Following a confrontation with series officials during Saturday’s Valenti Modified Racing Series event at Waterford Speedbowl, the Kevin Stuart-owned No. 85 team with driver Todd Szegedy will not be returning to series competition in 2014. Stuart informed Speed51.com of the team’s decision in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon.
This news comes following a disagreement between Stuart and series promoter Jack Bateman during a late-race red flag period in the 100-lap Wings ‘N Wheels feature event.
Stuart did not agree with the decision made by VMRS officials to allow teams involved in the accident to work on their cars during the red flag period while his car, which had avoided the multi-car accident, was sitting on the frontstretch with a dead battery. After a conversation with officials, Stuart admittedly grabbed an official’s radio and offered up a few choice words for Bateman.
As a result of Stuart’s comments, Szegedy was shown the black flag and the team was disqualified from the event.
“Every race I’ve ever been in, when a red flag is displayed you’re not allowed to work on your cars,” Stuart told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I went over to the official and said, ‘They can’t be working on their car, that’s wrong.’ He said, ‘Well Jack (Bateman) said that they could work on their cars. I said, ‘Well push my car in so I can work on it because we’re in a points chase.’
“The official told Bateman that I was upset because I wanted my car pushed in. What Bateman didn’t realize is that I could hear them on the radio. Bateman had a smart a– remark about me, so I lost it. I grabbed the headphones off the guy and told Bateman that he was an a–hole. That’s why he black flagged Todd, which had nothing to do with the whole incident.”
According to Stuart, he called Bateman on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to apologize for his actions, but he was told by the series owner that he would need to serve a three-race suspension for his actions that night.
“I told him I’ll take responsibility as being in the wrong for yelling over the radio, but my guys had nothing to do with it. It was me. He told me that I’m suspended for three weeks and he’d see me at Airborne. I basically told him he could stick his series up his a– because he’d never see me again.”
Szegedy, who is normally calm and cool, didn’t agree with the decision made by Bateman to penalize him for the actions of his team owner. He told Speed51.com that he approached Bateman after the race to voice his frustrations and received an unwelcome response.
“I’m not happy with Jack Bateman for doing that,” said Szegedy. “I don’t agree with him penalizing me for something that my car owner did. I think it is 100-percent wrong. He penalized me for something I never did. I was out minding my own business on the race track and probably would have had a pretty good top-five finish.
“When I expressed my opinion to Bateman, I told him I don’t know if I want to come back racing with this series. He told me, ‘See you later.’ He basically told me he doesn’t care if I’m there or not. I don’t really care if he cares, but that’s not how the owner of the series should react to drivers.”
Speed51.com spoke with Bateman Tuesday. The series owner said that the interpretation of the rules during red flag periods will be addressed during the driver’s meeting at the next series event. As far as the team’s disqualification and his decision to suspend Stuart, Bateman attributes that to what he called, “unprofessional behavior” exhibited by Stuart on Saturday night.
“The team was disqualified, Todd was not,” said Bateman. “The team was disqualified for Kevin Stuart’s actions in the pit area. I told Kevin that because of his actions in the pits that he was suspended for three races. Regardless of what the situation is, Kevin acted inappropriately”
Stuart was unsure of his future plans as a car owner, but said the he hopes to be able to continue helping Szegedy with his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts for Rob Fuller Motorsports.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com