When you go to any of the two NASCAR weekends at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, most race fans will instantly tell you that the Modifieds are the best race of the weekend, and they’re usually spot on. The same can be applied to the first ever New England Short Track Showdown, with the Valenti Modified Racing Series showcasing bold moves, close drafting, and intense competition over the 50-lap feature at the “Magic Mile.”
In the end, it came down, as it so often does at Loudon with Modifieds, to a game of inches, with two veterans, Woody Pitkat and Ted Christopher having a drag race to the granite stripe. Pitkat was able to hold off a final drive on the inside by “TC” to score the win by just 0.017 seconds.
After the race, Pitkat himself wasn’t quite sure how he managed to hold on.
“I don’t know, guys like me I’m always thinking too and sometimes you can out think yourself,” Pitkat said in Victory Lane. “I’ve been here, won a couple of races, been fortunate enough to win some races and one day it’s going to bite you. The cautions towards the end there were getting frustrating, because I was trying to push Ted away from everybody and make it just a two-man race. There’s so much going on, anybody that asks for advice here, there’s so much going on in the car physically, just thinking about what to do. It’s just crazy.”
After a restart with four laps to go, it looked as though the race would be settled by Pitkat and Stephen Masse, with Masse taking the lead for a lap. But coming to the white flag, Pitkat was able to get to the outside of Masse, as Masse blocked Christopher to his inside in turns three and four. Christopher shook off Masse in time for the final try, but Pitkat had the momentum off the corner.
“We got down into three, Masse was still under me and Ted was with him, Ted got into him and he got squirrelly, so I just tried to roll the top and get in front of Steve, then I tried to put a block on him and it got real tight. Then I got a good run off of two and it was just trying not to overdrive three and keep the bottom,” Pitkat explained. “Then we had a photo finish at the end and it was really cool.
“I love racing with Ted, everybody knows he’s the best, he’s one of the best. It was just fun racing with him, it’s cool to see Steve up there. Everybody, the whole day was awesome.”
Pitkat, who is the 2015 Valenti Modified Racing Series champion, has two wins on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at NHMS, one in the 100-lap fall event and the other in the 35-lap All-Star Shootout.
Christopher was trying to break a tie with Mike Stefanik, Kyle Busch and Eddie MacDonald for most career wins on the full NHMS mile oval. Christopher had a great amount of speed in Friday practice, but overnight the VMRS made a rule change for Christopher and about five other drivers running steel-head engines. The steel-head engines would run the same size restrictor plate that all others in competition were running, which was smaller than they had on Friday.
With just Saturday morning to make the adjustment, Christopher did not have the power he wanted on restarts, which manifested with the late yellows.
“The restarts killed us I think when they changed the plate yesterday, I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Mr. Bateman. They felt we were too fast yesterday so they made us put a smaller one on, the same plate as those guys,” Christopher said. “That hurts it off (the corners) more than anything, it still ran pretty good at the end, just the restarts were killing me, I did the best I could, but it just wouldn’t go, you don’t want to rev it up too much and bend a valve or something.”
Despite the frustrations, Christopher still felt the effort had been worthwhile, and had as good a time as ever.
“The last few laps were pretty intense but it always is at New Hampshire, that’s what makes it so much fun.”
For a full on-demand race recap of Saturday’s event, visit Speed51.com’s Trackside Now.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: John A. Miller Photography
Valenti Modified Racing Series Unofficial Results
July 1, 2017 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway