Todd Szegedy (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
This weekend at Thompson Speedway the Icebreaker formally kicks off the Northeast racing season with a racing card anchored by the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150 on Sunday.
Sunday, longtime Whelen Modified Tour driver and former series champion Todd Szegedy will be racing in competition.
It just won’t be at Thompson Speedway.
Instead of being part of a field of more than 30 drivers at Thompson, the 2003 Whelen Modified Tour champion will be part of a field of about 150 competitors in a 15-mile cross country Mountain Bike race in Middlebury.
Szegedy, who has been part of competition with the Whelen Modified Tour for the last 18 years, said he has no plans for competing in short track racing this year.
“I’m not saying I’m retiring from racing, but I haven’t had any plans,” Szegedy said. “I haven’t looked to do anything. I’ve talked to a couple people about possibly doing some driving, but I’ve got other things I want to do. We’ll see what life brings. I’m having a good time doing other things. … I’m pretty heavily involved in biking. That’s been my passion probably as long as I’ve been racing I’ve been enjoying biking, all forms of biking as far as mountain biking and road biking. I’m doing that a lot more. This weekend, as long as plans go the way that they should and my bike operates properly, I’m going to do my first cross country mountain bike race this Sunday.”
The 41-year old Szegedy has been a part-time competitor in racing the last two years. He made three Whelen Modified Tour starts in 2016 and seven last year. He has also spent time competing with the Valenti Modified Racing Series and some open Modified events.
“To just say that I’m just going to give it up and that’s it, that’s tough,” Szegedy said. “But I think it’s probably it for me.”
In 212 Whelen Modified Tour starts since 2000, Szegedy has 19 career victories, 86 top-five’s and 130 top-10’s. From 2005 to 2012 he had a string of seven consecutive seasons where he finished in the top-five in the series standings. In eleven seasons competing full-time with Whelen Modified Tour he never finished worse than seventh in the series standings and only finished outside the top-five twice.
He won the 2003 Whelen Modified Tour title driving for team owner Don Barker. He drove for team owner Mike Smeriglio III from 2006 to 2013. He spent one season driving the Mystic Missile for owner Bob Garbarino in 2015. Outside of 2015 he drove primarily for team owners Kevin Stuart and Rob Fuller. His last series win came in 2015 driving for Garbarino. He had three Valenti Modified Racing Series victories driving for Stuart.
“[Racing] crosses my mind all the time. Every day at some point I think about racing still,” Szegedy said. “I love it. I did it for a long time. I’ve been racing since  competitively. That’s a long time to be racing. … I still feel like I can go out there win. But, I don’t think of it as a thing. Back years ago I had a goal and I was trying to race full-time and make a career out of it. Now I’m 41 years old, the chances of having a career in racing are very slim. I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I needed to accomplish.
“The one thing though, I wish I could have got 20 wins on the Tour. I got 19. I wish I could have got one when I was with Stuart. So many, I look back at all the times I finished second. I’m like ‘My god.’ … But it’s not going to change my life any if I go out and win another race.
“I want to stay healthy. Racing can be a dangerous sport and the way I look at it is the risk vs. the reward. I’m not afraid to get hurt, but do I need to take that chance anymore and go out there and take a chance at getting hurt? You don’t. But that shouldn’t be a reason why you retire from racing at all, which it isn’t. I don’t look at it as the same as I used to.”
Szegedy said he will miss the environment of the track and closeness of the Modified racing community.
“I would say the thing I really loved the most was going to the race track and seeing everybody,” Szegedy said. “There’s more times than not that I’d leave that race track disappointed because I didn’t win. But I was always happy walking into that race track, hearing those cars, smelling the fumes, seeing the fans, just the conversations that I would have and being around the guys on the team. That’s the fun part of racing because it is like a family. We go out and compete against each other but at the end of the day we can go out to a bar or outside in the parking lot and having a cookout and everybody is friends. And that’s the part I’m probably going to miss the most. And that doesn’t mean I can’t go to the race track and see everybody again.
“And also it’s fun competing. I think that’s why I want to do some of the bike racing, because I still enjoy competing. But that will be at a little bit different level. I feel like I’m going to do this more for fun. Racing was, you’re doing it for the fans, you’re doing it for sponsors and you’re doing it for your team. So there’s a little bit more pressure in there. With what I want to do with the bike racing, it’s just for me in trying to be stronger than the next guy.”
Szegedy said he’s looking forward to advancing in the ranks of the competitive biking community. The event he will compete in Sunday has five classes, from beginner to categories three, two and one to professional paid riders. He will compete in the category two class, looking to move up to category one.
“It sounds crazy, but I don’t know what it is, but I love pushing myself as hard as I can physically,” Szegedy sad. “I’ve always been motivated while I was racing cars to stay in shape and always exercise. I’ve done a sprint Triathlon and I’ve been into jogging and biking. I like pushing myself to the limits physically. … I enjoy it. I enjoy that part of the physical activity of it. Just getting better and stronger. I’m still young and I still can be competitive. That’s basically what I want to do. Just keep enjoying my life. I guess if an opportunity came about that I couldn’t refuse then maybe I would think about going back to racing cars, but right now I’m doing everything and having a good time doing what I’m doing now.”
For more from Todd Szegedy check out this week’s edition of the Unmuffled Podcast
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