Szegedy Wakes Up Fans With Thompson Mod Tour Victory by Mike Twist
TC Dominates, But Pits Late For Some Added Drama
Todd Szegedy's #2 was the winning mount at Thompson. (Rick Ibsen Photos)
“Todd just got me on that restart,” said Silk. “I spun the tires real bad. It was my fault, Todd was on 150 lap [old] tires too, and that cost us the race.”
“I rang the tires a couple of times under the caution to get them hot,” said Szegedy. “Silk never did that and he spun them pretty hard. I spun mine too, but not as hard as he did. He kept a lot of heat in them.”
Deeper in the pack, Renee Dupuis went around coming out of turn three and Christopher managed to sneak back into the top 10. Silk got another chance to stay out front when he was placed in the lead again for the resulting restart, but once again, Szegedy took the lead. It wasn't very long until the caution flag…well actually the red flag…came out again. This time, it was for a hard wreck in turn one by Glen Reen. The impact, and a resulting brief fire, looked scary, but Reen emerged uninjured from his car. Meanwhile, TC had grabbed another position on the racetrack in a race to get back to the front before the laps ran out.
Lately, Ted Christopher has been on a mission to single-handedly put the fans of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to sleep whenever a race is run. TC led every lap of the most recent event at Mansfield Motorsports Park (OH), and then he paced the first 123 laps of this weekend's race at Thompson International Speedway (CT). The 150-lap WMT race headlined the track's Modified Mania weekend of competition.
Christopher woke fans up though with just 26 laps to go at Thompson when he gave up the lead to pit under caution. Even though Christopher is in the middle of a points battle, he showed that his number one priority is still to win races. So instead of taking a near-certain top three or top five finish, he rolled the dice big time to try and win the race by having the best car possible at the end.
“We just decided to pit,” said Christopher. “There are a lot of different ways to look at it. Do you stay out there and be vulnerable or do you come in? We felt that there were enough laps [to make it back to the lead], but everyone kept jerking around on the starts and it didn't end up that way. It sucks when you have that dominant of a racecar and get ready to lap the field, but you don't win.”
“I was shocked that Teddy came in because he was pulling away from all of us,” said Szegedy. “I wasn't pushing it either. I could have gone a little harder and was definitely saving the equipment in case we did stay out. But we watched the guys who had taken tires and weren't coming back through the field. So we decided that we'd better just stay out.”
Christopher's pit stop handed the lead to Ronnie Silk, but he didn't keep it for very long.
On the restart, Silk buzzed his tires and Todd Szegedy took over the lead.
Fans who dozed off during the early part of Sunday's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race might have been a bit surprised if they woke up like Rip Van Winkle after the race was over and saw Todd Szegedy in victory lane. After all, Szegedy wasn't in command of the race until the very end and to be honest, up that point, the race was a bit of a snoozer.
After Christopher (#36) pitted, he got a little bit aggressive. Maybe too aggressive. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
“Track position was everything today,” said Szegedy. “I didn't have the best car, but I did have the best team. I wasn't the fastest guy out there, but the team made the right call by staying out. Then again, maybe I had a faster car than I realized.”
If Szegedy didn't have the quickest car, but still won, it may have made up for the many times this year when he had a winning racecar but found victory lane blocked.
“It's nice to finally get one. I was really getting worried that we wouldn't get one. I have so much confidence in this team. But I need to build up my own confidence, because I bash myself pretty hard all of the time. I'm not afraid to admit when I screw up and I screw up a lot. The team does their job and anyone could drive the cars that I drive. I've lost a few of them for the guys this year and we also had a few taken away.”
Szegedy might not have to wait long for 2008 victory number two though. This week, he'll head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway - where he is the defending winner of the September Modified Tour event.
Christopher might have gotten a little too ambitious though. He made contact with Mike Stefanik inside of 10 laps to go. Stefanik spun and the cars of Bobby Grigas, Bobby Santos, Tony Ferrante and Ken Heagy were also collected. Christopher's net gain on this incident was zero. He maintained he ninth position as valuable laps clicked off under caution.
