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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series



Surviving The Heat, The VMRS Teams Put
On a Good Show For Fans

by Denise DuPont

The Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) returned to the high banks of Monadnock for their second appearance in 2012. The grandstands were standing room only, the beer garden flowed, and the parking lot was full to capacity. Spectators had come to cool off after a week of exhausting heat and they enjoyed a full night of racing capped off with fireworks display under the stars.

Modified racer, Todd Szegedy, visited the VMRS for the second time this year. Monadnock is one of Szegedy’s favorite small tracks and after a 100 laps of green lap racing he won his first ever VMRS race. Szegedy sat comfortable behind the wheel of the #02 car and drove it hard waiting for a chance to take over the lead. Then on lap 92 he had an opportunity and made a move to pass Chris Pasteryak for the lead. “I had to work hard for that win that is for sure,” said Todd Szegedy about his victory. “The guys raced me really clean. They gave me room to race. They did not use me up and that goes a long way.”

This was Szegedy’s first time with the VMRS at Monadnock, but not first ever race there. He does have a 2011 win and a third place finish there with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in May 2012. “I thought that it was a real good race. We had a couple of cautions after which the cleanup was really quick. On that one restart where everybody piled up where somebody in front hit the wall and got everybody jumping up in that one big wreck. Other than that I thought the race was really good.”

The win was not an easy one for the #02 team. With the caliber of talent on the VMRS teams, teams new to the series are challenged to get up to speed fast. There is no time for a learning curve. “These guys are very tough that I am racing against. I am just fortunate that I have a great car owner and that I am able to run on the tour. I do not consider myself any better than anybody else here. Starting the race twelfth I knew I had my work cut out for me. I knew that I was going to have to use other people’s mistakes to get around them while avoiding some wrecks. And that is what I did, I had to pass some cars and that is what I did. But at one point I thought that I had it wrapped up in the bag but I also knew I was going to have to work hard for it.”

Owner of Todd Szegedy’s car, Mike Smeriglio, has a driver ready, a crew that wants to race and a crew chief, Phil Moran that wants to get them there. With the number of Whelen events down, modified teams that want to race more often have looked to other venues. “It is all about seat time.” said Mike Smeriglio. “Phil Moran does a great job of keeping the guys motivated. The guys work so hard at the shop and it is kind of an opportunity for us to go out and have a little bit of fun while we practice, test and bring our competition at a newer level.”

Phil Moran prepared the team to race and then encouraged both his crew and driver to chase after the lead. Szegedy started the race twelfth and slowly made his way to the front. In the end, Szegedy led for only 8 laps but they were the critical laps to lead, the race end. “Chris Pasteryak did an awesome job but he just got loose. We took advantage of him and got the lead. But that is the way what it is.” Moran said about Szegedy’s pass for the lead.

Veteran racer Dwight Jarvis has a lot of laps and wins at Monadnock Speedway. Jarvis qualified well and drove with the lead pack for most of the race. He was involved in a few mishaps but bounced back to finish the “Firecracker 100” in second. “The race went real good. I did get into the #05 car of Bryan Shumway after he had been chopping me pretty hard. I had the right front in there and he starting coming down and there was no backing out. We made some contact and I suffered the consequences and went to the rear. I came in and they swapped tires around. The car was real good tonight. We got tangled up a little in the heat race but other than that the car was real good. I am happy with a second place finish.“

Todd Patnode, another modified driver with his share of wins at Monadnock, used another strategy saving his car for the end and a podium finish. Patnode started way back in twenty-first but he used his track experience to the charge to the front when the time was right. “I thought that the race was good and the guys did a good job. We had a lot of problems today. We had a clutch issue early on and then we broke a drive shaft during our heat race. They (the #24 crew) got the car back really close. It was not quite as it was earlier but it was good enough to get us a top three.

Les Hinckley on the other hand started eighteen and used a strategy to charge fast to the front. Once there, Hinckley dove on the inside of Todd Szegedy to challenge for second as the race wound down. The crowd stood as lap after lap the drivers were side by side. Hinckley’s #06 modified was a little off though and Szegedy maintained his second spot. Hinckley in the meanwhile was shuffled back for a fourth place finish. “It was fun racing with Todd (Szegedy). That was a good clean race. We had an opportunity so what more could you ask for. We missed it just a tick early on the free side. Then after we missed it a tick on the tight side a bit after we tightened it up. You do not like to back up that late on the race. Tonight was just one of those deals that we were just a little bit on either side of where we wanted to be.”

