Jason Cunningham, NASCAR •
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - With two races to go in the 2011 season, Todd Szegedy was firmly entrenched in a battle for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title following a runner-up finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Since the tour's last visit to the "Magic Mile," however, Szegedy's ride has been less than magical. As the Modified Tour returns to NHMS this week, Szegedy hopes to turn around his luck.
The defending winner of the Town Fair Tire 100 at NHMS, Szegedy also ran second to Ron Silk at the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, N.H., last fall. He entered the next-to-last race of the season just eight points behind Silk in the championship standings. Since that time, however, Szegedy has experience one trial after another with just three lead-lap finishes in seven events.
The bad luck started for the 2003 Whelen Modified Tour champion in the Fall Final at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway when he finished two laps down in 21st after two separate incidents and fell 54 points behind Silk. In the season finale at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway, Szegedy had miraculously pulled ahead of Silk in the standings as they ran on the track with Silk experiencing early trouble, but a wild race that ended up with 14 DNFs out of 34 entries also caught up with Szegedy as he crashed out with two laps left in regulation.
As the calendar turned to 2012, it was a new season for Szegedy and the No. 2 Mike Smeriglio Racing team, but the immediate results were the same: a DNF in the opener at Thompson. Things started looking up for the Ridgefield, Conn., driver, however, as he was able to return to form and finish in the top five in two of the next three races, but last time out at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl on June 23 he was once again involved in an accident and did not finish.
Amazingly enough, after two DNFs in five outings this year, Szegedy enters this week's Town Fair Tire 100 ranked 10th in the season standings.
"The good thing is that I've got a phenomenal team, we run good every week," Szegedy said. "If we were flopping around in the back and wrecking, we'd need to improve our equipment and our team, and that's not the case. I've got a phenomenal car owner, crew chief and crew that work the cars and the rest is left up to me."
With finishes on the podium in each of the three races in Loudon a year ago, Szegedy is optimistic that the "Magic Mile" can turn around his hard luck.
"I'm looking forward to going to New Hampshire - where I run good all the time - and getting a win," Szegedy said. "I hope New Hampshire will be the turning point where I can get my first win of the year on the Whelen Modified Tour."
Szegedy and the rest of the Whelen Modified Tour contingent will take the green flag on Saturday at 1 p.m., followed by the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
RACE: Town Fair Tire 100
PLACE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
DATE: Saturday, July 14
TIME: 1 p.m. ET
BROADCAST: NASCAR Home Tracks Radio pres. by Speed 51, live at nascarhometracks.com
TRACK LAYOUT: 1.058-mile asphalt oval
2011 WINNER: Todd Szegedy
EVENT SCHEDULE: Friday: Practice 9-10:45 a.m., Qualifying 4:45 p.m.; Saturday: Final Practice 8:15-8:50 a.m., Driver Autograph Session 10-10:30 a.m.
TRACK CONTACT: Kristen Costa, 603-513-5708, email@example.com
TRACK TWITTER: @NHMS
EVENT HASHTAG: #TownFairTire100
NASCAR IMC CONTACT: Jason Christley, 386-301-6094, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @jay_christley
The Race: The Town Fair Tire 100 will be the sixth race overall and the first of two at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on the 2012 schedule.
The Procedure: The starting field is 38 cars, including provisionals. The first 33 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 100 laps (105.8 miles) and will be contested in two segments with a five minute break at or near the conclusion of Lap 50.
The Track: NHMS, a 1.058-mile slightly-banked asphalt oval, is the largest track the Whelen Modified Tour races at. NHMS has played host to the Whelen Modified Tour 55 times previously, the most of any facility outside of Connecticut.
Race Winners: There have been 17 different race winners at NHMS, led by Tony Hirschman and Mike Stefanik with seven victories apiece. Todd Szegedy is the defending winner of the Town Fair Tire 100.
Pole Winners: There have been 23 different pole winners at NHMS, led by Jan Leaty's six. Ted Christopher is the active poles leader with five. Mike Ewanitsko holds the qualifying record at 28.693 seconds (132.743 mph), set in 2001. The pole for this event last year was vacated by penalty.
TOWN FAIR TIRE 100 RACE NOTES
Blaney to Make Modified Debut: A standout part-time competitor in the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR K&N Pro Series, Ryan Blaney will attempt to make his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut in the Town Fair Tire 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Heinke-Baldwin Racing in the No. 98 Chevrolet. The 18-year-old made his Nationwide Series debut for Tommy Baldwin Racing in April with a seventh-place finish at Richmond International Raceway and has a win and five top 10s in six combined East and West races in the K&N Pro Series. Blaney, the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, is a member of the 2012 "Next 9" class that highlight's NASCAR's up-and-coming stars.
Newman to Continue Modified Competition: For the fifth season in a row, Sprint Cup Series veteran Ryan Newman will moonlight with the Whelen Modified Tour in races at New Hampshire and Bristol Motor Speedway. In nine career starts he has four wins, including two apiece at NHMS and BMS. All three of his poles have come in Loudon. His win from the pole in this race last year was disqualified due to post-race technical violations.
"NASCAR Night" With the Lowell Spinners: The Class A Short Season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners, will once again welcome NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers to LeLacheur Park on Wednesday, July 11, for "NASCAR Night." Slated to participate in the night's activities are Ryan Preece and Andy Seuss, along with New Hampshire Motor Speedway staff and track mascot Milo. The No. 70 Rockingham Boat Chevrolet of Seuss will also be on display at the park entrance. For ticket information please visit www.lowellspinners.com.
NHMS Schedule Shifted: The first day of on-track activity for the Whelen Modified Tour at New Hampshire has been shifted back one day this year. Friday was previously an inactive day for the tour with practice and qualifying held on Thursday and the race on Saturday. Those practice and qualifying sessions will now be held on Friday.
HOME TRACKS: Helliwell Dominates Granite State
Defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series New Hampshire State Champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. once again paces the field in 2012. As of the latest standings posted on July 3, he had nine wins and 13 top fives in 14 starts and had compiled a mammoth lead of 449-259 on Russ Hersey Jr. Helliwell ranks 17th nationally while competing at both Lee USA Speedway and Canaan Fair Speedway. Hersey runs weekly at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester while rookie Scott MacMichael ranks third in the Granite State with 216 points competing at Canaan.
LAST TIME OUT: Waterford
The most recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race was held at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl on June 23. Here are some highlights from the Mr. Rooter 161:
*Doug Coby earned his second win in a row and extended his points lead to 20 on defending champion Ron Silk, who finished 11th. Coby led twice for a race-high 118 laps.
*Ted Christopher took the Coors Light Pole. It marked his first of the year, his second at Waterford and the 24th of his career overall.
*The fourth place finish for Ron Yuhas Jr. was his second career top five, and first since 2007.
*The Mr. Rooter 161 was the first Whelen Modified Tour race at Waterford since 2006.
NEXT TIME OUT: Riverhead
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will make its annual trip to New York's Long Island for the Riverhead 200 on Saturday, July 28. Justin Bonsignore, from nearby Holtsville, earned his first Whelen Modified Tour victory at the quarter-mile bullring in 2012. This year's edition will mark the 51st all-time Whelen Modified Tour race at Riverhead, which is one of only two tracks to play host to the tour in each of its 28 seasons of competition. The Riverhead 200 will feature time trials at 5 p.m., a 25-lap qualifying race at 6:30 p.m., and the 175-lap main at approximately 8:30 p.m.
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