Fans at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) were already riled up prior to the Valenti Modified Racing Series 50-lap feature on Saturday night. Woody Pitkat got them even more riled up after making contact with Steve Masse on a late restart and parking his No. 52 in Sunoco World Series Victory Lane.
Following a big clash for the lead at the end of the 75-lap ACT Late Model race, which created a big stir among race fans, the VMRS competitors took to the track for their feature as a part of World Series Saturday at “The Big T.”
Woody Pitkat dominated the majority of the feature, but a yellow flag with 12 laps to go brought Steve Masse into the fray. Masse gave chase on the restart, with Pitkat countering every move he made. Another caution with six laps to go doubled the field back up with Pitkat selecting the inside line for the restart, a choice not normally taken with the outside lane having the most momentum on the high-banked 5/8-mile oval.
Pitkat and Masse went dead even into turn one, both hard on the throttle and drifting up. Contact was made between the leaders in turn two, resulting in Masse drifting out of the groove and into the wall while Pitkat sped ahead.
With the race remaining under green. Pitkat held off a late surge from Jon McKennedy, who clinched the 2016 MRS championship. It was the first MRS win for Pitkat since he joined the Dan Stebins No. 52 team at the start of 2016.
After the race, Pitkat explained his angle of the restart.
“Towards the end we started to get tight, with the restarts it took a good five to six laps for my car to come back around and get heat back in the tires. I tried to get as much heat in my tires as I could,” Pitkat told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Probably could’ve taken the top on the restart, but wanted to stick to the bottom to protect. Just tried to drive it in there and neither of us wanted to lift, just two guys running hard for the win and somebody had to lift. I got down in there and got on the side of Steve a little bit there and went on. Just tried to hold Jon off and win the race.”
Masse on the other hand was very blunt about his thoughts.
“My take, Woody sucks. He put me in the wall, that’s pretty much about it,” Masse said. “I drove him pretty clean, I was behind him, I could’ve done that any of the laps I got underneath him. I got under him a couple of times and he knew once I was on his outside on the frontstretch that the race was over and the only way he could win was if he just drove it in like I wasn’t there. Maybe his spotter didn’t tell him, I don’t know.”
Although the two had not spoken immediately after the race, Pitkat had an understanding of Masse’s frustrations, as he has experienced them himself on more than one occasion in his years at Thompson.
“I can definitely understand it,” he said. “That’s the nature of this track, that’s how people pass here. I had people passing me like that five laps into the race, unfortunately that’s how it is. It’s so hard to pass, you run the outside, that’s the momentum groove. I understand his frustration. Nobody’s doing it on purpose, people are racing out there to win the race, it’s nothing intentional.”
The next race on both drivers schedules is the Bemer’s Big Show, an event featuring a unique twin 35-lap race qualifying format with a 65-lap main feature under the Tri-Track Open Modified Series sanction at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT). While Pitkat won this event in 2015, Masse recently won a $10,000 to win 100-lap feature at “The Bowl” in August. Instead of vowing revenge, Masse vowed to win a week from Sunday.
“I’m not stooping to his level that’s for sure. I’m not going to go put him in the wall at Waterford, but maybe I’ll go there and win. We run pretty good at Waterford.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen