Monday September 17, 2007

By Brian Danko                                                                       

LOUDON, NH. -------------Todd Szegedy knew that someday he might win a race at the New Hampshire International Speedway. He sure found enough ways not to win them before. But on Saturday afternoon, Szegedy made all the right moves to hold off a last lap charge by Donny Lia and Ronnie Silk to win the weather shortened New Hampshire 100 which was cut to 75 laps before the race started.

"I've been second a lot of times here. I've been airborne before on last lap battles and I've screwed up on last laps." Todd said smiling. Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT knew that the last few laps of the modified race would be entertaining, they usually are. The last laps featured Szegedy, Silk, Lia and Bobby Santos, III, as all four cars broke away to settle it among themselves and Szegedy knew what not to do on the last lap, and that was give the guys behind him an opportunity.

As the cars were heading into turn three, Szegedy dropped low to block the move of Ronnie Silk while Lia, the point's leaders attempted a move on the outside but the former modified tour champion didn't flinch in recording on of his biggest wins. Szegedy held his line and then forced Silk and Lia to fight it out for second with Silk inching ahead at the finish line for his career best finish. Santos, the young phenomenal driver was fourth. "You can't say that you are going to go out here and win. Those last few laps it's always anybody's race. I said earlier that half our accomplishment was over when we qualified on the pole."

The modified race at NHIS, which for years was the best race of the weekend, had suffered a bit of an image problem at the big track. And early Saturday in the race, it seemed that it would be another ugly modified race but thankfully for the 31,000 fans it was worth the money and the long wait.

The day started off with low clouds and mist, which turned into rain but the forecast was for clearing skies later in the day. Thankfully for everyone concerned, it did but this time NASCAR officials said before the race that because of time constraints the modified race would be 75 laps while NHIS officials still had a USAC Silver Crown race to hold following the modified event.

The first 35 laps might have been the worst ever put on at the New Hampshire Speedway while the last 40 were what fans and competitors alike have come to know, flat out racing just inches apart. The story though was Szegedy and Silk over the last 40 laps as the two friends fought for every lap while Santos and Lia were in the cat birds seat just waiting for a chance to pounce. Despite Silk's lack of experience at New Hampshire, he stayed on Szegedy's bumper and never allowed him to open up a lead. "I've never really done that before, battling in the lead like that. We had a great car. I was just happy to be in a position where I could have a chance to win the race." Silk said after the race. While he said many times, he was thrilled with second, he also said he would be kicking himself all night thinking about what could have been. "I had one of my best runs all day coming off turn two on the last lap. Todd pulled down in turn three at the end to protect his position and it killed my run but that's what you do." While Szegedy was the leader, his car was tight running out front and Todd figured that he was a sitting duck but this time, the modified gods smiled on him as he recorded his 12th career win. That tied his with the late Richie Evans and George Kent for 13th on the all time win list. "I just can't believe those guys didn't get by me. I did everything I could that last lap to block and that's usually not like me. I've come so close to winning last lap battles before here, I was going to do everything I could to win this race."

For point's leader, Donny Lia, who won the race here in June, was happy to challenge for the win at the end that was because of a loose condition on his car. "I really couldn't hit the throttle, couldn't really get back in the gas pedal and drive up off the corners. I was just taking what I could get, staying in the draft and staying out of trouble." That 'staying out of trouble' could propel the Jericho, NY driver to his first championship along with car owner Bob Garbarino. "When Todd pulled down to block, I went to the outside and I had a shot to win but we didn't have the car."

The modified race was scheduled for 1 p.m. but with the light rain and cold conditions coming in, it was doubtful early in the day, if the event might get in at all.  Around noon, the skies began to lighten and about 1:15, the sun began to break through but with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series scheduled for live TV at 3 p.m., officials decided to move the modified race until after the Truck 200 lap event and shorten it to 75 laps.

The race started about 5:20 and it was Szegedy and Ron Yuhas, Jr. on the pole with Szegedy getting the top spot but on lap 4, the first caution would fly for an accident in turn one, involving Rowan Pennink, Dick Houlihan and Danny Sammons. That took nearly 10 laps to clean up and then once the green returned to the track, James Civali got into Yuhas, who qualified second, in turn two and sent Yuhas sideways against the wall. NASCAR officials decided to give Civali a stop and go penalty.

