Todd Szegedy Avoiding Word Retired, But Walking Away From Motorsports

Todd Szegedy (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

This weekend at Thompson Speedway the Icebreaker formally kicks off the Northeast racing season with a racing card anchored by the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150 on Sunday.

Sunday, longtime Whelen Modified Tour driver and former series champion Todd Szegedy will be racing in competition.

It just won’t be at Thompson Speedway.

Instead of being part of a field of more than 30 drivers at Thompson, the 2003 Whelen Modified Tour champion will be part of a field of about 150 competitors in a 15-mile cross country Mountain Bike race in Middlebury.

Szegedy, who has been part of competition with the Whelen Modified Tour for the last 18 years, said he has no plans for competing in short track racing this year.

“I’m not saying I’m retiring from racing, but I haven’t had any plans,” Szegedy said. “I haven’t looked to do anything. I’ve talked to a couple people about possibly doing some driving, but I’ve got other things I want to do. We’ll see what life brings. I’m having a good time doing other things. … I’m pretty heavily involved in biking. That’s been my passion probably as long as I’ve been racing I’ve been enjoying biking, all forms of biking as far as mountain biking and road biking. I’m doing that a lot more. This weekend, as long as plans go the way that they should and my bike operates properly, I’m going to do my first cross country mountain bike race this Sunday.”

The 41-year old Szegedy has been a part-time competitor in racing the last two years. He made three Whelen Modified Tour starts in 2016 and seven last year. He has also spent time competing with the Valenti Modified Racing Series and some open Modified events.

“To just say that I’m just going to give it up and that’s it, that’s tough,” Szegedy said. “But I think it’s probably it for me.”

In 212 Whelen Modified Tour starts since 2000, Szegedy has 19 career victories, 86 top-five’s and 130 top-10’s. From 2005 to 2012 he had a string of seven consecutive seasons where he finished in the top-five in the series standings. In eleven seasons competing full-time with Whelen Modified Tour he never finished worse than seventh in the series standings and only finished outside the top-five twice.

He won the 2003 Whelen Modified Tour title driving for team owner Don Barker. He drove for team owner Mike Smeriglio III from 2006 to 2013. He spent one season driving the Mystic Missile for owner Bob Garbarino in 2015. Outside of 2015 he drove primarily for team owners Kevin Stuart and Rob Fuller. His last series win came in 2015 driving for Garbarino. He had three Valenti Modified Racing Series victories driving for Stuart.

“[Racing] crosses my mind all the time. Every day at some point I think about racing still,” Szegedy said. “I love it. I did it for a long time. I’ve been racing since [1983] competitively. That’s a long time to be racing. … I still feel like I can go out there win. But, I don’t think of it as a thing. Back years ago I had a goal and I was trying to race full-time and make a career out of it. Now I’m 41 years old, the chances of having a career in racing are very slim. I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I needed to accomplish.

“The one thing though, I wish I could have got 20 wins on the Tour. I got 19. I wish I could have got one when I was with Stuart. So many, I look back at all the times I finished second. I’m like ‘My god.’ … But it’s not going to change my life any if I go out and win another race.

“I want to stay healthy. Racing can be a dangerous sport and the way I look at it is the risk vs. the reward. I’m not afraid to get hurt, but do I need to take that chance anymore and go out there and take a chance at getting hurt? You don’t. But that shouldn’t be a reason why you retire from racing at all, which it isn’t. I don’t look at it as the same as I used to.”

Szegedy said he will miss the environment of the track and closeness of the Modified racing community.

“I would say the thing I really loved the most was going to the race track and seeing everybody,” Szegedy said. “There’s more times than not that I’d leave that race track disappointed because I didn’t win. But I was always happy walking into that race track, hearing those cars, smelling the fumes, seeing the fans, just the conversations that I would have and being around the guys on the team. That’s the fun part of racing because it is like a family. We go out and compete against each other but at the end of the day we can go out to a bar or outside in the parking lot and having a cookout and everybody is friends. And that’s the part I’m probably going to miss the most. And that doesn’t mean I can’t go to the race track and see everybody again.

“And also it’s fun competing. I think that’s why I want to do some of the bike racing, because I still enjoy competing. But that will be at a little bit different level. I feel like I’m going to do this more for fun. Racing was, you’re doing it for the fans, you’re doing it for sponsors and you’re doing it for your team. So there’s a little bit more pressure in there. With what I want to do with the bike racing, it’s just for me in trying to be stronger than the next guy.”

Szegedy said he’s looking forward to advancing in the ranks of the competitive biking community. The event he will compete in Sunday has five classes, from beginner to categories three, two and one to professional paid riders. He will compete in the category two class, looking to move up to category one.

“It sounds crazy, but I don’t know what it is, but I love pushing myself as hard as I can physically,” Szegedy sad. “I’ve always been motivated while I was racing cars to stay in shape and always exercise. I’ve done a sprint Triathlon and I’ve been into jogging and biking. I like pushing myself to the limits physically. … I enjoy it. I enjoy that part of the physical activity of it. Just getting better and stronger. I’m still young and I still can be competitive. That’s basically what I want to do. Just keep enjoying my life. I guess if an opportunity came about that I couldn’t refuse then maybe I would think about going back to racing cars, but right now I’m doing everything and having a good time doing what I’m doing now.”

For more from Todd Szegedy check out this week’s edition of the Unmuffled Podcast

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  1. Before the ovals, Todd was one heck of a sports car racer too.

  2. Sad to hear Todd Szegady leaving the racing comunity. He is a good wheelman with a tour championship to his credit. He will be missed

  3. Ray Skoglund says

    Good racer.
    Well respected by all.

