The Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway is billed as “The Greatest Race in the History of Spring.”  For Woody Pitkat, who won Sunday’s Spring Sizzler at the Connecticut half-mile track, it’s now the greatest win in his life.

 

The hometown driver took the lead for the final time with 39 laps to go and never looked back as he held off former champ Todd Szegedy to claim the victory in the second race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season.

 

Woody Pitkat celebrates the biggest win of his life.  (Speed51.com photo)

Woody Pitkat celebrates the biggest win of his life. (Speed51.com photo)

Pitkat grew up five miles from the historic Stafford half-mile.  He started racing DARE Stocks as a 16-year-old and progressed his way up the Stafford ladder.  He was the 2006 Late Model track champion and the 2013 SK Modified champ.  Now, at 35, he’s a winner in Stafford’s biggest race.

 

“It’s unreal,” was the phrase Pitkat used repeatedly after the race.

 

“I never thought at 16 running a DARE Stock that I’d ever go out there and win a Tour race, especially not the Spring Sizzler,” Pitkat said.   “To be able to come here one day and beat greats like Ted Christopher, it’s a dream come true.  And to be able to have a car that was that good, it’s unreal.”

 

The name of the game was pit strategy.  Twelve cars had NASCAR Spec motors, which use more fuel than a traditional built motor.  The cars with Spec engines all had to pit twice; once for fuel and once for tires.  NASCAR Tour rules state that teams cannot take tires and fuel during the same pit stop.  Modifieds utilizing built-engines only had to pit; with better fuel economy, those powerplants could go all 200 laps on one tank of gas.

 

Pitkat was using a Spec engine in his number-88 Modified.  He started second alongside of Ryan Preece, who set fast-time during Saturday’s qualifying with a Spec engine.  Preece pitted for fuel from the lead, under caution at lap 22, but Pitkat and the rest of the field stayed out.  Just six laps later the caution few once again (lap 28) and that’s when Pitkat made his stop for fuel.

 

Preece battled his way back through the field to get the lead by lap 69 and Pitkat was already close behind.

 

The turning point of the race came when Christopher and Patrick Emerling got together off turn four to bring out the caution out just before the halfway mark.  Pitkat and almost the entire field came to get tires, but Preece utilized different strategy again and stayed out.

 

“I didn’t think Woody and everyone was going to come then,” said Preece afterwards.  “We decided to wait for anywhere from 60 to 30 laps to go.”

 

Preece finally came to take on tires with about 65 laps to go and once again had to battle his way back through the field.  He got near the front, but his charge came to a stop at third.

 

“It was a lot of fun to drive through the pack like that twice,” said Preece.  “I always hear people say the Spring Sizzler is a snooze-fest and is always single-file, but I think that just showed you today how much passing and moving there can be.  I’m real happy.  I definitely wouldn’t change a thing today.  I just wish there was one other caution.”

 

Meanwhile, Pitkat had to fight with Todd Szegedy, who had a Spec engine in his Modified, to get the win.  Pitkat shoved Szegedy up the hill in turn one, got underneath the yellow number-4 off turn two and then completed the pass into turn three.

 

From there it was all Pitkat, although he was worried about one final thing.

 

“Every lap I was saying ‘Please no caution, please no caution,'” exclaimed Pitkat.

 

“Me too,” added his seven-year-old daughter, Ella.

 

“Sometimes with 20 to go you start thinking about who you have to thank in victory lane and then the caution comes out,” Pitkat added.

 

Fortunately for Pitkat, that caution never came.  The former track champ beat Szegedy to the checkered flag by 2.6 seconds to score the win, the first Spring Sizzler win ever by a Stafford Springs, CT native.

 

When Pitkat heard that news he simply said, “It’s just unreal.”

 

To relive all of the weekend’s action, click here for Race Central Live: http://hometracks.nascar.com/nwmt_race-central_042615_Stafford

 

-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount

-Photo Credit: Speed51.com

 

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler

Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Connecticut

Unofficial Results

Pos.

No.

Driver

1

88

Woody Pitkat

2

4

Todd Szegedy

3

6

Ryan Preece

4

58

Eric Goodale

5

8

Donny Lia

6

2

Doug Coby

7

93

Rowan Pennink

8

07

Patrick Emerling

9

99

Jamie Tomaino

10

29

Brendon Bock

11

44

Bobby Santos

12

22

Keith Rocco

13

77

Gary Putnam

14

3

Troy Talman

15

18

Ken Heagy

16

16

Timmy Solomito

17

75

Shawn Solomito

18

36

Dave Sapienza

19

33

Johnny Bush

20

51

Justin Bonsignore

21

14

Max Zachem

22

19

Brandon Oltra

23

46

Jeff Goodale

24

13

Ted Christopher

25

31

Steve Masse

26

64

Anthony Nocella

27

37

Dave Salzarulo

28

26

Gary McDonald

29

01

Melissa Fifield

30

79

Spencer Davis

31

63

Tom Rogers Jr.

32

9

Chase Dowling

33

17

Kyle Ellwood

Hometown Driver’s Dream Comes True in Greatest Race of Spring