"Sizzle and Flash" Leftovers: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour by Denise DuPont and Mike Twist
The Extra Stories from Stafford's Spring Sizzler and Wall's Flash Race
Marquis (#00) races with Todd Szegegy  (#2)  (Jim DuPont Photo)

When Jerry Marquis was out front as the laps clicked down in the Spring Sizzler at Stafford, there probably weren’t too many observers who weren’t pulling for him.  If your own driver couldn’t win the race, chances are that you were cheering for Marquis and the Joe Brady-owned #00 car.

The Brady Bunch team doesn’t have the biggest hauler, the most state-of-the-art cars or the latest trick parts, but they finished third against many teams that have all of that and more.  That led to a real sense of accomplishment among Marquis and the team.

“That feels really good," said Marquis.  “To come here and do what we did today is an awesome feeling.  Joe is tickled pink about it.  To be here, and to be underpowered, and run as good as we did all day long, lead some laps and finish third, is an excellent day.”

On a day filled with caution periods, Marquis was able to steadily make his way up through the field.

“Things were going really good.  Everything played into our favor after we put tires on.  We were 14th, then we were fourth, then we were in the lead.  Things went our way for that part of the race.  At lap 150, I knew that there were 50 laps to go and I said ‘God bless, I hope that we can do this.’  We had restart after restart after restart.  I was able to hold them off and when we were doing the double-file restarts, it worked to my advantage because I could make him (Todd Szegedy) work a little bit harder.  I got fired up a little faster, but finally all of those restarts killed us.”

Without a big sponsor or deep pockets to shop around to teams, Marquis almost entered the 2007 season without a ride.  That was until he hooked up with the Brady operation.

“Everything came together today. I have to thank Joe for giving me this ride. It is great to be here.  In the beginning of the year we could not get everything together. We needed a crew, we needed sponsors, and we just could not seem to get everything together for some reason. We could not get to the place where we needed to be. Being with a Joe Brady right now, it is a Godsend because he was able to give me this ride. And let me do what I need to do with him. I brought some sponsors on board and we are looking at a couple more. Hopefully with all the sponsors we are picking up and with this car that we had here today things will be real good.”

One thing that wasn’t in short supply during this year’s Spring Sizzler were caution periods.  In fact, there were 14 of them that consisted of 76 laps of yellow-flag parading.  That actually worked to the advantage of eventual winner Donny Lia when it came to battling with Todd Szegedy and Jerry Marquis for the victory.

“The cautions helped me,” said Lia.  “Restarts at this place are all about track position. Like when I got by Jerry, it was just that Todd was getting underneath him and I was trying to fill the hole. We were in the right place at the right time plenty of times today. We needed every piece of that to win because this place is so hard to pass in. You have to take every opportunity you can in restarting. If you are behind someone and they are trying to make a move on somebody, you need to really get in there and fill that hole. You are not going to get that opportunity very often.”
The restarts didn’t work out so well for Mike Stefanik in the #16 Modified, who led early in the race and ended up finishing fourth.

“Todd got by Jerry and filled the hole - the 16 on the restart, we got him hung out. It is just being in the right place at the right time really. That was definitely on more then one occasion. We were on the outside a few times just as well. We lost some spots on restarts and there were others where we gained some spots, so it was just a hell of a race. I can not wait to watch it. We came from the back and I guess that there is no better way to win then that. I am just so happy.”
Lia's #4  (Howie Hodge Photo)
The facts of the Wall race were that the flash format was used for the first time and that the heat and feature races were a wreckfest.

Most people put two and two together and blamed the format for the ugly race.  Eddie Flemke thought that the causes might be a little more than that.

“It turned out exactly like we thought it was going to be. And it was not just the flash format,” said Flemke.  “I have to be honest with that. We all forgot the last race here was the worst race that we have ever had in the history of the Tour. It has a lot to do with the facility. I am not blaming the race track. It is a beautiful race track and the fans are great. It is all a good place. However, these cars are just too fast for this race track. Just like Riverhead, we are too fast for the race track. We just need to slow these things down at certain race tracks.  Even though I think the format stunk, it was not just the format.”



With a handful of laps to go in the Spring Sizzler, Todd Szegedy found himself and his #2 Wisk Modified in the lead with a rapidly charging Donny Lia in his mirror.  Instead of blocking Lia though, Szegedy ran him hard and clean, which on this day would only be good enough for second place.

“If there were only two laps to go I may have blocked him, but we still had a few to go. My car was good at the initial restart, but then it would fade after three laps. It would fade a lot and then it would come back again, but not enough so that I could start catching guys. So if they pulled me four or five cars, I could not catch back up but I could maintain my speed.

“He did defensive driving. I tried to get him, I could not get him. If we had a couple more laps maybe. My car was inconsistent and when I dropped off sometimes it would be good.

“So we have some homework to do with the chassis a little bit. We had a great car though. We finished second. If I was in the middle of the pack I do not know if I could have got back up there again.

"The pit stop played a big role. The guys did a heck of a job getting us out of the pits. We passed almost everybody going to the pits. That is what really saved us.  We maybe had a top five car. But I think we got a top five because of track position in the pits.”

Todd Szegedy settles in before the start of the Spring Sizzler.  (Top - 51 Photo).  Later on, he would battle with Donny Lia (#4) for the victory.  (Bottom - Mary Hodge Photo)
For the second straight race, Bobby Grigas, III earned the Tour’s Sunoco Rookie of the Race award.  This time, his result was an 11th-place finish in the Spring Sizzler.

Grigas looked like anything but a rookie during his race.  He stayed out of trouble, raced when it was appropriate and conserved his car when that strategy was best. 
Bobby Grigas, III goes for a Stafford slide.  He rebounded well from this incident though.  (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Early in the event, Grigas communicated to the team exactly what the car was doing so that they could improve its handling.  Late in the race, he had to endure a car that was on the same left side tires as it started the event on.  The culprit for that was a mid-race caution when NASCAR went back to green sooner than expected, leaving the #09 team without enough time to make more than a two-tire pit stop.

“The car wasn’t great at the beginning, but the team worked and worked all day,” said Grigas.  “At the end, it was a rocket.  If we could have gotten the left side tires changed, it would have been a top-five car.  The car got very loose at the end, so I just wanted to bring it home in one piece and earn respect from the Whelen Tour drivers.” 

Matt Hirschman takes his #59 for a spin at Wall.  (Rick Ibsen Photo)
It’s already well-known that the flash race format at wall was not popular among the competitors of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.  Jerry Marquis minced no words when he was asked about the race after its conclusion.

“They need to flush the flash,” said Marquis.  “Everybody that I have talked to said that it was sick. And it was sick. This is just one of those things. This is ridiculous. This is not Tour racing. This is Saturday night racing. And even Saturday night racing I think has more respect then what happened here today. The situation is that everyone knows that they have fifty laps to do it in. And if goes green and you get messed up then you are screwed. If you do not pass cars right away then you are going to wind up being back there because cars can pass on this passing. It is attrition, it is not a race that you can expect longevity is going put everything to the top. They say cream rises to the top. Well tonight there was no cream rising to the top.”

Matt Hirschman is a young driver who has done quite a bit of Modified racing already.  He’s been to some of the biggest open shows out there and won, as shown by his victories in last year’s North-South Shootout and Mason-Dixon Meltdown.  He also races on the RoC Modified circuit and in an SK Modified when his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule allows him to.

So Hirschman knows all about racing under various formats and he is not a fan of running heat races on the Modified Tour.

“In a nutshell, this series is too competitive for heat races,” said Hirschman.  “That basically is the bottom line. The competition and the drivers are so good, that a heat race does not really make sense because it is too competitive for that. When you race Saturday night weekly you have maybe five good cars. If you are one of those five good cars you will pass, because there are not that many other good cars. But here, there are a lot of good cars and a heat race does not make sense.”
Flemke's #10 is stuck in the middle of this Wall mess.  (Howie Hodge Photo)
The Wall race actually worked out pretty well for Hirschman, who finished well within the top 10.

“Other then that, coming out of here with a sixth place finish, I am not complaining. We had our race and we will take a sixth and go.”