THOMPSON WORLD SERIES LEFTOVERS, PART ONE by Mike Twist
Stefanik Looking, Szegedy Deciding, Hirschman Planning and More
THOMPSON WINNER LOOKING FOR A RIDE
After winning the race, Mike Stefanik revealed that he won’t be returning to the #16 car next season. Stefanik drove the car in a partial schedule of NASCAR Modified Series events this year, with Rob Summers filling in on races that conflicted with Stefanik’s full-time gig as driver of the #55 Busch North car.
Next season team owner and former #16 driver Chris Kopec will be back in the car, leaving Stefanik looking for a new place to hang his helmet.
“We needed a win for this team and it’s nice to go out on a high note,” said Stefanik. “Chris will be back in the #16 full-time and I need to go shopping. This lets me go shopping on a high note.”
With five series titles and 66 career Modified Series victories on his resume, one does not expect Stefanik to be ride hunting for very long.
Stefanik runs on the inside of Todd Szegedy (#50). (Howie Hodge Photo)
WILL SZEGEDY STAY OR WILL HE GO?
In other silly season news, there might be another high profile ride up for grabs in the off season. The #50 car owned by Don Barker and currently driven by Todd Szegedy has been the topic of many rumors lately. The stories go that Szegedy is leaving the ride to move south and everyone from Chuck Hossfeld to Matt Hirschman to Doug Coby have been mentioned in pit area scuttlebutt as taking over the ride next year.
Although he was disappointed about not winning the championship, Flemke was philosophical about his loss.
“Bottom line, it just wasn’t meant to be this year,” said Flemke.
NO TROUBLE HERE
When Ted Christopher went spinning after contact from behind by Chuck Hossfeld, it looked like trouble. The duo had their share a bad blood with each other earlier this season and it looked like it was continuing at Thompson.
But the rumor mill isn’t always accurate and Szegedy hasn’t even gone on record yet that he won’t be back in a Modified for 2005. Speed 51 caught up with Szegedy at Thompson and asked him point blank what his plans for next season are and he was open with his goals.
“Honestly, I don’t know yet,” said Szegedy of his 2005 plans. “I will probably know more when I go down for the North South Shootout. I have nothing lined up for next year. I’ll probably make a 100% effort to try and get a deal in the Busch Series. I might have to go down there and show my face. It might be a chance that I need to take.”
A large part of Szegedy’s motivation to move south is to make a living driving racecars.
Without a back-up the #48 team had to fix what they broke at the track if things when wrong - like in a Thompson 300 heat race. (51 Photo)
FLEMKE COMES CLOSE TO A GOOD DAY
Eddie Flemke started 24th in the field and had to really perform if he wanted a chance at the championship. He entered the event 30 points behind Hirschman and needed to finish well ahead of his rival to take the series crown.
The seat of the #50 might be up for grabs next season. (51 Photo)
“If I had a college education and I made good money, I’d still run the Modifieds,” said Szegedy. “It’s the best NASCAR division out there. I don’t make gobs of money and I want to race for a living, so the only divisions where I can do that is the Busch Series and Nextel Cup.”
Szegedy has been able to network this season by driving three Busch Series races for Joe Nemechek’s team. He has also been able to get plenty of guidance from long time friend Jerry Nadeau. These things have helped him, but not sealed a deal yet.
“Knowing Jerry and running the races this year has helped open some doors,” said Szegedy. “But bringing some money down there would open even more doors. Now that I have experience in a Busch car, if I had money to bring it would probably get me in almost any ride.”
HIRSCHMAN LOOKS TOWARD NEXT SEASON
Published reports last week indicated that Tony Hirschman might be thinking of retiring after this season, whether or not he won the championship. Speed 51 learned that he probably won’t hang it up, but he does hope to make some changes for next season and beyond after winning the NASCAR Modified Series title with a single car, no back-ups, in his shop.
“I’m going to take care of this stuff (the championship) and then talk about what’s going on for next year,” said Hirschman. “They will probably leave it up to me what I want to do again. This is a lot of work. You spend a lot of time at home in the garage every night. I think if we do it again, there are a few things that we can do to make it a little easier next year.
Another car would make it easier on those three days deals at Loudon. Knowing that we have another car that we can race if we get one hurt bad would help. We took one car and ran the whole season and only had to bend a few things out all year.”
that he was working with for the upcoming North South Shootout was able to put together a last minute entry. Coby ended up at Thompson in the potent Chase #77 car, but it took some work.
“The car was not sitting there ready to go for this race,” said Coby. “We worked on it and thrashed to get it done and everything came out right. I really have to thank the Chases for all of their hard work.”
Coby also had a little help from another friend and competitor.
“This is the same seat that I used at Loudon driving Zach’s (Sylvester) car,” said Coby. “The only seat that I own is in my SK Modified (which Coby also raced at the World Series), so I have to thank him for that.”
The pairing of Coby and the Chase team had a successful first outing together. Coby qualified fourth, ran in the top pack of cars before getting bounced off the turn four wall and rebounding to finish seventh.
Coby and the Chase team have at least one more future race planned. They will team up for next month’s North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsports Park (NC).
“It’s cool to have some time to work together before the North South shootout,” said Coby. “Our original plan was just to go down there and this is a bonus.”
Flemke was a man on a mission early on, passing ten cars in the first 17 laps. He made it to the top five before the field got bunched up on a restart and Flemke’s car damaged its steering rack.
Still, the second generation driver did all that he could do in the race and was satisfied with that fact.
“If you wrote the script, with the exception of the ending, it was a perfect day,” said Flemke. “We looked good, we had the fastest car and we were the best thing out there. We just didn’t have the luck.”
Flemke's team surveys the damage to their #79 car. (Howie Hodge Photo)
COBY SCRAMBLES FOR A RIDE
Silly Season started a week early for Doug Coby. He was released from the King Motorsports #28 ride on Wednesday night before Thompson. Sitting solidly in the top fifteen of points, Coby did not want to sit out of the race, so he started working the phones.
But that was far from true. The real culprit for the incident was an innocent flat tire.
“We had a right rear go flat,” said Christopher. “That caused the spin. My tire was going flat and I slowed down and he (Hossfeld) got into the back of me.”
Christopher was pretty discouraged with his final Modified Series race of 2004.
“It’s not the way that you want to end it,” said Christopher. “We had tire problems and then mechanical problems. Shit happens and that’s it.”
Doug Coby fit right into his new ride. (51 Photo)
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Ted Christopher had tire problems send him the wrong way. (Howie Hodge Photo)
“It took lots of phone calls,” said Coby. “I sort of started a phone tree. I called five or six people that I knew who had connections and they called five or six people and it went from there. I didn’t know if I would be able to, but I figured at the very least I could call around and see if someone wanted a guaranteed starting spot. I knew that being 13th in driver’s points; I would probably have a provisional. I figured that I could drive until the first caution and get out so they would get the experience and the check and I would get the points.”
However, a better alternative came up for Coby. The team