Opening Act: Woody Pitkat Wins First Mod Tour Pole In Icebreaker 150 Qualifying At Thompson

Woody Pitkat celebrates his first career NASCAR Modified Tour pole Saturday at Thompson Speedway

Woody Pitkat celebrates his first career NASCAR Modified Tour pole Saturday at Thompson Speedway

THOMPSON – As Woody Pitkat stood waiting for a group of photographers to finish taking pictures of him Saturday at Thompson Speedway, one photographer told him to smile.

“I’ve been smiling since I got the call,” Pitkat said.

The “call” Pitkat was referring to was when he was tabbed by Buzz Chew Racing to replace Bryon Chew as the team’s driver for the 2014 season on the NASCAR Modified Tour.

Saturday at Thompson Speedway, in his first event with his new team, Pitkat showed he’s ready to do big things for the organization.

Pitkat, of Stafford, won the pole in qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR Modified Tour season opening Icebreaker 150 at Thompson.

It was Pitkat’s first career Modified Tour pole in 79 starts dating back to 2007.

“Usually it takes a while to gel, but it’s coming quicker than even I thought,” Pitkat said. “To me this is a dream come true, the opportunity to get such a good ride. Now I’ve got to go out there and prove. It’s all on me now.”

Pitkat toured the .625-mile Thompson oval in 18.724 seconds (120.167 seconds). Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, N.Y. was second (18.796 seconds, 119.706) and Donny Lia of Jerich, N.Y. third (18.802 seconds, 119.668).

Around the Modified Tour Pitkat is being pointed at as the driver many are expecting to have a breakout season. In three full-time seasons on the Modified Tour Pitkat has never finished better than ninth in the standings.

“I feel like I haven’t really proven myself on the [NASCAR Modified Tour],” Pitkat said. “I’ve been here for a while now, … I feel like I’ve accomplished everything and ran really good in Late Models and SK [Modifieds], but I haven’t really proven myself on the Tour. I haven’t proven that I can run consistent and run up front and run for wins. And that’s what I want to prove.

“Just to be able to get the opportunity to drive for these guys. The work that goes in at the shop, [Ron Ste-Marie], the crew chief, the guy is there like 12 hours a day. It’s unbelievable how much time and effort and looking at those cars, just how much dedication he does.”

When Hill Enterprises team owner David Hill decided late last season to shut down his team for the 2014 season, it left Pitkat, his driver, without a seat on the Modified Tour.

But his ride-less situation was short-lived. It was just a couple weeks after the end of the 2013 season that Pitkat found out he was going to get the opportunity to drive the Chew car this season. Pitkat understands that the expectations are high for him this year.

“When I got on the plane to go to North Carolina to go to the [NASCAR Modified Tour banquet in Charlotte] in November, the first person that I saw that I knew was [seven-time Modified Tour champion] Mike Stefanik,” Pitkat said. “He was sitting there and he didn’t say hi, he didn’t say nothing. All he said to me was ‘You’re going to win some races in that car.’ To hear that from him, with as many championships and wins that he has, that gave me all the confidence in the world.”

Bonsignore wasn’t complaining about being a pot behind Pitkat on the grid for Sunday.

“It’s a big improvement from where we’ve been lately [at Thompson],” Bonsignore said. “I think we’ve got a good car. … We were just a little tight in qualifying. We’ll take it.”

Ryan Preece of Berlin, who begins defense of his 2013 NASCAR Modified Tour championship, will start fourth.

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