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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour




It is all in the last lap at
New Hampshire Motor Speedway


Denise DuPont

Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT came to New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) looking to end the Mike Smeriglio, III owned #2 winless drought. The team has had a strong car but a win has managed to elude the team since their last win on September 19th, 2011 at Lime Rock Park. After practice Szegedy had the following to say about his car: “We have the best car that we have ever had here.” Feeling comfortable in the car Szegedy qualified fourth and raced with the lead pack most of the day. “In the beginning of the race my car started out somewhat neutral but fast. I started to get free just like the other cars, so I could not get a good move. When I made a move I had to make sure it was going to happen. I just could not get up along these guys (lead cars) because my car was just too loose. I had to get down on the power and get off on the corner. When I was able to get by Silk, then by Preece, I was then able to run down by myself.”

After passing some of the key competition, Szegedy was able to set his own line and move forward. This allowed him to zero in on what his car needed to get to the front. “Since I was able to run down those three guys the first half of the race so I knew I had a really great race car. “ Szegedy said about the #2 modified. “But I did know that we had to make changes. So we talked on the radio what kind of changes that we were going to make to make the car more comfortable. But you are not going to get the best of both worlds. You are either leading or you are going to be great behind guys. It is almost impossible to drive away from these guys. So I had to make the car comfortable around them. And that was what we did and it paid off.”

During the mid-race mandatory pit stop NASCAR announced that they had clocked the #2 modified as the fastest car on the track. The team pitted restarting in forth and charged forward to second and then to take the lead. “I could not drive away from any of them, but the goal was to see who was better and if we could get away from those guys (Donny Lia and Ryan Newman). So we swapped the lead a couple of times. When there was twenty to go he (Donny Lia) passed me back and I decided then to stay behind him for the remainder of the race. And we were not being pressured from the guys behind us.”

Then as the race came to the closing laps the #2 team remained patient but knew if they were going to pass for the lead they had to strategically position themselves. Szegedy’s spotter kept him calm and under control as the laps clicked off. “With five to go I knew Newman was coming My spotter just did a phenomenal job. He gave me the confidence that I needed. He told me how Newman was coming on hard.” On lap 100 as the driver’s pulled out of turn three Szegedy was guided through the winning move. “That last lap I knew that I was going to make my move and obviously Donny knew. He made a pretty good block on me at the same time that I went to pass him which killed my momentum.” So Szegedy brought Lia up high on the track which moved him into the marbles. “He (Lia) did what he had to do and I sent it in as hard as I could and I tried not to hit him. But we made contact and I pushed him up into the marbles. Everyone knows I do not drive like that way to get victories. But I needed this win very bad and I do not knock people out of the way to get a win. But this time I wanted to win. Once I got into him I saw him get up into the marbles and I was going sideways. Then Ryan (Newman) was underneath me at my right rear and we hit a little bit.” Szegedy regrouped and charged forward to cross the Finish Line with Newman right on his rear. Celebrating in Victory Lane, Szegedy exclaimed: It is all in the last lap here.”

Car owner, Mike Smeriglio, II, was all smiles as the team went through post-race inspection. The team had maintained their positive direction through the dry times and it paid off. “We were really fast right out of the box at Friday’s practice. In time trials we were a little bit tight but we felt real good. We had a real good first 50 laps and we made some unbelievable changes after the half-way break. The car just came alive on the bottom. And I could not be any happier for Todd Szegedy.”

“I think that Todd is a very unique driver on the tour and he shows a lot of class out there. And he expects it back.” Stated Smeriglio about the team’s winless streak and the last lap. “When it does not come back that is what starts to upsets him. We all have high expectations and he cannot drive any differently that who he is. We have good equipment and a great crew chief so you always want to win. This is the new, new Todd.”

Szegedy’s car crew chief, Phil Moran, and the #2 crew worked with the driver to provide him the car he needed to drive to the win. The crew turned the wrenches delivering exactly what Szegedy needed to get the job done. “It was a great race. We are sitting here in Victory Lane so the race was actually real good,” said Moran from inspection.“ Todd did a great job. It always comes down to the last lap at New Hampshire and everybody puts everything up on the dash and lets it go. And he did. I cannot thank him enough. We have had a really rough year so far this year and going all the way back into last year. Hopefully this gets the monkey off our back. The guys worked real hard and we tried a bunch of stuff here because we have not been good here. It is a 180 degrees car what we had here last time. I want to thank everyone on the crew because they all did a great job for me. I could not be happier.”

Ryan Newman brought the field of cars around to start the race. This race at the “Magic Mile” had twenty-three lead changes and Newman was right there to enjoy all the action. “First of all we were pretty good in the first fifty. The next set of tires just were not to our liking. I was fighting really loose and I brought my car down lower than anybody else to keep some air on the front tires to make it a little bit tighter. In the end I watched Todd and Donny going for it down at the end of turn three. I kind of wish that they had done that in turn one instead of turn three to give me a better shot at it. But I guess that they were not thinking about me at the time!”

