BRISTOL, Tenn. — At the end of the 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, Todd Szegedy made the decision to exit one of the most famous rides in modified history.
He stepped out of the famed Mystic Missile No. 4 and left team owner Bob Garbarino searching a driver for the 2016 season. Eventually, after a long search that lasted until the final few weeks before the season-opening IceBreaker, Jimmy Blewett ended up getting the call to replace Szegedy.
The move Szegedy made wasn’t because he was displeased with how things were going, though. Instead it was because he wanted to spend more time away from the track with his family, do some traveling and simply have a different perspective on life.
At that point, he did make it clear he would still like to compete in a few races over the course of the season, including the top-tier races like New Hampshire and Bristol, in order to keep the racing that he loves so much in his blood.
So far in 2016, his decision has proven to have been a good one.
He opened the season at the Stafford Motor Speedway ‘Spring Sizzler’ with a strong qualifying effort and a third place finish in the second race of the NWMT season. He followed that up by taking all the NWMT races off until New Hampshire in July, where he was able to finish 10th at the conclusion of the New England 100.
In between that time on the NWMT, Szegedy did compete in racing action — and he was victorious. He rolled into Claremont Speedway in June, subbing for Woody Pitkat (who was away at Stafford chasing points), and scored the victory in the Stebbins Racing No. 52. In just a handful of starts, Szegedy had captured victory for the first time in 2016 in impressive fashion.
Last Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Szegedy rolled into a NWMT race for just the third time this season. He stepped back behind the wheel of the LFR Chassis mount, this time with Tony Eury Jr. making the adjustments and calls from the top of the pit box for him.
The former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief who works behind the scenes at LFR in Mooresville, N.C. busted out of the shop and showed why he is one of the best at what he does.
Szegedy was fast right from the start of the first practice, immediately showing he hadn’t missed a beat and was going to be a threat to get the job done in the Bush’s Beans 150 later in the evening. He hit the track in qualifying and showed he had both the car and the guts to travel quickly around the famed colosseum.
Szegedy powered around Bristol wide-open and put the car on the top of the leaderboard, scoring the pole with a blistering track record around the 0.533-mile high-banks.
“It’s awesome (to win the pole at Bristol),” Szegedy said. “I’ve always loved this track. It’s my favorite track that we run, and I have a good average here … except for getting wrecked out early last year. The multiple racing grooves and the sheer speed of the track are a lot of fun, and hopefully we can have fun and get ourselves a win at the end of 150 laps.”
It was a solid race for the No. 05 15-40 Connection modified. Szegedy started on the front row, then quickly got to the lead and held the advantage for much of the race. Once the rains came and then the race resumed later in the night, Szegedy fell back into the clutches of Eric Goodale.
Even though Goodale passed him and ended up going on to victory lane for just the second time in his career, Szegedy was still thrilled with the finish.
“Eric had the better car, all I could do was drive as hard as I could and hang onto it,” Szegedy said. “I tried to keep him behind me, but he was just too good through the center. But there’s nothing you can do, all you can do is drive as hard as you can and not wreck the car and that’s what I did tonight.”
Szegedy is no stranger to success on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. In 205 career starts, he has scored 19 victories and 11 poles, along with 129 top-10 finishes. In a long, storied career that has lasted since 2000 and has included a championship trophy in 2003, Szegedy has finished inside the top-10 in 63 percent of his starts.
Though the 40-year-old may not compete full-time in 2016, the future is an unknown. He isn’t sure what is on the horizon following the remainder of the season.
“Maybe if I’m back here (at Bristol) next year I will have another shot of winning,” Szegedy said. “I just have no idea what the future holds.”
While he may not know what the future holds, the present is definitely showing that cutting back has — at least, so far — been a recipe for success.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Kyle Souza is an aspiring Journalism major at the Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. Souza is Race Chaser Online’s New England motorsports insider, covering everything from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and the PASS North Super Late Models.
When not writing, Souza works at the Seekonk Speedway as the track’s Friday night public address announcer and press writer, and is also the Media Director for both the Granite State Pro Stock Series and the Tri Track Open Modified Series.
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