Meanwhile, out front it was still the Szegedy and Silk show. Over the next three laps, they both ran clean and hard. The two were bumper to bumper and at one point nerf bar to nerf bar in a battle for the lead. But Christopher wasn't done making noise. While battling three-wide down the backstretch, Christopher helped turn Chuck Hossfeld around. He was then collected himself in the incident and both drivers dropped out of the top 10. What would have been a miracle run to the front now turned impossible and on the restart, the spotlight returned to the Szegedy vs. Silk battle for victory.
A green, white, checkered finish brought the race into extra laps. Szegedy kept his advantage and won over Silk, Doug Coby, Reggie Ruggiero and Rick Fuller.
Billy Pauch, Jr.'s #06 runs in a tight pack at Thompson. (Ken Spring Photo)
PAUCH PACKS A PUNCH AT THOMPSON
Billy Pauch, Jr. had a great day at Thompson. First, he finished fifth in the RoC Modified feature. Then, he notched a sixth-place finish in his #06 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour entry.
“I couldn't be happier for these Greenfield Dodge guys,” said Pauch. “We were good at Mansfield too. I ran third, but finished back around 11th. I always said that once we got there, we'd be pretty good and today we were.”
In fact, Pauch's finish in the WMT race could have been even better since he ran well within the top five for much of the race.
“It could have been,” said Pauch. “I tired to pass Rick (Fuller) with a few laps to go and I got up in the marbles. I knocked the toe-in out with 10 to go and it was real bad at the
end. I got caught between Teddy [Christopher] and Chuckie [Hossfeld] and I got caught in the left rear and that swung me around.”
IRONMAN JIMMY BLEWETT
There was enough back-to-back racing between the Sunoco Modified feature, RoC Modified race, True Value Modified Racing Series feature and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour show to wear out even the most hardcore fan. Those four events had a total of 350 green flag advertised laps, with a few more thrown in after green, white, checkered finishes.
One driver took part in all four races - Jimmy Blewett.
Blewett won the Sunoco Modified race, placed second in the RoC show and then dropped out early in the TVMRS and WMT events. Still, he wasn't showing any wear after all four events were in the books.
“I could still go another round or two…maybe even three of four,” said Blewett. “The guys gave me good cars all day. We just had mechanical problems in the last two races and couldn't rebound from it. But it was a good day.”
Did that mean that Blewett was fit to wheel a Pro Four or Thompson Modified perhaps? Bring it on he said.
“If I had one, I'd be out there,” said Blewett.
What might have been even more impressive though was that all four racecars that Blewett ran came out of the same Grasso Brothers/TS Haulers shops and were crewed by the same guys.
“My hat's off to those guys,” said Blewett. “They do a great job week in and week out. To field four cars, you really have to give it to them.”
A FIREY EXIT FOR REEN
When NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rookie Glen Reen lasted visited Thompson, he
seemed to be on fire. Reen ran with the leaders all race long and despite having a
damaged front end, took home an impressive sixth place finish.
On his latest trip to Thompson though, Reen was literally on fire. This time, a flat tire
led to a hard wreck that left Reen uninjured, but his #17 Modified in rough shape.
The wreck occurred just as Reen was starting to make his way through the pack to
another possible top-10 finish.
“I was searching a lot [early in the race],” said Reen. “My spotter, Randy, was helping
me a lot out there. I couldn't find a good line until our last run there. I finally found that
line and we pitted for two tires. After that, the car was great and easily capable of
another top 10 finish and maybe even a top five.
“Then there was another wreck on the backstretch when Beers hit the wall. Reggie
Ruggiero got through that by the skin of our teeth, but my right front just tagged the wall.
I guess it was hard enough to go flat because when I crossed the start-finish line, I saw it was flat. I knew right then and there, that it wasn't going to be good. So I tried to get the car slowed down as much as I could, but with the right front, it wasn't stopping. So I turned it as far right as I could so I'd hit from 10 feet out instead of 50 feet. At the last moment, I let go of the wheel and went into the fetal position.”
Reen hit the outside wall and slid along it through the first turn. Then a fire erupted under his hood and Reen wasted no time exiting his racecar.
“I saw the fire and I don't remember anything other than pulling the fire bottle and taking the window net down. I was out of there!”
Now after one good race and one bad race at Thompson, just what is Reen's opinion of the track?
“I still hate Thompson,” Reen laughed. “I was feeling better about this track after our last finish here, but now I'm definitely back to hating it. We just don't get along.”
Glen Reen had a hot time at Thompson. (Jamie Williams Photo)