“The series is so competitive now,” said Hinckley reflecting on his race performance. “Years back you could be a little off from where you wanted to be and win. Now you have to be spot on to win. So we had a top five finish and the car is in one piece. We had a shot at the win, it did not play out. In all honesty the best car won. It was a decent race.”

Chris Pasteryak passed for the lead after a series of cautions on lap 48. He held the front spot for over forty laps until his ill-handling race car forced him to come to a stop in turn three to prevent a spin on lap 92. He collected the car and continued but he was now in fifth place rather than first. “The car started getting really loose and I was just trying too hard to stay in front of Todd (Szegedy). I stepped on the gas a little too much coming out of turn two and I almost spun it (#5ct car) out. A fifth place finish here at Monadnock after the year that I have been having, I will definitely take it. We will have another shot here this year and we will see what we can do then.”

The VMRS teams will now prepare for next Saturday night’s Canaan Fair Speedway’s 100 lap “Ricky’s Race” with a purse of $2500 to win.

Notes from Monadnock VMRS 7/7/2012:

This year the number of races for racing various modified divisions has been reduced. Race teams that have the resources and time to race have looked to expand their race time.

Todd Szegedy
“If you could race every week, two or three times that is only a plus. Racing ten to fifteen races a year is just not enough because you have guys that are racing thirty to forty. So you just have to continue and race every week or at least every weekend at least one day”.

Any additional racing plans for the Smeriglio owned team?

Mike Smeriglio
“We are going to do the Seekonk Open show and there is talk about the Oswego show. I am not sure how everything is going to fit in with the schedule. We will go through the calendar and see what is next for us.“

Phil Moran
“I am glad we made the choice to race in other divisions and it was the right decision. We ran good up here last year and when we ran good in the tour race. We have a race car and we want to race it. So we are going to race whenever we can and wherever we can. We have 22 or 23 races planned this year. It might be some of them that we may not make depending on how the week before goes on the tour. I am real happy with everything.”

This was only the second time that the #02 car of Todd Szegedy has raced with the VMRS. The team seems very upbeat and happy with racing with the series.

Mike Smeriglio
“It is a great bunch of guys in this series. The officials are phenomenal. There is real clean racing and we will be back for sure.”

Phil Moran
“I love the series and the officials they treat us good. We felt like we may have been treated a little funny as an outsider coming in but we are treated real good.”
“There are a lot of guys in this series that you can run side by side with and there are other guys that you have to be careful with. It is that way in any kind of racing. Les Hinckley he is a pure gentleman. We ran side by side for ten laps out there and we never even bumped a nerf bar. His is a pure gentleman.”

On lap 48 of the Monadnock race there was a major accident in which several cars were involved. Luckily cars were able to be repaired and racing continued with a decent field. What were some of the driver’s thoughts on the mishap?

Dwight Jarvis
“It has been happening this year in this series. I do not know the answer to fix it. I spoke to Jack. It seems to me like the respect for each other is gone out of this series where things used to be a give and take.“
“I have to thank Todd Patnode. He was in front of me and he did see that I was going better than him and he pulled up and let me go. And that is the way that it should be. If somebody is better than you, you do not hold them back and cause a big wreck. And if you are faster than somebody you do not drive through them. You wait and when you get a chance you get by them.”

“We do not have the crew that we started with or the people that raced in the beginning. You now have you guys coming up that may have a lot of money involved in the operation. To some of them money is no object at all. It does not make for good racing because they can afford it and we cannot. If something happens to our car we are sidelined for a while. Where they call up and have a new car delivered.”

Todd Patnode
“I was just hoping that we were going to get through it. We had taken back about six or seven spots or about there once. They had a problem up on the outside. I do not even know who it was. I was watching everybody go by on the inside and I was thinking: 'This is not good'.”

Les Hinckley
“I did not really see a whole lot from the race seat. From the driver’s seat I did not see a lot from that vantage point, so I do not know what that was all about. I know that there was a couple of cautions in which we gained some spots on.”

Chris Pasteryak
"I was glad that I did not pit and tighten the car up because I would have been right in the middle of things!"

Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: July 8, 2012

©2012 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.