Musical chairs, or musical seats, when it comes to racing?
Let’s call it musical seats.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour veteran Woody Pitkat will swap between four different race seats this weekend at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. He will unload in the running for two of Thompson’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championships, compete in the American Canadian Tour race, and will sit behind the wheel of the No. 1 Dunleavy’s/Ty Cooper Land Holdings Chevrolet for Eddie Harvey on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
"I just like to race," Pitkat said. "I’ve always looked at where I feel better off staying busy and being in other cars. It keeps your mind off (the championship battles). You know what you’re running for and where to position yourself, but to be able to get in and out of cars, and be more focused on working with the teams and telling them what adjustments you need, it’s what I have always liked."
On the Whelen Modified Tour, Pitkat has two starts with Harvey so far, and both times on the track, the car showed the speed. He may have qualified 17th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but Pitkat rolled up inside the top 10, before a pit road mistake cost the team a few laps. He was still able to rebound for a 12th-place finish, albeit three laps down. In the NAPA Fall Final at Stafford, Pitkat qualified 13th, but ran as high as second, and crossed the line in eighth at the finish.
It’s been a good start for the combination — a duo that have been friends for years.
"There have been no issues with what they are going to give me a for a car. I’ve been ecstatic with what they have given me," he said. "There is really no one I can see I would want to be racing with as a car owner other than Eddie. He’s a ball of fire. We have a good relationship, we’ve always talked, and we talk everyday now. One of the biggest things in racing is having communication and trust in each other."
At Stafford, when Pitkat was running second, a late caution saw him take the hard left down pit road for a third fresh tire. He had already pitted for two, but stayed out when some other top contenders pitted for their third tire. On the next caution, they felt like he needed to even himself out with the others, and put the third tire on.
"I know going into the race I’m going to have a good car and I’ll be going forward," Pitkat said. "I think that I really had a good enough car where I’m not saying I was going to win — but my car was rotating just as good with two tires — I kind of kick myself because I think we definitely would have been better than eighth (if he wouldn’t have come down again). We feel like if things were a bit different we could have been in tech in both races we have run together so far. That’s really all I’m looking for."
In Thompson’s Whelen All-American Series Division II Late Model title battle, Pitkat will look to seal his second Late Model championship, and fourth overall track title, in the first feature of the weekend on Friday night. He leads William Wall by five points in that chase, with three wins already to his credit in the first eight races.
In the Whelen All-American Series Division I Sunoco Modifieds, Pitkat has a bit more of a long shot — trailing seven-time track champion Keith Rocco by 40 points entering their 30-lap finale. But, with a large car count expected, anything is possible.
"My two teams have gelled really well and everyone gets along," Pitkat said. "Both teams are onboard and help each other any way they can. It’s been a really fun year with them. When I started racing Late Models, Jeff Hartwell (his Late Model car owner) was racing, so it just shows how long he has been around, and how long I have been around. It’s special to have this opportunity to win the championship for him."
"With the SK team, this is the first time I have really worked with Dan Avery," Pitkat said. "It just started race-to-race to see how it was going to go. We got crashed pretty bad one race, and if it wasn’t for a rainout at Thompson, we might not even have been in this situation we are in. We had one bad wreck in the SK, and Keith hasn’t really had one bad race. Unless you have an outstanding year, usually someone has one mulligan."
For Pitkat, the weekend is just going to be about having fun and trying to earn as many checkered flags as possible. A championship trophy, or two, wouldn’t hurt.
"Each year it gets harder and harder to try and get all of your ducks in a row and have all teams to be onboard. At the end of the day, the Whelen Modified Tour is my top priority. But with qualifying and racing on some different days, getting one feature out of the way on Friday, it works out good. Seat time has always been a factor, the more you can have, the better. The fact you can be in position to be running for championships at the end of the year is a goal we start the year with."
"I’m pretty pumped up to get back at it. Talking to Eddie, and seeing what they have done in the past at Thompson… I know they have always been up front. We have some awesome people that are helping. Everything is there to make a team that can be contending in the top four or five. There is no doubt about it — it’s just a matter of putting all of the pieces in the puzzle in the right spot."
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes:
- Outside of the race for the win, the true battle will surround the championship chase in the 34th season of the Whelen Modified Tour. Doug Coby leads Justin Bonsignore by 19 points, and will need to finish 16th or better to earn the title no matter what Bonsignore does. Coby is looking for a sixth title, which would push him to the second most in the modern era, while Bonsignore is seeking his second consecutive title driving for Ken Massa. Both drivers have previous victories at Thompson, and the combination has won all three races at the oval so far this season.
- With nearly 40 cars expected for the season-finale, it will be the highest car count of the 16-race championship points schedule, and will be the highest count since 2014, when 36 drivers took the green. Although it isn’t their home track, a few Riverhead Raceway regulars are planning to make the trip, including Tom Rogers Jr., who will drive a second car out of the Danny Watts Racing stable. Andy Jankowiak, a regular on the Race of Champions Modified Tour, will attempt to make his debut.
- Thompson’s World Series weekend includes 20 different divisions — a mix of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series classes and additional New England Touring Series classes. Other than Pitkat, Stafford’s first-time Whelen Modified Tour winner Craig Lutz will also compete in the Valenti Modified Racing Series event on Saturday night.