    I wish him well in what ever he chooses to do in the future.

  4. WeldingWonders says

    He’s in the record books forever and made his mark. Mountain biking is a brutal physical activity so if he’s doing it a 41 God Bless him for staying fit. What I don’t get is mentioning injuries. Is competitive mountain biking considered safe?

  5. I agree, good driver who left his mark. He has also almost retired before. Not as many times as Lia but at least once before. If a great seat opened tomorrow he might sing a different tune. I enjoyed him on the tour so best wishes either way. Good dude.

  6. Welding, although bicycle tecnology has come a long way with things like full suspension, disc brakes and the extensive use of composite materials, like any sport there is a risk of injury. A little perspective most comptition bikes tires are inflated to 100 PSI so if one of them blows out good chance you’re going down. Add this to the gearing which allows speeds up to 70 mph and you get the point. Actually competed in mountain bike racing about 20 years ago. Bikes back then we’re nothing like what’s available now. Your feet are actually locked onto the crankset by what’s supposed to be a quick release system, back then they were anything but quick, I had the good fortune of taking only a few soft hits but did see some guys break arms legs shoulders and ribs. So yes it is dangerous. The upside is you stay ingreat shape as long as you stay upright, and downhill competition is a total rush. I’m sure Todd will do fine he’s got mental focus and is in good shape. Still gonna be a shame not seeing him wheel a modified.

  7. A top quality mountain bike built for competition can cost upwards of $20000 not a typo twenty thousand dollars. Lance Armstrong’s racing bike cost $87000. Allot of coin for a bicycle

  8. darealgoodfella says

    Everything is safe until you get hurt.

    I was in a bike race a while ago. The mass start was crazy. I was looking up, above the crowd, and I see this body fly up above, then the bike, then the body, then bike, and by the time I got up to where the guy was, he was a bloody mess, his clothes torn to shreds. Lots of road rash.

    I just wish Todd didn’t race Silk in that crucial race at Thompson when Silk came back from numerous laps down in the 6 to win the Championship. If Todd just did laps and avoided trouble, he’d have another championship. Instead, he raced when he didn’t have to, got taken out and handed it to Silk. Nothing against Silk, it was Todd’s to lose at that point and he did just that. That was an incredible modified race.

  9. darealgoodfella says

    Rob p., people complain about the cost of mod racing… LOL!!! These Cervelo bikes that you might see guys riding, mostly weekend warriors… that’s easily $12k of bike. It’s crazy to see what people are riding on rail trails. But biking is great, keeps the body young. Amazing to see the ages of people that ride, and ride well. My old steel DeRosa/Eddy Merckx is a piece of fine Italian art.

  10. Lost my license for an indefinite period of time in 1992 used to ride a bike 25 miles each way to work everyday then another 10 miles round trip to the race shop each night. I was 160 pounds of solid muscle. Got my license back in 2000 and continued to ride recreationally until 2012 when I had a bad car accident now I can’t ride and I miss it. If you want to get in shape skip the gym buy a bike

  11. Todd try doing a little golf , I started playing real late in life . I wish I could of started at age 41 . But I got a feeling that you already been doing that deserve a break after biking . I started racing go karts at Wilton at age 41 did it for over 22 years. in my 70es now and I’m loving playing golf. Never to old to have fun ; good luck on Sunday

  12. WeldingWonders says
    Stephanie A. Lareau, MD; Henderson D. McGinnis, MD
    From the Department of Emergency Medicine, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC (Drs Lareau andMcGinnis).
    “—The endurance riders had more years of mountain biking experience, averaged more hours
    of riding per week, and had fewer injuries requiring medical attention in the past year than the riders
    in the races. Of the cross-country riders, 7.2% were injured during the race, and 4.7% of endurance
    racers were injured. There was no increased risk of being injured in a race over an endurance race (odds ratio 1.6, 95% CI [0.50, 2.92]). Lacerations and abrasions were the most common injuries in both
    events. Head injuries, eye injuries, and blisters were only reported in the endurance events. Endurance
    events were more likely to have medical assistance available”
    In the races we surveyed, very few riders were injured and the majority of the injuries sustained were minor. The duration of the race did not significantly impact the incidence of injuries. Medical support varied drastically between events. A larger survey including a greater number of events is needed to determine the level of medical support needed for mountain biking events”

    Turns out there is some evidence it is pretty safe. Race away Todd and best wishes.

  13. I can totally relate to the bicycle thing. My first taste of “racing” was BMX & always wanted to race cars as my dad raced midgets in Washington State in the late 50’s. I finally did get into karts/cars but unfortunately 12 years after my father passed away, which was always a bummer for me as I know we would have had a blast together. I raced from ’92 to 2010 and stepped away due to the politics & BS of running a racing series sucking every last ounce of fun out of it and needing to focus on my business and returned to freestyle BMX, which is now my zen. As much as I miss being at the track, being alone on my bike in a parking lot for hours doing tricks is my escape from the world. When my body finally craps out and I can’t ride anymore is when I’ll probably get back in the car, but my goal is to be still riding at 60. Only 8 more years to go!

  14. WeldingWonders says

    That’s a pretty generic condemnation of racing that I bet you could make pretty interesting if you had a mind to. Think about sharing some specifics like where and when you raced and what the specific beefs were.
    Crapping out generally doesn’t happen on a specific day. Consider the burgeoning popularity of ebike’s as you crap out stepping back from the rigorous BMX to road or mountain biking. Giving you the ability to crap out at any time and still make it home. My favorite the Super 73 but the choices are infinite.

  15. OK so getting back on subject, good luck Todd, always enjoyed watching you in action and maybe some day we will see you again in a modified. Be safe in your endeavors.

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