Monday June 18, 2007

By Brian Danko                                                                           

Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT received an early birthday gift when Roger and Sandra Hill of Westfield, NC named the 2006 NASCAR Regional Champion as driver of the Hillbilly Racing #79. Pitkat, who will turn 28 on July 7th found he was the choice when notified by the Hills on Tuesday evening, June 12th and the defending Thompson Speedway SK modified champion was elated with the news. "I can't believe this." Woody said by phone of the news. "This is an incredible opportunity for me. I've worked hard for the last 10 years to get to this point. I am just very thankful to the people who have helped me along the way."

Pitkat was scheduled to fly to North Carolina this past Sunday night and get his seat situated in his new modified. Woody also expected to test the modified at Motor Mile Speedway on Tuesday and then fly home and get ready for the Thompson Speedway 150 lap modified feature on Thursday night, June 21st.

Woody, who works full-time on James Civali modified owned by Don King will continue in that position and he thanks King for the good word to the Hills and the chance to keep his job. "He is one of the reasons that I got this chance. He still wants me to work there and doesn't see it as a conflict of interest, in fact, he said it should speed up my learning curve."

Pitkat, made a name for himself by winning the prestigious NASCAR regional championship when he captured the Thompson Speedway SK title, which vaulted him into the points lead late last year. He thought that might have helped open some doors but nothing came of it. When he heard Hossfeld was released from the ride, he was urged to call the Hills and express his interest in the ride. "I called Dave (Hill, Crew chief) and left a message and right away I got a call back." Woody laughed, "Normally, I call and leave a message and never get a return call so I was impressed right away." Woody figured he might get the run around but said, "They have done everything that they said they were going to do." Woody is a talker and he readily admits it but he said the Hills left him speechless. "I didn't know what to say other than thanks. They have made a dream come true for me. I want to be done south and with the car being based down there, I might have a chance to meet others."

Pitkat talked with fellow modified driver, Eddie Flemke about his lack of calls from potential car owners and Flemke told him not to jump but to wait for the right opportunity, Woody knew this was the right one. "I figured that my first ride might be in a mediocre modified but not one of the top cars on the circuit. I realize that I have some big shoes to fill in the car but Dave said that there is no pressure other than to go out and do my best and learn."

While Pitkat will continue with his weekly SK modified rides at Stafford and Thompson along with his late model ride, also at Stafford on Friday nights. "I would not be where I am or have this chance if it wasn't for my car owners. Dave Rowe owns my SK modified at Stafford while Pat and Marci Kretchsman own my late model with Bob Hitchcock owning my Thompson SK. These people and others are the ones who have helped me and I owe a lot to them."

Currently, Pitkat is 9th in points at Stafford in the SK's and fifth at the Thompson Speedway. Pitkat said when he got the call for the ride, the first thing he had to do was ask King for time off from work to fit the seat and test. "Already I'm taking time off." Woody said of the demands of being a modified tour driver.

NASCAR officials in Daytona Beach, FL finally got around to discussing the modified tour race at the Twin States Speedway on Sunday, July 8th and as expected made changes to the format for the race.

The 'Allstate 150' will now be a 100 lap modified tour race instead of the scheduled 50 laps. Twin 25 lap qualifying heats will be run and 20% of the cars will qualify in time trials. Any cautions run during the first 50 laps won't count against the 100-lap distance but the remainder of the race will count caution laps.

George Silbermann, managing director of racing operations for NASCAR said Friday, "We made some minor adjustments, some tweaking, we shortened the length of the heats and extended the feature to 100 laps." Earlier, I had talked with Dennis Fleury, promoter of the Twin States Speedway and asked him if he cared if they had a 'Flash' event style race or a mod tour regular event with the same purse that NASCAR promised. "I wouldn't have cared either way but this is a good format for my race track. This helps the small tracks like we are. Their competition (True Value Modified Series) runs 100 lap events and you have to watch what the competition does." Fleury did say that this race had generated the most interest of any race in the history of the track. He also expects a full pit area and has many non-tour regulars and outsiders who have expressed interest in running the race.

Silbermann also said the race has generated a lot more coverage of the modified tour that normally wouldn't have taken place and added, "These events are experiments and sometimes you have to learn by running them. Part of the goal of these events was to cut cost with less laps of racing." He also said that the event at Mansfield, Ohio is an experiment for both the Modified tour and the Busch East. When asked why NASCAR didn't offer the track a regular modified tour event for a lower purse, Silbermann said, "We didn't want to compromise the regular shows." It will now be interesting to see if NASCAR made the changes that are going to convince car owners and drivers not in a point's contention position to run the event.

Scott Zipadelli, crew chief of Jon Wood and the Wood Brothers/JTG Racing Busch team and his closest childhood friend, Chris Tralli, have hunted and fished since they can remember. Now these two have invited a few racing friends to help raise money for Outdoors for Life, an organization that grants wishes that last a lifetime. The Catch a Dream Foundation provides children with life-threatening diseases an opportunity to enjoy an adventurous trip fishing or hunting with their families.
On Wednesday evening, June 27th, at the Mountain Ridge Resort in Wallingford, CT. a benefit will take place with a full meal and raffles. Many racing personalities are expected to be in attendance including Greg and Scott as well as well as Busch East rookie, Joey Logano and former modified tour champion, Mike McLaughlin. Tickets for the fund-raiser are $50.00 per person and are 100% tax-deductible.

Scott and his brother, Greg, grew up in Central Connecticut (Berlin, CT) and became interested in racing as their father, Chick, owned and worked on several modifieds including the ones driven by Brett Bodine and Mike McLaughlin. There they honed their skills and now are successful crew chiefs in the heart of NASCAR racing in North Carolina but Scott had another passion besides racing and when he wasn't with a wrench in his hands it often found a fishing pole or rifle.

Scott and Chris urges all sportsman, sportswomen and NASCAR fans to join them for a fun filled evening that will benefit many in need.