LOWELL, Mass. — Story by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Tim Bradbury/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
As the 31st annual season of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour quickly approaches, there is a new combination in town that is preparing to do battle … at least on a part-time basis.
Woody Pitkat, the third-place finisher in the 2015 points standings, has teamed up with owner Kevin Stuart for 2016 on what will start as an 11 race schedule with the No. 85 on the side of their Chevrolet tour-modified.
“I was looking for an opportunity and a lot of people I talked to already had their plans set,” Pitkat said. “This really didn’t come about until Todd (Szegedy) came out and said that he was going to take a year off and do his own thing. I heard that he (Stuart) had possibly had a Tour car and I gave him a call.”
For Stuart, grabbing Pitkat to drive the car was really a matter of taking a suggestion from his former driver (Szegedy) and what he had seen from Woody while racing against him in the past. Szegedy drove Stuart’s ride on the Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) in years past.
“Todd decided to take the year off and I asked him to who he wanted to see in the car and he said Woody,” Stuart told Race Chaser Online. “I called Woody and a couple other people right from the start.”
The Stafford, Conn. native has three career wins on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, including two at Stafford Motor Speedway, which he considers his home track. The other came on the “big stage” for the modifieds at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Sept. of 2014.
All three of those victories came driving for Buzz Chew Racing and car No. 88, but the team decided to take their future in a different direction (racing on dirt) following the conclusion of the 2015 season and that opened up Pitkat to venture out looking for a new deal.
As the season approaches, Pitkat and Stuart both agree that the original plan will be to run 11 of the 17 scheduled points races this season, but things can obviously change once they get underway.
“As of right now we are gonna run 11 races, thats what we had talked about,” Pitkat said. “The four Stafford’s, four Thompson’s, two Loudon’s and then Oswego is what he talked about but he also said we’ll see how it goes and maybe we can go to some other tracks.”
Stuart confirmed those 11 races are what he is looking to do this season, but also said that there is a possibility things could change as the year gets going.
“Right now, all the Thompson, Stafford and Loudon races, plus I’d like to go to Oswego because I haven’t been there since I was a kid,” Stuart said. “I think we will work fine together. We’ve raced against Woody with Todd in the VMRS deal and they always raced good together. Both drivers respected each other and gave each other room. We don’t need someone to tear up the equipment, it gets costly when they started tearing wheels off and neither of them do that.”
For Pitkat, he hopes that a successful start could propel them into more races that they don’t plan on running at this point.
“They have had good cars like at Waterford and Monadnock and he knows I run good there. It’s the IceBreaker, then a week off then Stafford, then two weeks off then Waterford and you would think if it’s going well, he would go to that.”
After finishing ninth in the 2014 point standings, Pitkat broke out in 2015 — scoring one victory and 11 top-five finishes in 15 races. He finished inside the top-10 in all but one race, which was at Stafford, when Pitkat was involved in an accident and fought back to a 12th place finish.
Pitkat will be running the VMRS schedule with Stebbins Racing for 2016 and they hope to run as many races as possible, though there could be a few conflicting races. Pitkat also plans to continue running at Stafford Motor Speedway in the SK Modified division and hopes to run the races on the NorthEast Race Cars Tri Track Open Modified Series.
“At the time, he (Stuart) was looking for someone to do some VMRS racing and some partial Tour stuff. Unfortunately, at the time I couldn’t run his Valenti car because I had a prior commitment. I let him know I was interested in doing something with the Tour car and four or five days later he contacted me and said that he would like to do something on the Tour and see how it would go, I’m excited for it.”
Though Pitkat has never personally worked with Stuart on a car, he knows that Stuart is hard-working and seems to do everything he can to make sure the car has the best equipment they can provide and can run up front.
“I haven’t really worked with Kevin before, but I’ve known him racing against him through the years. This past year I raced against Todd on the VMRS I have a pretty good relationship with him and we talk a lot,” Pitkat said. “I like the fact that he (Stuart) owns his own business and he’s a hard-worker. He’s owns a towing business up in Lowell, Mass. and it’s cool to see how hard he works and the time and effort he gives to get the money to go racing. If he works as hard on the race car as he does at work it’ll be a pretty good deal.”
As Pitkat prepares to venture into something new for 2016, he took the time to give thanks to Chew and the No. 88 team for all they did for him, while sharing his excitement about the upcoming year and thanks to Stuart and his team.
“I wanna thank Kevin and his brother for giving me the chance to keep running on the Tour and pursuing that series — it’s pretty much just Stuart’s Automotive on there for sponsors,” Pitkat said. “I just gotta thank everyone because if it wasn’t for them. I wouldn’t be where I am. I’m thankful for everything Buzz and those guys did for me. I’m gonna gear up here and just see how it all goes.”
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season kicks off on April 10 with the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
About the Writer
Kyle Souza is an aspiring Journalism major at the Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. Souza is Race Chaser Online’s New England motorsports insider, covering everything from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and the PASS North Super Late Models.
When not writing, Souza works at the Seekonk Speedway as the track’s Friday night public address announcer and press writer, and is also the Media Director for both the Granite State Pro Stock Series and the Tri Track Open Modified Series.
Email Kyle at: [email protected]
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