With the Valenti Modified Racing Series descending upon Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday, June 20th for the Town Fair Tire 80, former Stafford SK Modified® regular and 2003 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Todd Szegedy finds himself at the top of the points standings. After parting ways with the #2 Mike Smeriglio owned team at the conclusion of the 2013 season, Szegedy was unsure where and how much he would be racing in 2014. But after a call to Kevin Stuart, an arrangement was made for Szegedy to take over the driving duties of the #85 car and Szegedy holds the point lead after recording top-10 finishes in each of the first 5 races.
“It’s tough to say [if the season has been a surprise],” said Szegedy. “I knew Kevin Stuart has good equipment and I know Bear [Calicchio] is a great crew chief, so the core was there it was just a matter of me getting used to the language between Bear and myself. We haven’t won yet, but we’ve been very consistent and consistency is what wins championships. I think it’s just a matter of time before we get our first win. We’re heading to some tracks that I’m familiar with and run well at. I’m really looking forward to Stafford because it’s a track that I’ve won at before, it’s a track that I like, and I think we’ll have a pretty good car for Stafford.”
Szegedy has four career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour wins at Stafford, and he is the only SK Modified® driver to have won the 21 Means 21 qualifying feature and the main feature in the same night. His previous experience shows Szegedy knows his way to NAPA Victory Lane and he is confident that his first win of the 2014 season may come in the Town Fair Tire 80.
“I’m very confident we can go to Stafford and win the race,” said Szegedy. “I feel confident that we can win at any track and Thompson and Stafford are definitely two tracks that I run better at. I felt very confident at Thompson and we led that race until the last lap and I feel the same way coming to Stafford.”
Should Szegedy capture the checkered flag in the Town Fair Tire 80, he would become the sixth different winner in the first 6 VMRS races held this season.
“That tells me that we have a lot of good teams and a lot of good cars that can win races in the Modified Racing Series,” said Szegedy. “No one car is dominating, which is a good thing. Guys use a lot of patience and there’s a lot of give and take during the races so cars aren’t getting wrecked and there’s a lot of cars that end up finishing the races, which I think is one reason why there are so many different winners.”
Before Szegedy can challenge for the checkered flag in the Town Fair Tire 80, he first must qualify through a heat race. The VMRS heat races are carrying extra importance this season as bonus points are awarded to the top-5 finishers from each heat race. In a season that has seen 5 different winners in the first 5 races, any extra bonus points gained during the year could go a long way in determining who wins the championship at the end of the season. Szegedy has already won 2 heat races in 2014 and he has accumulated 23 bonus points thusfar in 2014 for his heat race finishes and leading the most laps at Thompson.
“Our ultimate goal is maintain the point lead,” said Szegedy. “We go to the track to win races and if you can win races, the points will fall where they fall. We just have to stay out of trouble and finish in front of the guys who I’m battling with and I feel like our chances at winning at Stafford are very high. We’ve won a few heat races this year and every point counts. Heat races in the past were just survive and finish in the top-5 or top-6, wherever you needed to finish. Now, there’s an incentive to winning heat races because at the end of the year, if you’re separated by 19 points and you’ve won 4 heat races, that would be the difference between winning and losing the championship. So basically the strategy is you want to go out and win everything, win the heat race and then win the feature race.”
With 4 career NWMT wins at Stafford, Szegedy definitely knows what he needs to be the first driver to see the checkered flag. But with bonus points available in the heat races, drivers have to strike a balance between going for victory in the heat and saving their cars for the 80-lap Town Fair Tire feature event later in the evening. Szegedy shares what he thinks it will take to be the race winner.
“I think you want to start towards the front, no question,” said Szegedy. “Ultimately track position is good. I think the majority of the MRS guys conserve a decent amount and if someone is going hard early on, you let them go. I like being up front because if there is a long green run, which we’ve had a lot of this year, you really have to use your car up if you start towards the back, which is what happened to me at Seekonk when I started 18th. If I had my choice, I’d start up front and stay up front. You need to adapt to your surrounding environment and go with the flow. You usually know within 10 to 15 laps what kind of car you have. If you’re able to stay up front without using your car up too much, you stay up front. But if you’re struggling to keep up with the pace, you might want to pit early to make some changes and hope for some cautions to go your way. The main thing is to keep yourself out of trouble and keep yourself in a position where you can go for the win.”
Tickets for the June 20th Town Fair Tire Valenti Modified Racing Series 80 are available and on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $27.50 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for kids ages 6-14, and kids 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating will be priced at $30.00 for all ages. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Stafford Speedway offers free parking with free overnight parking for self-contained RV’s available.
For more information on the Town Fair Tire VMRS 80, 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.