Just two days after the conclusion of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s busiest stretch of the season, which included racing three times in 12 days, tempers flared between two of the Tour’s top drivers on Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). Current NWMT points leader Ryan Preece (Berlin, Connecticut) and hometown driver Woody Pitkat, who trails Preece by just five points in the standings, were involved in an on-track accident while battling for the lead in the highly-competitive NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified division.
According to a number of sources at the track on Friday night, the activity between the two teams didn’t end there. One of those sources in the pit area at Stafford Motor Speedway told Speed51.com powered by JEGS that a member of Pitkat’s No. 50 SK Modified team confronted Preece in the cockpit of his No. 6 Modified as he neared his pit stall.
Local authorities on the scene in Stafford Springs, Connecticut de-escalated the situation in the pit area before later telling Speed51.com that no charges would be pressed and they considered the “matter to be closed.” Preece declined to comment on exactly what happened but did explain that “some stuff” occurred. Pitkat was unavailable for comment at the end of the night.
While the description of what happened off the track after the race was consistent from multiple sources, what happened on the track depends on who you ask.
Following what was already bizarre 40-lap feature event that had seen contenders such as Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher eliminated from contention, Pitkat led the event on a lap 33 restart with Preece to his outside. The two drivers put on a show for the fans in attendance running side-by-side for five laps before Pitkat took command coming to the stripe with two laps to go.
That is when things started getting hairy. Preece, who was previously running the outside during the side-by-side battle, dove to the bottom of Pitkat in turn one in an attempt to steal the race lead. The two made contact that sent Preece up and over Pitkat’s left nerf bar and left front tire. Pitkat would be sidelined for the remainder of the race due to the incident, while Preece would go on to finish the race in the sixth position.
Michael Gervais would win the bizarre and entertaining 40-lap feature event after holding off Rowan Pennink, a three-time feature winner in 2015, on a green-white-checkered restart. Tyler Hines, Dan Avery and Eric Berndt would complete the top-five.
At the end of the night, Preece looked at the on-track incident and chalked it up to being a racing incident between the two drivers.
“We were racing hard and nerf bar banging there,” Preece explained. “A hole opened up in turn one and I took it. I feel like we raced hard and we ended up wrecking both of us. I don’t want to wreck and I know he doesn’t want to wreck, but I come here to win this race. That’s what we come here to do. If we raced again, I would have taken the same move I did. There was a hole there and I went for it just like I feel like any other driver here would have done the same thing.
“I feel like I didn’t drift up and I feel like we banged wheels. Whatever he feels happens is what he feels, but I feel like I went for a move that was there.”
Pitkat, speaking over the track public address system after the incident, wasn’t on the same page as Preece when it came to discussing the cause of the accident.
“I just got taken out by Ryan Preece,” said Pitkat. “He always has to win everything. He’s always got to be first at everything. He doesn’t know what second is. It’s either first or last for him. I’ll remember that. It’s game on for now.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor & Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com