Todd Szegedy was looking for a ride and Valenti Modified Racing Series team owner Kevin Stuart was in need of a driver.
Doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Szegedy, the 2003 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, will replace Lou Mechalides with Stuart’s Lowell, Mass. based team for the 2014 Valenti Modified Racing Series season.
Mechalides, of Tyngsboro, Mass., continues to recover from offseason back surgery. Szegedy, of Ridgefield, will drive the full 17-race Valenti Modified Racing Series schedule for the team and also the three Open Tour Type Modified shows that make up the new Tri-Track Series.
“With 17 races with the series and the three open races, that’s 20 races on the schedule so far,” Szegedy said. “That’s more than I’ve raced in a while. I’m definitely looking forward to that. If we can go out and try and win a championship, that’s great, that’s the ultimate goal. I think the priority is going to be go out there and start racing and have a good time.”
The Valenti Modified Racing Series opens its 2014 season on March 30 with the Blastoff 100 at the Waterford Speedbowl.
Szegedy’s arrival is a welcome sight for series organizers.
“Having a legendary modified driver and champion like Todd Szegedy join our series full-time is really huge for the fans and supporters of the Valenti Modified Racing Series,” series director Scott Tapley said. “Todd is not only an accomplished driver but he’s also one the most respected people in short track racing for his professionalism on and off the race track.”
Szegedy has made three career Valenti Modified Racing Series starts, all coming in 2012. He won in his second series start at Monadnock Speedway on July 7, 2012.
“I have raced with these guy before,” Szegedy said. “What I’ve seen is there are some guys that are really good and then there are some guys that are really far off. But the guys that are good, they race me clean. I can’t speak for everybody. But I was able to run side-by-side with guys and it was good. When I won at Monadnock I made passes on the outside and never got used up. I felt like there was a lot of respect out there.”
After finishing sixth in the Whelen Modified Tour standings in 2013, Szegedy was released from his ride with Mike Smeriglio Racing following the conclusion of the season. He had been driving for Smeriglio since the start of the 2006 season. He was replaced on the team by 2012 Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby.
Over 10 full-time seasons on the Whelen Modified Tour, Szegedy never finished worse than seventh in the standings and was only worse than fifth in the standings twice. He was the series runner-up in 2007 and 2011 and had a third place finish in the standings in 2008. His last Whelen Modified Tour victory came in the F.W. Webb 100 last September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Mechalides is ninth on the Valenti Modified Racing Series’ all-time starts list with 92, from 2005 to 2013. He is tied for fifth on the series’ all-time win list with seven victories. He had decompressive Laminectomy surgery for spinal stenosis, a procedure done to relieve pressure on spinal nerve roots.