Two weeks ago, many believed that Woody Pitkat would not have a to-do list going into Friday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Stafford Motor Speedway, following his departure from the No. 46 Goodie Motorsports team. But ever resourceful, the next phase of Pitkat’s time was already in motion, although it would be quite a crunch to have things ready by said date.
Two days ago, veteran NASCAR owner Tommy Baldwin, Jr. entered the picture, looking for a driver to fill in for Donny Lia Friday at Stafford while he is away for a personal matter. Pitkat, who is second on the all-time wins list at Stafford in a menagerie of race cars, including Modifieds, was a top choice for the team. Given the situation on the driver’s end, Pitkat accepted the offer to pilot the No. 7NY Friday night.
“I think it’s a great opportunity whenever you can do something with a new team for the first time. To be able to see what Tommy has done with Bobby Santos back in the day, Ryan Preece, and stuff like that; me having a relationship with them too, it feels kind of like at home,” Pitkat told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’m looking forward to working with them and seeing what I can learn from him and see his way of racing. I’ve parked next to him before and seen what he’s about, but working with him is pretty cool and looking forward to it.”
While Pitkat is looking forward to the opportunity to at last work with long-time friend Baldwin, he is also poised to have what feels is a great shot at a home track victory.
“I don’t want to put any added pressure on myself, but I think that’s the main goal for anyone who goes to the race track is to win,” Pitkat stated. “Unfortunately you got close to 30 cars there and only one can win it at the end of the day, but that’s our goal to go in there and try to win the race and I want to put a good show on for my fans, but I want to do good for Tommy and his guys because they haven’t had such a great season either; they’ve had about the same season I had. I’ve finished races, they’ve had some bad luck and DNF’s. I’m looking to try and straighten that ship out and get it back on course and see what we can do.”
And of course, being the one to potentially return the famous No. 7NY to Stafford victory lane for the first time since 1996 has a certain appeal as well for Pitkat.
“I know the history is there, I remember going and watching Mike McLaughlin because he was my main guy when I was twelve or thirteen years old and watching Tom race. That’s obviously a huge deal to be able to get in the 7NY; that’s another reason it’s so cool,” he said. “Again I don’t want to add any pressure, but if you could see that in victory lane at the end of the night I think that would turn a lot of heads and it would be real cool for Tommy and his team. I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity and thank Donny for being so supportive when he can’t be there. We’ll try to make the best of it for those guys, bring the thing home in one piece, hopefully in victory lane, and have it ready for Thompson next week.”
As for Thompson and the rest of the Connecticut races on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule, Pitkat is getting set on a new combined venture with Steve Greer, who Pitkat won the 2013 Stafford SK Modified title with, and Dan Stebbins who owns Pitkat’s car for Tour-type Modified competition outside of NASCAR.
The Gunsmoke-Stebbins Racing team will now have a better opportunity to get ready for their debut which is now slated for Wednesday, August 9 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
“I wanted to make sure those guys were on board with me doing this deal with Tommy and they were very supportive. They’re actually really excited, a couple of the crew are going to come down to try to watch and learn what goes on down there and get the whole feel for NASCAR,” Pitkat explained. “I think it’s going to work out, benefit both of us, they won’t have to work every night until 1 a.m. to thrash to get it ready for Stafford now. We can slow down a little bit and focus on getting it ready for Thompson.”
In a way, Pitkat is pretty much a third owner of the team and is involved heavily in the preparation process. While it is much more work on Pitkat’s already busy sechedule, it is something he welcomes.
“When I posted the picture that night I was leaving the shop, it was 2:45 in the morning. I got home at almost 4 a.m., took a shower, made lunch for my wife and me, by that time it was almost time for work. But it’s definitely worth it, it’s a little bit more stress for me because I’m kind of an owner/driver with the team, but Steve has been really cool with giving me the reigns and letting me do what I want to do. My MRS/MTS guys are 100% backing me, they’re on board. Looking forward to getting to Thompson with those guys and I think it will be a little bit more gratifying when I’m doing a little bit more on my own and you can go out there and have success. At the end of the day it’s more gratifying then just showing up in a car and everybody else is taking care of it.”
While sharing the same No. 52 as the Stebbins owned team, the car is primarily colored white, in a bit of a throwback to Pitkat’s time driving SK’s for Greer. He hopes that it’s something that both the fans and the team will enjoy seeing on the track.
“I’m glad everyone likes it,” Pitkat said of his new-look No. 52. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to come out with the white, but it definitely looks cool. To have white and have it changed up I think it will look really sharp on the track. I got to thank Steve Greer for all the help over the years, winning the SK championship, even when I drove for Adam Skowyra he gave me a motor to use the past couple of years. He’s a huge supporter of mine and I can’t thank him enough. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am today. You’ve got to surround yourself with a bunch of good people and good things will come to those who wait. That’s what’s going on and hopefully we can have some success.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com