THOMPSON, Conn. (WWLP) – There’s an old expression in auto racing that goes something like: “the last lap is the one that counts the most.” It’s likely there’d be no argument from either Tommy Barrett, Jr. or Todd Szegedy after Thursday night’s Valenti Modified Racing Series King Cadillac GMC 75 at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut.
Szegedy, a former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion, started from the pole and led 74 laps until the final circuit. It was then that Barrett, a contender for NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year, made a daring turn 1 pass on the leader. Barrett went to victory lane, while Szegedy fell back to sixth. In his trackside post race interview, Barrett explained the last few laps of the race, “At the end, we got the caution we needed. I got a good restart, followed Keith (Rocco) on up through to third, got by Keith, before you knew it, it was the last lap and it was time to make a move.” Rowan Pennink was the runner-up and Ted Christopher finished third. Richard Savary took fourth and Dave Etheridge rounded out the top five.
Tom Carey Jr. from New Salem made his second career Modified Racing Series start at Thompson on Thursday night. Carey started 15th and drove to a seventh place finish. Carey’s resume is all about full-fendered cars. He was won races and track championships in late models and pro stocks, was a winner on the NASCAR Busch North Series, and competed in NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck Series. But at 48 years old, open wheel modified racing is something new to Tom. He told 22News about the appeal of the modifieds, “I always wanted to try the open wheel, but it just didn’t come about that way. I’m enjoying it. Everything that happens just happens faster.” There are those who suggest that full-bodied cars are more forgiving than open wheel cars. Fans watch drivers trade paint, rub, lean on each other, even bounce off each other in cars with fenders. Similar moves in open wheel rides frequently don’t end well. Carey explained that limited contact does happen, “You can rub, but you got to be in the right position when you rub. You can’t be behind them and rub. Your wheels got to be either equal with theirs or just ahead of them. It’s a little tricky.”
Comparisons are always made and questions are asked about the difference between the NWMT and the VMRS. NWMT Champion Ryan Preece competes in both. “I know quite a few people, to get the cars here, are spending just as much money. You’re racing for a smaller scale of money, but you’re spending less when you come to the race track. It works both ways. But motors are motors. They aren’t cheap by any means. The way you got to race these cars in a feature race with the tires that they run is a little bit different than you would run with the Whelen Modified Tour. It’s just a different series to run, a little bit more conservative, no changing tires, just a little bit different mentality. Save your stuff and go at the end. There’s stiff competition here just like there is on the modified tour.”
Preece had no luck in the MRS event, dropping out early with an engine problem. But he did win the Sunoco Modified Feature as well as a 17 lap Sunoco Modified race that had been originally started on May 15th. Glenn Boss was the Late Model winner, Shawn Monahan took the Limited Sportsman win, with the Mini Stock victory going to Chad Baxter.