Sitting in the best seat for the last lap action, Newman described what he saw unravel as he sat back and waited for his opportunity to move. .“In the end Todd kind of used up Donny pushing him up there in the fuzz. And in time Donny pushed him down on the straight away and did not give him much of a chance for entry. I had a bird’s eye view of the whole deal and I got with Todd coming off of turn four. I was struggling to power down and I got to where I was shaking him up a little bit. But I was not going to turn him around for that.” Newman settled for a second place finish when it was all done.

Donny Lia was sitting in the lead as the field came around for the last lap. Knowing that many drivers before him had been in the same position only to lose the win his strategy was to run for the win. “I had just led a bunch of laps and I just got loose up there in turn three and four. I thought that maybe we would race back to the line but he (Todd Szegedy) just drove me up into the marbles and that was it. I was a sitting duck at that point. It was a good day for the #4 Circle Track- Mystic Missile. It was still a good day. We qualified second and finished third so we had a good finish.”

Bobby Santos was fourth and Patrick Emerling rounded out the top five. Mike Stefanik finished sixth, followed by Eric Goodale, Ron Silk, Woody Pitkat and Ed Flemke Jr. for the top ten finishers.

Ryan Preece now holds a 41 point lead over Doug Coby in the 2013 Championship battle.

The NWMT heads to Stafford Motor Speedway for the next event on Sunday September 29 for the CARQUEST Fall Final. . If you cannot join us at the track, please join us follow the action on http://www.thechromehorn.com

Notes From New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

Why did you wait to make the past for the lead until the last lap?

Todd Szegedy
“I knew that I had to wait at the end thanks to my spotter I knew I was waiting for that last lap and I knew he (Donny Lia) was going to block me. I do not like running that way at the end but we needed this win. Thanks to my team for sticking by me. I am sorry that my wife could not be here.”

What was the most agonizing thing about not winning?

Todd Szegedy
“We have been sporadic. There are times that we were running phenomenal and we are good enough to win and it did not happen. Then there were times that we were running bad and just getting caught up in wrecks or stupid stuff after going to tracks with setups that we have been good with. It was just not working. Then you begin to say to yourself, “Do I still have it to win? Can I drive? Sometimes you say that to a driver and you have to remember that you do not forget how to drive over night. You need your team. You need your family behind you. You need your fans. You need everybody to help support you to keep moving forward and supporting you. We just have to continue to run good and put ourselves into a position to win.”

When Todd Szegedy brought Donny Lia up on the track were you expecting him to make that move?

Phil Moran
“I knew he was going to do what he had to do because I know Donny would have done the same thing to us. I also know that Ronnie Silk would have done the same thing. It is New Hampshire! It is the last lap and you know that you have a good car, you are going to do what you have to do to win. Yes, you are going to do what you have to do to win but not wreck the guy. And Todd did not wreck Lia. I am sure that Donny is not happy but if the shoe was on the other foot we would be talking the same way. I am real proud of Todd. He did a great job.”

Not achieving a win over the last two years, how did the team maintain their morale?

Phil Moran
“Since our last win it has been very disappointing because we have been fast at all these races. We just have not had any luck. It does get frustrating because the driver starts to lose confidence along with the crew and crew chief. So it is good to get this back. We never lost our confidence in Todd and we never will. He is a great driver and we just need to get him jacked up. That is all.”

How frustrating is it knowing that you leading and at the same time you are a sitting duck on the last lap?

Donny Lia
“You kind of commit to that, you make your bed and then you have to lay in it. I stayed out front knowing that if I stayed out front that was pretty much going to be the deal on the last lap. I only did it thinking that we did not really do all our racing, we ran in the line trying to get away from Ryan (Newman). So we really did not do a whole lot of racing. So I thought that we would race that last corner out rather than just do what he did. So I gave him (Todd Szegedy) the benefit of the doubt. Hey you live and learn. I will never give him the benefit of the doubt again. He is a friend of mine but you just live and learn. That is it, the end of it and you just move on.”

Patrick Emerling turned twenty-one this week and part of the birthday celebration included a brand new race car. The #07 team has had a year full of ups and downs and at NHMS they were looking to turn their luck around. With a very solid fifth place finish the team certainly met their goal.

Patrick Emerling
“I was real happy with the car. I just could not quite catch that lead car draft. But the car was definitely good enough to keep up with them. I am real happy, with the way that our season has been going. It has been a tough year.”
“It is a brand new car and we shook it down here. It never touched a track until we got here. I was happy with it. And that is all that I could ask for. We needed a good day. We tried to make something up so that we could catch up with the leaders but we could not quite do it. “

Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: September 23, 2013

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