J.J. Yeley, the Nextel Cup regular and former open wheel star made his first attempt in the NASCAR modified and he appeared to be leaking fluid as they went back to green on lap 21. The liquid continued to pour out and as several cars were exiting turn four, many got caught up in a multi car accident that took out Matt Hirschman, Reggie Ruggiero, Yuhas, Mike Christopher, Ken Bouchard and Ron Savery. That took many minutes to clean as officials from USAC were watching the daylight dwindling away and many wondered if the USAC Silver sprint cars, which towed all the way from the mid-west would be odd man out this day.

After one more spin for Ryan Preece on lap 32, thankfully, the modifieds put on the show that they are known for as it went caution free the remaining 40 laps. Szegedy and Silk would be the dominate cars and the two would swap the lead seven times until the end of the race as the crowd stayed on their feet the last 30 laps. On lap 52, Yeley retired the 7NY, rebuilt as a replica to Tom Baldwin's car of year's part. The top five on lap 60 were Szegedy, Silk, Santos, Lia, and Ted Christopher while waiting in the wings were Jimmy Blewett, James Civali and Tony Hirschman. As the cars entered turn two, T.C's cars dropped to the bottom of the track and he retired from the event but that killed any chance of Blewett and Civali joining the lead four cars. As the five to go marker was shown by the starter, it was still Szegedy, Silk, Santos and Lia but on lap 73, Lia made a move to drop Santos, driving the Boehler Family #3 to fourth. As they exited turn two on the final lap, it appeared the Silk and Lia would team up on Szegedy. But this time, he wasn't about to let another NHIS win slip through his fingers and took the checkered just .202 seconds ahead of Silk, Lia, Santos and taking fifth was Jimmy Blewett. The remainder of the top ten was Civali for sixth, Tony Hirschman, Andrew Seuss, Mike Stefanik and Robert Grigas.

The win for Szegedy also netted the Wisk/Snuggles team over $15,700. And kept his chances to catching alive but know with just three races remaining in the 2007 season.

Donny Lia finished 20th in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race and did himself proud after starting dead last on the field. The race was a blow out as Ron Hornaday led 174 of the 200 laps for the win. Lia just needs to finish in the top 10 the next three races to win the 2007 championship.

Bobby Santos, III, grandson of the late Frito Bandito, Bobby Santos, a former modified terror in the northeast was fourth but couldn't stay long in the media center as he was off to Seekonk to run a midget race. Santos is a driver to keep yours eyes on.

The NASCAR Whelen modified tour was the 46th race all time at the 1.058-mile speedway located just 20 minutes from the state capital of Concord. The race carried a purse of $164,095. Ronnie Silk took home $11,200 for second with Lia earning $8,200 for third.

As always, New Hampshire is a great chance to meet up with many friends who now work down south on the Nextel Cup, Busch or Truck series teams.

Todd Szegedy captured his first ever pole at the New Hampshire Speedway, the fastest and longest track that the modifieds compete on. Todd's speed was 128.135 MPH. Second was surprising Ron Yuhas, Jr with a speed of 128.015 while current points leader, Donny Lia was third at 127.658. The rest of the top ten were Tony Hirschman, J.J. Yeley, Charlie Pasteryak, Ronnie Silk, James Civali, Ryan Preece and Bobby Santos, III.

In other qualifying results, Ted Christopher was 16th quickest with Mike Stefanik, 22nd and Reggie Ruggiero 35th. A total of 40 cars took the green flag.

Matt Hirschman, third in the current modified points lost the motor in his modified and elected not to take time and start at the back of the back.

Speaking of Yeley, this is his first time ever in a modified. The current Nextel Cup driver is a former open wheel stand out from Phoenix, AZ. The car was build by Kevin "Bono" Manion and Gary Putnam. Both are graduates of the modified tour with Manion, current crew chief for Martin Truex, Jr. while Putnam was crew chief for Charlie Pasteryak.

