LOUDON, N.H. – Todd Szegedy insisted, he’s not the type of driver to use over aggressive tactics to grab victories.
Though two years plus of watching opportunities at victory slip away one after the other can make a do some things he might not usually do.
And that was the case Saturday for Szegedy at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Szegedy bumped Donny Lia out of the lead in turn three of the final lap and then held off Ryan Newman coming to the checkered flag to win the Whelen Modified Tour F.W. Webb 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Newman, a Sprint Cup Series regular and South Bend, Ind. native, was second and Lia, of Jericho, N.Y. third.
It was the first series victory for the 2003 series champion since Sept. 17, 2011 at Lime Rock Park in Salisbury, snapping a career long 28-race winless streak for the Ridgefield driver.
“It’s nice to win, it’s why we do it,” Szegedy said. “I don’t come here to finish second or third, I come here to win. So it puts a lot of wear on you. It takes a while to get over things. … It’s two years, over two years. That’s a long period of time wondering when you’re going to get your next win. … You begin to say to yourself, ‘Do I still got it to win?’ … You’ve got to remind yourself that you don’t forget to drive overnight.”
The emotional elation from Szegedy marked a 180-degree opposite of the sentiments from Lia.
“I thought it would be a good finish,” Lia said. “I just got used up there in [turns] three and four. I thought we would drag race back to the line but he just kind of drove up there and knocked me into the marbles and that was it, I was a sitting duck at that point.
The first 50 laps of the race saw Newman, series points leader Ryan Preece of Berlin and Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass. battling for the top spot. Just before the halfway break, Szegedy raced up with the leaders, showing that he was ready join the fight for victory.
Over the final 20 laps it was Lia and Szegedy working to run in line out front to pull away from Newman and Santos running third and fourth. Lia went to the lead past Szegedy on lap 87 and the two remained in those spots until the final lap.
Going into turn three on the final circuit, Szegedy went diving under Lia and then drove him up the track through turns three and four. The contact allowed Newman to nearly get under Szegedy for the lead coming off turn four to the frontstretch.
“That last lap I knew I was going to make a move and Donny obviously knew,” Szegedy said. “Donny threw a pretty good block on me. At the same time I tried passing him we clanked a little bit. It killed my momentum. He did what he had to do. And I sent it in, I drove it in as hard as I could. I tried not to hit it but I knew we were going to hit. Everyone knows that I don’t drive like that, I don’t knock guys out of the way to get victories, but I needed this win really bad.”
Lia said he knew he wasn’t in the best position as the hunted one on the final lap, but he thought Szegedy would opt for a more sportsmanlike duel for the win.
“You make your bed and then you have to lay in it,” Lia said. “I stayed out front knowing that if I stayed out front that’s pretty much going to be the deal on the last lap and I thought that, I only did it thinking that … we didn’t really do a whole lot of racing, we ran in line trying to get away from [Newman] so we really didn’t do a whole lot of racing. I thought we’d race that last corner and just race that last corner out rather than just do what he did. I gave him the benefit doubt and you live and learn. I just won’t ever give that benefit of the doubt again no matter who it is. He’s a friend of mine. You live and learn, that’s it.”
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