By Shawn Courchesne
LOUDON, N.H. – On Sept. 21, 2013 Todd Szegedy used a last lap bump to move Donny Lia and his Mystic Missile Racing car out of the lead to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour F.W. Webb 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Saturday in Loudon, Szegedy held off Lia on the final lap to give one back to the team he stole one from in 2013.
Szegedy, of Ridgefield, beat Lia at the checkered by half a car length to win the Whelen Modified Tour Andy Blacksmith 100 Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
It was Szegedy’s first series victory for the Mystic Missile Racing team and owner Bob Garbarino. Szegedy became the team’s full-time driver after Lia left the team following the 2014 season.
“I took a victory away from the [Mystic Missile] the last time I won here, now I gave them one,” Szegedy said. “That’s a big deal. … I’m just honored to be a part of the team.”
Donny Lia of Jericho, N.Y. was second and Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass. third.
It was the 19th series victory overall for Szegedy and his fourth at NHMS.
It was an emotional full circle sort of day for 39-year old Szegedy. The victory in Loudon in 2013 was Szegedy’s last with the series before Saturday. In 2013 he was in eighth season driving for team owner Mike Smeriglio III and his Smeriglio Racing team.
Few knew on that day in Loudon that Szegedy would only make two more starts for the team before he was released just after the conclusion of the season.
Szegedy, the 2003 series champion, spent last year running part-time on the Whelen Modified Tour for Rob Fuller Motorsports. He also competed for Valenti Modified Racing Series owner Kevin Stuart.
His deal to drive full-time for Garbarino in 2015 came together just a few weeks before the Modified Tour season opener in early April.
Less than two months before the start of the season 2015 season Szegedy was contemplating going to back to Sports Car racing and wondering if he could ever land a quality full-time ride again with the Modified Tour.
“I think everybody needs to go through tough times sometimes to really appreciate victory and appreciate teamwork and patience,” Szegedy said. “Just when you think times are tough and getting bad, you just keep pushing forward and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to keep a positive attitude. I learned a lot about myself and everyone around me. My girlfriend Melissa is really keeping me strong. It’s pretty amazing the people around you that love you and keep pushing you forward. If it wasn’t for the people around me I wouldn’t be anybody.”
After Saturday’s victory Szegedy jumped from fourth to third in the series standings, 19 points behind leader Ryan Preece of Berlin. Woody Pitkat of Stafford is second in the standings, four points behind Preece. Reigning series champion Doug Coby of Milford, who came into Saturday’s event tied with Preece at the top of the standings, was involved in a crash and finished 30th in the 34-car field and fell to fourth in the standings, 25 points behind Preece.
The was stopped at lap 52 for a halfway competition break with Coby leading, Pitkat in second, Szegedy in third and Lia in fourth.
On the ensuing restart, contact from Lia sent Coby spinning into Pitkat. The wreck ended Coby’s day. Lia said he was pushed into Coby by Preece behind him.
The wreck put Szegedy to the lead with Lia in second, Ron Silk third and Preece fourth. From there, the foursome put on a show of lead swapping over the final 40 laps.
Szegedy passed Silk for the lead on lap 90 and led the rest of the way, though not without dramatics.
A turn four wreck involving Rowan Pennink, Troy Talma, Andy Seuss and Anthony Nocella on lap 94 brought out the red flag with Szegedy leading Santos and Lia in fourth behind Silk.
“I can’t wait to look at my FitBit,” Szegedy said. “At Thompson [Speedway on June 10] that FitBit was 165 beats per minute. I knew it was at that when I was sitting under that red flag condition [Saturday] and I just had to calm myself down. I knew if I could get to the lead and get a good run and drive defensively I was going to win that race.”
On the final restart Lia was able to get by Santos for second. On the final lap Lia made a move under Szegedy into turn three. The two came off turn four side-by-side with Szegedy winning the drag race to the checkered by half a car length.
“I put a good run together between [turns] one and two,” Lia said. “On the last lap, I had to get a good run on Todd and it just wasn’t nearly anywhere near a good enough run to do anything with him.”
