 lap Spring Sizzler event just six days previous, was able to come away with the victory in the 100-lap season opener for the MRS at Monadnock.
Szegedy started the night on top of the field first on the practice charts, and then drawing the pole position after finishing fourth in his heat qualifying race. He led the first 10 laps before three-time MRS champion Kirk Alexander dove past Szegedy for the lead on lap 11, with Woody Pitkat following Alexander past Szegedy to second and dropping Szegedy to third on lap 12.
For much of the middle of the race Szegedy would balance conservative driving and hard racing,
“You just kind of gotta go with the flow and make adjustments as the race peels on.” Szegedy told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I knew I had a set piece I was going to abide by and follow, and if the guys wanted to go hard, let them go and try to get them back. You don’t want to let them go to far, but at the same time you also don’t want to go to hard.”
Circumstances would work in Szegedy’s favor. Following a caution on lap 56 after a 31-lap green flag run, Szegedy would go hard on the restart first taking back second-place from Pitkat on the inside in turn one, and then powering by Alexander to the lead on lap 58.
In the final 40 laps, Szegedy’s greatest challenger would be that of Woody Pitkat, after Pitkat defeated a challenge from Russ Hersey and Kirk Alexander fell to the rear after pitting on lap 70.
Multiple cautions would also disrupt the battle between Szegedy and Pitkat, including a two lap close quarters battle where Pitkat was able to stay even with Szegedy on the outside. Pitkat believed he had the lead when the yellow flew again on lap 75, but MRS officials determined the lap had not been fully completed.
“I don’t know, I gotta talk to somebody, because I think a couple of times there I lead coming back to the line before the caution came out.” Pitkat said. “I think even Todd (Szegedy) kinda knew that one time because he laid back behind me, but I’m not going to complain it’s still a good start (to the season).”
Both drivers were highly complementary of each other following the race after the two drivers had squared off for the win at the Spring Sizzler just one week ago with Pitkat coming away with the checkered flag in that one.
In round two, a tight car for Pitkat would prove to be the difference as Szegedy would collect his second career win in MRS competition, the first coming at Stafford in June 2014. It was also the second win Szegedy scored for MRS car owner Kevin Stuart.
The pair had planned on running the full MRS schedule in 2014, but the team withdrew from competition after a heated exchange between Stuart and series officials during an event at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT) in August. After a few months away, Stuart and Szegedy decided to come together for a part-time effort in the MRS and Tri-Track Modified Series.
“You never want to park the car, but we decided late in the season to put the team back together and come out here, have a good time and try to win some races,” Szegedy said. “All the guys on the team are a great a bunch and they have a passion for racing.”
The next race for Szegedy and the Stuart No. 85 team will be the 100-lap Tri-Track Open Modified Series event at Lee (NH) USA Speedway on Sunday, May 17, where a number of other MRS teams and drivers are also poised to enter. The next race for the MRS itself will be at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday, May 22.
Unofficial Top 10 Results
- 85 Todd Szegedy
- 42 Woody Pitkat
- 05 Todd Patnode
- 25 Rowan Pennink
- 88 Russ Hersey
- 06 Les Hinckley
- 92 Anthony Nocella
- 17 Donnie Lashua
- 0 Mike Holdridge
- 12 Todd Annarummo
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com