2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the debut of New Hampshire International Speedway. The Magic Mile debuted in July 1990 and it has raced varied NASCAR stock car classes as well as Indycars since. The class that seems to breed the most enthusiasm is the NASCAR Modified Tour, as the track's most exciting races have invariably been from the Mod Tour.
2015's first Mod Tour slugfest at New Hampshire was the Andy Blacksmith 100, named in honor of WGIR FM 101.1 radio personality Andy Blacksmith, who had passed away recently. Held on an overcast and somewhat muggy day, The Andy Blacksmith 100 lived up to the Manchester, NH station's motto as The Rock Station, and also lived up to the station's status as an affiliate of NASCAR's radio networks, MRN Radio and PRN.
In short, it rocked.
The early battle was dominated by Doug Coby in the Mike Smeriglio #2 and the Bob Katon Jr. #13 of Ted Christopher, who combined to lead 26 of the first 50 laps, but as the first half went on Woody Pitkat in the #88 Buzz Chew car, #6 Ryan Preece in the Ed Partridge car, and Donny Lia's #8 Mark Sypher car took over, and both escaped a huge wreck on the second-half restart, though Pitkat's escape was razor-thin; he spun when the leaders on the outside line gagged and stacked up the outside line.
Under the ensuing red flag, it got notice who the new leader was - Todd Szegedy, driving the Garbarino #4 Dodge. Szegedy hadn't won on the Mod Tour since the FW Webb 100 at Loudon in 2013 and had driven only a partial schedule in 2014. He's made all the races so far this season, and he was running a "spec" motor that team owner Bob Garbarino had complained about because it's not something built by an independent outfit like Ron Hutter.
The politicking of racing can be its most annoying problem, and the irony of the situation became that the last 50 laps of the 100 became a tense shootout in which Szegedy's #4 was drafting and push-drafting with Lia, Preece, and Ronnie Silk's #15 Rob Fuller car, and also making his way into the fight was the damaged Curb Motorsports #44 of Bobby Santos, involved in the halfway wreck.
Szegedy drafted past Silk with ten to go, but a four-car crash in Three set up a three-lap showdown, and on the final lap Donny Lia, a former Garbarino driver, stormed to second then stormed nose-to-nose with Szegedy, and they hit the stripe abreast and Szegedy the winner by about a wheel. It was strikingly reminiscent of the 2014 Sunoco finish where Santos took the lead, Ted Christopher crossed underneath in Four, then got sideways and lost second. This 2015 finish wasn't quite as chaotic, but it was a near-photo finish reminiscent of Tim Richmond hanging tough on the outside to take the win - the second time in three races New Hampshire's Modifieds have seen a finish worthy of comparison to the immortal Tim Richmond finish with Geoff Bodine and Ricky Rudd in 1986.
The lead changed 29 times, a guaranteed high for the whole weekend for all the classes racing here, and yet another reminder of what happens when the draft becomes everything.
It was another great race in a season where Modifieds have put on unusually memorable battles at Stafford Speedway this year as well - notable is that Rowan Pennick has been cleaning house at Stafford this season but never got untracked and got into a late melee at Loudon, ending his day.
With that the Mod Tour waits for the next round, and prove anew they're worth the wait. This race likewise proved worth the wait for Todd Szegedy and Bob Garbarino.