For the second week in a row, the Valenti Modified Racing Series featured a night full of drama, action and suspense. Todd Owen capitalized on a late-race restart to score his second career VMRS victory at the Sunoco World Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) on Saturday night.
Owen started ninth in a race of attrition that took almost 90 minutes to complete. His bright red No. 25 came alive in the second half of the race. A series of late restarts brought him right up to the back of race leader Chase Dowling, and Owen made a decisive move for the lead with five laps to go.
“I’m kind of speechless. I don’t even know what to say,” Owen exclaimed in Victory Lane. “All the guys on the 25 team, they gave me a chance. I was just a test dummy for them earlier in the year, and Gary (Casella) said they’d pay me back and let me drive it maybe, and what can you say, this thing is one stout piece.
“When you’re second, you need cautions. [Dowling] was probably better in the long run, his car seemed to be handling a little better than mine, but I knew if we had a restart I could have a good chance at him there.”
Owen felt that his experience racing an SK Modified at Stafford Motor Speedway played a large part in his ability to take advantage of a restart.
“That’s SK racing at its best right there, that’s the only thing that won that race for us,” Owen said. “With all those restarts at Stafford, you just learn to be on top of your game, and that’s what won it.
“Chase is good on restarts, too. He must have just got a bad start or something, and I just drove by him. We were super tight after we got back going green, but it just motored down the straightaway, so he would have never driven back by me.”
Dowling held on to finish second, and he was followed home by Owen’s teammate Matt Swanson in a near-identical red No. 25. Anthony Nocella had a strong run to finish fourth, and Anthony Flannery finished in the top five.
After all of the night’s drama, Woody Pitkat was crowned the 2018 Valenti Modified Racing Series champion. Pitkat was caught in an early-race crash put him on pit road for most of the race, but his 30th-place finish, as well as late-race trouble for title challenger Mike Willis, Jr., were enough to secure him the title.
“It was a long weekend obviously, not the way I wanted to finish it off,” Pitkat said. “I can’t thank these guys enough, just everybody, there’s so many people to thank it’s unbelievable. I was trying to go easy and then it looked like the 47 [Dylan Rock] got a little bit loose and got in the side of me and that was it, once I hit the grass I knew I was a dead duck.
“We just tried to look at the points and see what we needed to do, get some parts to fix it, and once we saw Mike [Willis Jr] had that misfortune we tried to get back out and get a couple laps.
“It’s unbelievable, I’ve got so many people to thank. I’ve got a lot of Christmas cards to send out, I guess.”
Speed51.com will have more on Pitkat's championship season in the coming weeks.
For full on-demand coverage of Saturday's race at Thompson, visit Speed51.com's Trackside Now.
-Story by Ian Pettigrew, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com