Unofficial Results, Results Not Final Until Tuesday

New Hampshire 75
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
New Hampshire International Speedway
Saturday, September 15

Lap length: 1.058 miles
(Start position in parentheses)

1 (1) Todd Szegedy, Ridgefield, Conn., Ford, 75 laps, 106.391 mph, $15,700.
2 (7) Ronnie Silk, Norwalk, Conn., Chevrolet, 75, $11,200.
3 (3) Donnie Lia, Jericho, N.Y., Dodge, 75, $8,200.
4 (10) Bobby Santos, III, Franklin, Mass., Chevrolet, 75, $6,500.
5 (17) Jimmy Blewett, Howell, N.J., Chevrolet, 75, $4,700.
6 (8) James Civali, Meriden, Conn., Chevrolet, 75, $3,750.
7 (4) Tony Hirschman, Northampton, Pa., Chevrolet, 75, $3,350.
8 (21) Andrew Seuss, Hampstead, N.H., Chevrolet, 75, $3,100.
9 (22) Mike Stefanik, Coventry, R.I., Pontiac, 75, $3,600.
10 (15) Robert Grigas, Marshfield, Mass., Chevrolet, 75, $2,850.
11 (26) Jerry Marquis, Broad Brook, Conn., Chevrolet, 75, $3,250.
12 (11) Rick Fuller, Corbin, Mass., Chevrolet, 75, $2,550.
13 (6) Charlie Pasteryak, Lisbon, Conn., Chevrolet, 75, $2,050.
14 (9) Ryan Preece, Kensington, Conn., Chevrolet, 75, $2,425.
15 (28) Kevin Goodale, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 75, $2,400.
16 (18) Glenn Tyler, Hampton Bays, NY, Chevrolet, 74, $2,375.
17 (30) Jonathan McKennedy, Somerset, Conn., Dodge, 74, $2,350.
18 (29) Joseph Hartmann, Calverton, N.Y., Chevrolet, 74, $2,325.
19 (31) Jamie Tomaino, Howell, N.J., Chevrolet, 74, $2,300.
20 (13) Billy Pauch, Jr., Lawrenceville, N.J., Dodge, 74, $2,291.
21 (34) Wade Cole, Riverton, Conn., Chevrolet, 73, $2,250.
22 (20) Eric Beers, Northampton, Pa., Chevrolet, 64, clutch, $2,225.
23 (40) Mike Christopher, Plainville, Conn., Dodge, 63, $1,800.
24 (19) Woody Pitkat, Stafford, Conn., Pontiac, 61, $2,180.
25 (16) Ted Christopher, Plainville, Conn., Chevrolet, 60, engine, $2,150.
26 (24) Eddie Flemke, Southington, Conn., Chevrolet, 59, engine, $1,750.
27 (5) J.J. Yeley, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet, 51, overheating, $1,750.
28 (23) Jeff Malave, Manchester, Conn., Chevrolet, 47, $1,750.
29 (39) John Marosz, Middletown, Conn., Chevrolet, 43, oil line, $1,750.
30 (25) Alex Hoag, Corning, N.Y., Chevrolet, 23, accident, $1,750.
31 (38) Matt Hirschman, Northampton, Pa., Chevrolet, 22, accident, $1,750.
32 (27) Richard Savary, Canton, Mass., Chevrolet, 22, accident, $1,750.
33 (33) Ken Bouchard, Fitchburg, Mass., Chevrolet, 22, accident, $1,750.
34 (35) Reggie Ruggiero, Rocky Hill, Conn., Chevrolet, 22, accident, $1,750.
35 (2) Ron Yuhas, Groton, Conn., Chevrolet, 22, accident, $1,750.
36 (36) Doug Coby, Milford, Conn., Ford, 14, ignition, $1,750.
37 (14) Dick Houlihan, Bridgewater, Mass., Chevrolet, 4, accident, $1,750.
38 (12) Danny Sammons, Hamilton, N.J., Chevrolet, 3, accident, $1,750.
39 (32) Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., Dodge, 3, accident, $1,750.

Race Statistics
Time of Race: 0 hours 44 minutes 45 seconds
Margin of Victory: .202 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: T.Szegedy (128.135 mph, 29.725 seconds)
Caution Flags: 4 for 32 laps.
Lead Changes: 8 among 2 drivers.
Lap Leaders: T.Szegedy 1-21; R.Silk 22-38; T.Szegedy 39-41; R.Silk 42-43; T.Szegedy
44-45; R.Silk 46-50; T.Szegedy 51-65; R.Silk 66-68; T.Szegedy 69-75.

Photo Credit: Howie Hodge