THOMPSON – Last year at Thompson Speedway, Woody Pitkat and his SK Modified team owner Stan Mertz celebrated their first year together with a division championship at the historic facility.
Though missing from the stats that got them to that achievement was a winner’s trophy.
Wednesday Pitkat finally delivered that missing piece to Mertz.
Pitkat held off the charges of Keith Rocco and Ryan Preece over the closing stages to win the 30-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature Wednesday at Thompson Speedway.
It was the first of two SK Modified features scheduled for the evening at Thompson.
Preece, of Berlin, was second and Rocco, of Wallingford, third.
“It’s just awesome to win for Stan,” Pitkat said. “I know he’s pretty excited. It was cool to see him coming running across the track. Obviously he’s worked so hard and pays all the bills and stuff. … To be able to finally win for Stan means a real lot to me.”
The victory also held significance for Pitkat in that it was the first victory in an SK Modified for engine builder Norm Perry of Ashaway Performance Engines.
“To win for APE and [Norm Perry] the engine builder means a lot too,” Pitkat said. “He does the motors on his own and maintains the car. It’s really cool to finally get him his first [SK Modified] win. To come here week in and week out and run against these guys that have like 15 years experience or more with their motor builders, and Norm is just trying to do it on his own. I just can’t thank him so much for working so hard. … It’s just awesome to finally win for him.
“They’re an awesome bunch of people. When I started with them I knew we were going to be the little train that could, but we won a championship with them last year and now we’re just trying to win some races.”
Pitkat started fourth and went to second at the start. On lap two he went by John Studley for the lead and then checked out from his pursuers.
By the time Keith Rocco went by Preece for second on lap nine Pitkat was more than 10 car lengths ahead. Slowly Rocco nibbled to the lead and was up to Pitkat’s bumper by lap 25. On lap 27 Rocco made a move low into turn three for the lead, but Pitkat staved off the challenge off of turn four.
The caution flew on lap 28 and on the restart it was Preece moving past Rocco for second, but Pitkat was able to keep Preece at bay over the final two laps.
“I think it’s harder to win a championship and not win a race,” Pitkat said. “It just comes down to being more consistent. I obviously wanted to win. I thought I had the [final race] won last year and we had a couple late cautions and [Preece] got me. I saw the late caution again today and I’m like ‘Oh no’ because I knew [Rocco] was coming but I think the caution helped me because I was actually getting loose. … I think it gave the tires an opportunity to cool off a little bit.”