CT---------Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT wanted to give his crew chief, Phil
Moran another win before the season ended and Szegedy knew Stafford was just the
place to do it.
Szegedy wired the Carquest Fall Final on a cold, blustery day closing out the
season and he did give Moran a going away present. Moran, a longtime modified
crew chief is leaving to work at Bill Davis Racing working under Tom Baldwin,
Jr. next year. "I have to thank Phil for putting a great car underneath me
today." Todd said of his second tour win of the year. "To go on one set of
tires, it was awesome but at the end, Ken Barry gave me all I could to hold on
for the win."
Ken Barry matched his career finish with second with Zack Sylvester third, Tony
Hirschman fourth and fifth to John Blewett, III. Szegedy, the 2003 champion
returned to run the full season this year and despite only two wins, Todd was
happy with the way things out, especially, with a new car owner in Mike
Smeriglio. "The car was perfectly balanced today. We can't wait to get started
for next season." It was then that Todd, who had a short lived life in the
south, won't have Phil Moran, a class act as well as a respected chew chief.
"You know that drivers from here can't go down south with a good resume but a
crew chief or crew member can. Phil deserves to be down south, he certainly
While Szegedy led the entire 150 laps, the last 30 laps were an adventure for
Todd as he fought off Ken Barry. Szegedy's car was going by the wayside and
Barry was applying heavy pressure, actually getting into Szegedy with seven laps
remaining. "With about 30 laps to go, if you asked me if I was going to win, I
would have said I didn't know. Ken is a good driver and he did what he needed to
do but I wanted to make sure that I didn't give him the inside and I slowed down
a little getting into the turns." While Ken Barry has struggled in 2006, the
second place was something that Ken said the team could build off of heading
into next season. "We sure did crash a lot of cars." Ken said with a slight
laugh. "We had something for Todd but not at the right spots. I have too much
respect for Todd to get into him and knock him out of the way for the win."
"This car today was rebuilt from Thompson and it performed good, so hopefully,
we got the monkey off our backs."
When the green flag flew on the final race of the season, it was Szegedy jumping
out right away but three quick cautions in the first 22 laps kept the field at a
snails pace. On lap 30, the fourth caution of the day appeared when Chuck
Hossfeld, who might have been the happiest person to see the season end with his
lousy luck in the Roger Hill owned modified slowed off turn four. Reggie
Ruggiero, with nowhere to go climbed right over the rear tires of Hossfeld and
slammed the wall. Hossfeld continued but Ruggiero, who had just climbed into the
top ten, was through. Teddy Christopher in his final ride in the Ed Whelen owned
modified was now in second and beginning to ride the rear bumper of Szegedy but
on lap 40, TC slowly began to back up and on lap 50, Christopher slapped the
first turn wall hard ending his day. Christopher must have had something break
on the car as it just snapped out from under him. That caution sent many of the
lead lapped cars to the pits for tires but Szegedy stayed out, the course of
action the team decided upon before the race started. On lap 59, Matt Hirschman
brought out a caution with a spin in three. The top five on lap 60 were Szegedy,
John Blewett, III, Donny Lia, Tony Hirschman and Ronnie Silk. Everything stayed
status quo for the next 16 laps but another caution just past the halfway marker
slowed the field when Danny Sammons looped his #0 off turn four. Eddie Flemke,
Jr., third in the points championship pitted for a third time and the hard work
of the crew would pay dividends at the end with a ninth place finish and he
edged out Ted Christopher for second in the points run by a single digit. The
modified drivers finally got into a good rhythm and ran the next 47 laps under
green conditions but again it was Szegedy setting a solid pace. John Blewett
pitted on lap 76 and slowly moved back into the top seven, getting past Jerry
Marquis with 31 markers left. The final caution came on the track on lap 127 and
that was the last thing that Szegedy wanted to see. With Szegedy setting the
pace and Barry running a strong second, Zack Sylvester was a strong third,
everyone was wondering if Szegedy had enough to hold off Barry. Mike Stefanik,
who ran in and out of the fifth through seventh spot a good portion of the day,
was running another solid race in the sixth spot. But the day would belong to
Szegedy, despite Barry scaring Todd a little; it was the former champion giving
his crew chief a great going away present. The rest of the top ten was Mike
Stefanik, Donny Lia, Ronnie Silk, Eddie Flemke, Jr., and Jerry Marquis. "I just
wanted to drive smooth the final laps. I didn't want to make any mistakes and
not spin the tires and I was able to do that and I'm glad were able to give Phil
something to get through the winter."
MOD SERIES NOTES
For young Zack Sylvester, it was a good solid run for the team that suffered
through a lot of tough luck in 2006. "We can't complain about this one. We've
had a good car everytime here (Stafford) this year. This was a good job by all
of the guys at the shop and at the track."
For Mike Stefanik, it was a ho-hum day with really no excitement after wrapping
up the title when he took the green flag at the start of the race. "We came here
relaxed and ready to race and race just for the shear fun of it." Mike told the
media in the media center after clinching his seventh NASCAR modified tour title
and his ninth overall when adding in his two Busch East titles. When he was
reminded of tieing Richie Evans for the most titles of any driver in the history
of NASCAR racing, he said he felt humbled. "We had to do something in the
clubhouse here and I looked at Richie's picture and his eyes. Richie was one of
the drivers who gave me a break early in my career and I am humbled to be
mentioned with Richie." "Richie was the man. I can't compare myself to Richie
Evans. It's also a different time and different way to determine a champion."
Stefanik thanked car owner, Eric Sanderson for giving him the opportunity to
drive for the team. We'll have more on Stefanik in the next couple of weeks on
yet another title.
It appears the modifieds are going to be apart of the Toyota Showdown series
next fall and it could end up at a couple of southern tracks with South Boston
and Myrtle Beach, SC mentioned.
Rumor also had it the modifieds will run both races at the New Hampshire
International Speedway on Saturday next season.
The Carquest Fall Final was the fourth and final tour race at Stafford for the
2006 season. Winners of previous races at the half-mile oval were Doug Coby
winning the Spring Sizzler, John Blewett, III won the Connecticut Classic 150
while rookie James Civali captured the 150 lapper in August. Civali also became
the 25th different winner in a tour race at Jack Arute's speedway. The purse for
the Carquest Fall Final 150 was $83,893. Tony Hirschman is the defending
champion of this event.
There have been 81 previous modified tour races at Stafford since the 1985
season. There were no races at Stafford in 1988. Driver's still competing on the
tour that have won the Carquest Fall Final include former modified tour
champion, Wayne Anderson in 1994. Tony Hirschman is a three-time winner with
wins in 1999, 2005 and 2005. Jerry Marquis, 2000 and 2003 and Reggie Ruggiero
1987 and 1989 are two time winners. Jamie Tomaino has one win in 1986 while Mike
Stefanik is the big winner in this event with wins in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995,
1998 and 2002.
The modified tour is now off until Saturday, December 16, 2006 when the annual
awards banquet takes place at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. The
event is by invitation only.
Photo Credit: Fran Lawlor