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Fidanza gets back on the right track <br> Modified driver rebounds from winless season

For Sege Fidanza, going an entire season without winning a Modified feature race at Lancaster Raceway Park is like a Buffalo winter without snow.

While the area still got the white stuff in 2004, it was Fidanza's first winless season at Lancaster since 1986.

The veteran, who owns more than 120 feature wins and a record eight Modified championships at LRP, was determined to right the ship for 2005.

Fidanza formed Fidanza-Petrie Motorsports with longtime friend Dennis Petrie. The partnership paid immediate dividends as Fidanza won three times at LRP this season, including the Sunoco Race of Champions Modified Tour Firecracker 75. He finished second to Tom McGrath in points (685-677).

Fidanza is looking for another huge trophy Sunday in the Sunoco Race of Champions Modified Tour 125, the headlining event of Lancaster's 17th annual U.S. Open Weekend, the area's most prestigious annual asphalt stock car event.

"My wife, Jennifer, works at Lancaster and Dennis was an official there," Fidanza said. "I met him several years ago and we've been good friends ever since. Last year when I was having my problems with the car, he stepped up and helped me.

"We formed a partnership for this season and got a new Troyer car. I remember after ending the victory dry spell that after last year I would no longer be racing if it wasn't for Dennis."

Petrie said seeing his friend struggle was hard to take.

"I helped Sege through the end of last season but as far as him dropping out of the sport, I wasn't going to let that happen," Petrie said. "After last season, we discussed a partnership and I said let's go for it. I got him a new car.

"If we hadn't had a couple of on-track incidents that weren't his fault this season, we would have won the championship."
Fidanza is an icon at Lancaster. Nicknamed "the Superman," he also has been involved in his share of controversies and has drawn a chorus of boos when introduced to the grandstand crowd. This, too, is changing.

In fact, when Fidanza broke his winless spell earlier this season, many fans chose to cheer.

Fidanza, 52, has seemed to mellow with age. He and Jennifer have two children, Nicholas, 7, and daughter Maggie, who was born July 4. He also has a son from a previous marriage, Frank, who is attending college.

"I've tried to keep my nose clean the last few years," said Fidanza. "I'm older now and getting into the controversies is just not worth it anymore. I guess I've heard a lot more cheers this year. It doesn't matter one way or the other. I can live with the boos, although it's nice to now have gotten some cheers. Things have a way of turning around."

Petrie also has seen a change in Fidanza.

"I've got to give Sege a lot of credit," Petrie said. "He's a lot more relaxed behind the wheel and doesn't get frustrated now. He looks somewhat differently at racing now, especially since he doesn't really have to worry too much about where the money is coming from anymore.

"Sege is a great friend and there is no one in the sport I would rather be associated with."

How much longer will Fidanza, who first drove at Lancaster when he was 16, stay behind the wheel?

"I've done real well in this sport and don't regret anything," said Fidanza, a two-time winner of the Sunoco Race of Champions 200, held each September at Oswego Speedway. "As long as I stay competitive I'll keep going. Racing is what I have done all my life."

e-mail: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com

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