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour-Andy Blacksmith 100 pres. by Donate Life New England Results
At New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Lap length: 1.058 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (5) Todd Szegedy, Ridgefield, Conn., Dodge, 100 laps, 82.926 mph.
2. (2) Donny Lia, Jericho, N.Y., Chevrolet, 100.
3. (21) Bobby Santos, Franklin, Mass., Chevrolet, 100.
4. (7) Patrick Emerling, Orchard Park, N.Y., Chevrolet, 100.
5. (15) Ron Silk, Norwalk, Conn., Chevrolet, 100.
6. (3) Ryan Preece, Berlin, Conn., Chevrolet, 100.
7. (11) Woody Pitkat, Stafford, Conn., Chevrolet, 100.
8. (14) Eric Goodale, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 100.
9. (16) Keith Rocco, Wallingford, Conn., Chevrolet, 100.
10. (12) Chase Dowling, Roxbury, Conn., Chevrolet, 100.
11. (6) Ryan Newman, South Bend, Ind., Chevrolet, 100.
12. (8) Timmy Solomito, Islip, N.Y., Ford, 100.
13. (22) Brendon Bock, Franklin Square, N.Y., Chevrolet, 100.
14. (27) Max Zachem, Preston, Conn., Chevrolet, 100.
15. (26) Dave Sapienza, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 100.
16. (25) Jamie Tomaino, Howell, N.J., Chevrolet, 100.
17. (30) Dave Salzarulo, Enfield, Conn., Chevrolet, 100.
18. (34) Wade Cole, Hartland, Conn., Chevrolet, 100.
19. (32) Johnny Bush, Huntington Station, N.Y., Chevrolet, 100.
20. (31) Gary McDonald, Ronkonkoma, N.Y., Chevrolet, 99.
21. (33) Ken Heagy, Calverton, N.Y., Chevrolet, 98.
22. (10) Justin Bonsignore, Holtsville, N.Y., Chevrolet, 97.
23. (35) Melissa Fifield, Wakefield, N.H., Chevrolet, 97.
24. (13) Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., Chevrolet, 93, accident.
25. (24) Troy Talman, Oxford, Mass., Chevrolet, 93, accident.
26. (17) Anthony Nocella, Woburn, Mass., Chevrolet, 93, accident.
27. (18) Andy Seuss, Hampstead, N.H., Chevrolet, 93, accident.
28. (28) Gary Putnam, Vernon, Conn., Chevrolet, 81, accident.
29. (19) Shawn Solomito, Islip, N.Y., Chevrolet, 81, accident.
30. (1) Doug Coby, Milford, Conn., Chevrolet, 55, accident.
31. (4) Ted Christopher, Plainville, Conn., Chevrolet, 55, accident.
32. (20) Jeff Goodale, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 55, accident.
33. (9) Steve Masse, Bellingham, Mass., Chevrolet, 52, rear end.
34. (23) Joe Ryan Osborne, Holland, Pa., Pontiac, 12, ignition.
Time of Race: 1 hour 16 minutes 33 seconds
Margin of Victory: 0.041 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: D.Coby (129.046 mph, 29.515 seconds)
Caution Flags: 5 for 16 laps.
Lead Changes: 29 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: T. Christopher 1-5; D. Lia 6; T. Christopher 7-10; D. Coby 11; T. Christopher 12-16; R. Preece 17-20; T. Szegedy 21; R. Preece 22-30; D. Lia 31; R. Preece 32; D. Lia 33-35; W. Pitkat 36; D. Lia 37; W. Pitkat 38-43; D. Coby 44-54; T. Szegedy 55-64; R. Preece 65-67; D. Lia 68; R. Silk 69; R. Preece 70; R. Silk 71; R. Preece 72-74; R. Silk 75; R. Preece 76-77; R. Silk 78-79; R. Preece 80; R. Silk 81-86; R. Preece 87; R. Silk 88-89; T. Szegedy 90-100.
Standings: 1. R. Preece, 291; 2. W. Pitkat, 287; 3. T. Szegedy, 272; 4. D. Coby, 266; 5. B. Santos, 255; 6. T. Solomito, 245; 7. P. Emerling, 241; 8. E. Goodale, 240; 9. T. Christopher, 220; 10. R. Pennink, 211.