MIDLAND, N.C. — Simply racing again after the death of his close friend and mentor Ted Christopher was hard enough for Woody Pitkat, but being asked to carry on in Christopher’s footsteps behind the wheel of Danny Watts’ No. 82 was something else entirely.
That was the moment when the impact of everything Christopher had done, both in the sport and for Pitkat personally, truly began to set in.
“It was humbling,” Pitkat told Race Chaser Online during the North-South Shootout at Concord Speedway last weekend. “It’s touching and a huge honor for me to be the one to come after him in this seat. I wouldn’t have expected it, honestly. It made me reflect on everything leading up to this.”
For the 38-year-old from Stafford Springs, Conn., being asked to succeed Christopher — New England modified racing’s unofficial and modern-era ‘King’ — wasn’t about replacing the champion, but rather continuing the work he started with the team.
“I already had rides, you know … I had started forming my own team and was jumping around from race to race on the (NASCAR Whelen Modified) Tour, but it was nothing that I could do full time, so I wanted to make sure that they (team owner Danny Watts and crew) were cool with it,” Pitkat said. “Obviously, they were, but it’s a different feeling for all of us. We’re not trying by any means to replace Ted. A lot of people are writing articles about how I was replacing Teddy and that’s definitely not the case, because he can never be replaced.”
“I’m just honoring him the best way I know how, and that’s by racing. Ted was a racer … he would have wanted the team to keep racing, so that’s what we’ve been able to do here and I’m just humbled, like I said, to be a part of it.”
Pitkat added that what most struck him was that all of the crew members that Christopher brought to the team when he moved over to drive for Watts mid-season stayed with the team even after Christopher’s tragic passing in September a plane crash.
It showed a loyalty that is arguably no greater than in New England short track racing, he said.
“It’s awesome to be with Danny and all of these guys. One thing that I really like is that Teddy’s guys stayed with the team,” said Pitkat. “They could’ve said ‘Enough’s enough and we’re done,’ but it was really cool to see them stay and help out like they have. It’s passion and it’s loyalty, without a doubt.”
In three starts with Watts to close the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, Pitkat scored a pair of top-10 finishes, including a strong run during the Sunoco World Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park that went awry right at the very end.
“We were so close at Thompson to putting the thing in victory lane and ended up getting spun with like nine to go,” Pitkat lamented. “That would have been really cool … and we had another opportunity this weekend at Concord to try to get the thing up there and it just didn’t quite work out like we wanted it to. We’re fighting, man. We’re not giving up on it.”
Pitkat recalled Christopher as “a fierce competitor” but added that away from the race track, he had a completely different persona.
“Outside of racing, Teddy was a whole different person,” said Pitkat. “The people that truly loved to hate him and hate him and boo him, if they had ever gotten to see the side of him that he showed outside of racing, they would probably have a different view of who he was. He was down to earth, he’d do anything for anybody, he was funny and his business that he had was awesome.”
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