Woody Pitkat left Sunday night’s Modified Racing Series event at Lee USA Speedway (NH) as the most recent winner and the series points leader. But he also left the track without a guaranteed ride for the series finale at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) Saturday night.
That all changed Monday morning when the entry list for the event revealed that the 2015 MRS champion will pilot Todd Patnode’s No. 24 Modified for the 50-lap season finale during the Sunoco World Series.
Pitkat explained that the deal started to come together in the midst of Oktoberfest race day this past Sunday at Lee.
“I’m very excited about this,” Pitkat told Speed51.com. “I hadn’t really thought so much about what my plans were (for Thompson). I was just trying to focused on trying to get through Lee and seeing where we stacked up with the points after that race. Sunday, I was at the driver’s meeting and Todd Patnode was asking me what my plans were for Thompson. I said that I didn’t have anything. I think he thought that I did. He grabbed me after and said that he’d be interested in having me run his car there.”
Patnode has been a force to be reckoned with up in his home state of New Hampshire in 2018, winning two of the three Modified Racing Series races at Monadnock Speedway, as well as achieving a major payday win at Star Speedway in the Tri-Track Open Modified Series SBM 125.
“To see the success he’s had this year at the big races he’s won, plus the domination at his home track, it’s really an honor to have him ask me, even bring it up, to run his car,” Pitkat stated. “I just went out, ran the rest of the night, contacted him on Monday, and we put something together so I could finish the season out with those guys.”
For the first 12 races of the 2018 Modified Racing Series season, plus select events outside of the series, Pitkat had been running with the Dan Stebbins owned No. 52 team. But following the September 8 race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, the 52 team parked their cars for an indefinite amount of time.
Despite the trouble, Pitkat stressed that he and the team have not parted ways. Right now, he is simply focused on the opportunities that have come his way.
“It’s good, especially the way the year has gone with its ups and downs,” he said. “It didn’t go as I had hoped. I know people in these articles that say that I had parted ways with the 52, that is not definitely official right now, I can say that. I don’t really know where we stand because the last time I had talked to them they said they couldn’t go to the last couple of races because of financial situations.”
Pitkat will look to hold off Mike Willis Jr. and defending MRS champion Anthony Nocella for the title Saturday night. The Connecticut born driver will be looking to win it for all the people that have helped him the entire length of 2018, including sponsor Mayhew Tools who had stepped up to support Pitkat in 2018.
“I was just trying to get stuff together to try and finish the year out. Try to finish off winning the championship, because that was our goal (with the 52). I have a pretty good relationship with Mayhew Tools, I feel, and they’ve been really good to me. I felt like I owed it to them to try and do that for them. I know they have a championship last year on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour with Doug, and I thought it would be cool to cap off a championship on our side with them. Dan Stebbins and Craig from the 52 because of what they have done with me the last couple of years. But unfortunately, it didn’t end with those guys, but I got other opportunities.”
Ironically, Pitkat might not have been in this title fight if the racing season had taken a different course. Following the suspension of the No. 52 program following Beech Ridge, Pitkat was unable to come up with a ride for the following race the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on September 15. But when that race was canceled due to issues internal to the track, Pitkat got the time he needed to search for a ride, eventually partnering with his Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified owner Stan Mertz for the round at Lee USA.
“I said after the whole Waterford cancelation deal that I felt like things happen for a reason,” Pitkat stated. I don’t know what the reason was, why that Waterford race canceled, because I didn’t have anything that night, I was not going to be at that race if that got in. After that I got an opportunity to go with Stan to Lee to try and salvage some points, then we came out of there on top, and now we just got to try and finish it off at Thompson.”
The MRS title is top priority for Pitkat during the Sunoco World Series at Thompson this weekend, but that will not stop him from running a plethora of races, as he usually does over the long weekend at “The Big T”.
“It will be crazy, I’m doing five this year. I’ll be in the Thompson Late Model, the ACT Late Model, the MRS, SK and the (NASCAR Whelen Modified) Tour. It will be pretty busy, but it’s always nice to be able to get stuff done Friday with racing that Late Model and qualifying for MRS, so we’ll get that all out of the way. Saturday will be the crazy day with all the qualifying and practicing in most of the cars I’ll be racing with. Then with the features, I’ll be getting out of the ACT car right into the 24 Modified.”
For other drivers, this schedule might be a distracting jumble. For Pitkat, it is a way to take off some of the pressure that’s associated with battling for the MRS championship.
“I will be busy, but it will be good because it won’t put any extra mindset on what I need to do in that MRS race. I can just keep plugging along, keep racing, then get in that thing and get the job done.”
Stay with Speed51.com to follow Pitkat’s progress and all the racing action at the 56th Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen