The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s loss proved the big gain of the Valenti Modified Racing Series late last week.
Szegedy’s arrival to run full-time for Kevin Stuart’s Lowell, Mass. based Modified Racing Series team in 2014 brought more than just a new driver to the fold for the series, even beyond the cache the title “Former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion” brings.
Szegedy immediately injects the series with a trusted spokesman, a stout ambassador and new face championship contender.
It’s not to say that guys like Rowan Pennink or Chris Pasteryak or Norm Wrenn or even Todd Owen haven’t done well as ambassadors or spokesmen for the evolving series.
Over the last eight years competing on the Modified Tour, Szegedy became the perfect bridge between that division’s senior statesmen and young talent.
When it came to age and experience the 37-year old from Ridgefield sat perfectly in the middle to play both sides of the fence, which allowed him to offer a unique perspective. He had long since moved past fiery young bravado, though wasn’t yet close to grizzled veteran.
Over the last decade Szegedy, an 18-time Whelen Modified Tour winner and the 2003 series champion, took on a role very similar to the one Jeff Burton embraced over his last 10 years in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Burton earned a reputation as “The Mayor” of the Sprint Cup garages. When the media wanted answers on any level or type of topics surrounding the series, they knew they could turn to Burton for responses that proved reasoned, rational and without agendas or exaggerations.
And Szegedy has earned a reputation very similar. He is one willing to offer thought through explanations on even the most random topics involving Modified racing. He pulls no punches, he isn’t afraid to share opinions that might not be exactly what the sanctioning body or his competitors want to hear, but it’s always honest, straightforward and without selfish agendas.
Hopefully Modified Racing Series officials recognize the value Szegedy brings to the table for the division, and not just as a hard-nosed racer who almost assuredly ramp up the competition level this year.
It’s unclear how long Szegedy’s stay with the Valenti Modified Racing Series will be. What is clear is that during that time he can be a competitor, like no other before with that series. One who can prove to help raise the stature of the division by allowing himself to become a sought out voice for it and for all that it’s doing well for Modified racing.