Todd Szegedy is a former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion. In his career, he has made it as far as the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He’s won 18 career NASCAR Whelen Tour races. He’s also won in the Valenti Modified Racing Series. He has quite the resume going for him.
Yet Szegedy faced the possibility of taking the year off when he found himself without a ride during the off-season. VMRS car owner Kevin Stuart eventually made the decision to put Szegedy into his purple #85 Modified for the season. That decision paid off as Szegedy padded his VMRS point lead with their first victory together Friday night in the Town Fair 80 at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT).
“I was quite honestly debating whether to take the year off,” said Szegedy. “Even still, I knew that I should run some races. I wanted to keep my feet wet. I heard that Kevin had an opening for a few races, so I called him. He wanted to run full time (in VMRS), so (when the ride was offered), I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
The opening at Stuart’s team came when previous driver Lou Mechalides found out that he needed to take some time away from the driver’s seat due to a back injury. Mechalides had won a VMRS race last season at Seekonk Speedway (MA), so it was well known that the #85 was a quality ride. There was plenty of interest in becoming its next driver.
“We were almost ready to go racing and we weren’t sure who would be the driver,” said Stuart. “Todd’s name was in the hat. (Jon) McKennedy’s name was in the hat. (Les) Hinckley’s name was in the hat. The best deal was to go with Todd and everyone said that I made a smart choice. I guess that I did.”
Szegedy took the lead from Ted Christopher with 21 laps to go in the Stafford race. Szegedy has driven many different Modified at Stafford – from the legendary Ole Blue #3 of the Boehler family to the potent #2 that Doug Coby won the most recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event there with this season. He knows a good car when he drives it and he knows that the #85 was darn good on Friday night.
“This thing was unreal,” said Szegedy. “It was as good as any car I have ever had here.”
Christopher knew that he didn’t have much of a chance against Szegedy late in the going.
“Nah, it’s no good when it won’t turn,” said Christopher of his car. “It was too tight in the center. It wouldn’t turn.”
“I knew that Teddy was tight in the center and that messed my center up,” said Szegedy. “I knew that he would be tough to pass. He knows what he is doing. I just had to wait until the right moment. After we got that, I just wanted to get as much distance between him as we could.”
Christopher held off Keith Rocco to take second place honors while Rowan Pennink and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five finishers.
Szegedy was the most relieved of all drivers once the dust settled.
“It’s nice to get what we came here for,” said Szegedy after the victory lane celebrations died down.
The #85 team isn’t ready to settle for just one victory. They want to stay on the top and aren’t afraid to work towards that task. Before there were team photos taken in victory lane on Friday night, a crew member already jumped into the frame to take post-race tire pressures.
Szegedy and the Stuart team will get their next chance this Friday night as the VMRS visits Lee USA Speedway for the Port City 100.
– By Mike Twist, Speed51.com Correspondent. Photo credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com