Last Call: Anthony Nocella Inherits Modified Racing Series 100 Win After Woody Pitkat Penalized

A dejected Woody Pitkat looks on as Anthony Nocella celebrates victory in the Valenti Modified Racing Series event Saturday at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway

A dejected Woody Pitkat looks on as Anthony Nocella celebrates victory in the Valenti Modified Racing Series event Saturday at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (Photo: Travis Barrett)

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — In hindsight, Woody Pitkat could have done the one thing any race car driver hates to do. He could have just tried to finish second.

Pitkat, of Stafford, Conn., was penalized after a wild, last-lap wreck in Valenti Modified Racing Series 100 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Saturday night, robbing him of a race win and instead handing it over to Anthony Nocella.

Nocella, of Woburn, Mass., won the first of two 50-lap segments contested en route to the overall victory. Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, Conn., was second, with Todd Annarummo third.

“They were telling me on the radio a little bit, because I won the other segment, so they were telling me about how many spots I had to get there at the end,” said Nocella, who finished sixth unofficially in the second segment. “We’re not running for points — so we either weren’t going to make it through that wreck or we would win the race.

“I figured we were going to go for it. It was definitely exciting.”

But though Nocella scored his second career VMRS victory — and his first since a win at Seekonk Speedway in 2013 — the story of the night unfolded around him with Pitkat and Richard Savary racing for the second segment win.

The full field was inverted following the completion of the first 50 laps, leaving Pitkat starting in the 18th spot after two drivers were dropped to the rear of the field to begin the second segment. After making a pit stop for an adjustment on an early caution, Pitkat stormed up through the field without the benefit of a caution during a long 25-lap green-flag run in the second half of the segment.

A restart with three laps to go had Pitkat restarting third, and he made quick work of Todd Patnode to put himself in position behind the leader Savary. As the white flag waved, Pitkat made a strong crossover move off of Turn 2, pulling underneath Savary on the backstretch. The two cars made contact, and Pitkat slowed his car to nearly a complete stop.

Savary spun into Turn 3, and the field scattered across the track.

Patnode raced back to the checkered flag to collect the segment win, while Pitkat crossed the line second. Coupled with his fifth-place finish in the first segment, Pitkat would have easily been the overall winner of the event as the only driver to score a Top-5 finish in each both segments. Instead, as he was parked on the frontstretch waiting for VMRS officials to sort out the final scoring, he was informed that he’d been dropped to the rear of the field for the final segment and well outside of a podium finish for the night.

“I obviously don’t want him to spin,” Pitkat said. “I’m not looking to just take a guy out. I drove from (18th) to third and I never touched a soul — I never touched one guy. I’m not here to just drive through people.

“I don’t know where they came up with the call. (Series owner Jack Bateman) wanted me to read the rulebook. Well, there’s a lot of stuff in the rule book they don’t go by.”

VMRS employs what they call an “A-B Rule,” which states that if any two drivers make contact resulting in a caution flag, both drivers are dropped to the tail end of the field on the ensuing restart.

Nocella said that he was a little surprised, because there had been that kind of chaos throughout the second half of the race.

“Everyone was just beating and banging those last two restarts in a row,” Nocella said. “Everyone was sliding, and we were a little sideways. I was just trying to keep it straight, and the next thing I saw everyone kind of checked up and everyone was banging off of each other.

“I really didn’t see who got into who or what started it all.”

Nocella finished second in this race a year ago, and he also has a Midget win on the flat .333-mile track. His celebration Saturday was muted, of course, thanks to the confusion over the final finishing order and the delay in getting him into Victory Lane.

Fifteen minutes later, Pitkat was still visibly upset at the circumstances in his team’s hauler.

“I’m pretty shocked,” Pitkat said. “When the guy is blatantly turning left on you because he doesn’t want you to pass him, you have to get out of it? That makes absolutely no sense. What did they think — that I got underneath (Savary) and was turning right?”

Pitkat was credited with 14th place overall.

“They knew I was coming. Richard knew I was coming,” Pitkat said. “I guess I just had to finish second. Now that I think of it, I should have just let Richard win and he could have his glory and I would have been the overall winner.

“That’s shame on me. I guess I need to know who I’m racing with, unfortunately.”


  1. Andy Boright says

    Awful call by series officials. Pitkat was clearly (and cleanly) under Savary coming out of turn 2 and going down the back stretch. Savary spun himself out trying to chop Pitkat. The VMRS has had inconsistent & sloppy officiating from day one of it’s creation, and it still has those same issues today, leaving racers screwed, and fans (the paying customers) with something less than a professional show.

  2. These split segment races are fine, but in my book this “overall winner” stuff is nonsense. If you don’t win either segment, you didn’t win a damn thing in my book. Give the “overall winner” a cash bonus if you want, but he didn’t “win” anything. Gimmicks in racing never really work as planned.

  3. Another year, another official’s call that has had a direct effect on the championship. Once again its a WMT regular with a late season point lead. Knowing Woody has to miss 1 race, last night was a killer. Had the win stood, he could have probably absorbed missing one event and still had a really good shot at championship. I guess you can’t race for the win on the last lap in the MRS. Mickey Mouse operation all the way around.

  4. Old saying: “They had a fight and a hockey game broke out.” Makes me now think: Why can’t we simply have an auto race without it becoming something else?…

  5. just a fan says

    i really feel bad for theses poor racers who spend all there hard cash …all there spare time and hard work ….to be treated like this for sooooooo long by one…. nazi dictator …..jack bateman ….he is taking all the money from the tracks …tire sales …etc. putting it in his pocket but still is not enough …..he has to fix the races also just like wwf wrestling with these crazy calls on the track …..sad sad sad … they should get together at the front gate at the next race and set things straight or turn around and go home ….no race …no cars …no cash in jacks pocket ….

  6. Frankie Tree says

    B/S Call . What happened to go hard racing . The official should grow a pair . I hate these weak calls that affect a long night of 100 laps to be throw away on last lap !!!!

  7. Chris D- I couldn’t agree more. The whole MRS segments and 20/20 thing at thompson is nonsense. It’s just confusing for everybody.

  8. I was at Beech Ridge Saturday. In the first segment, the guys who started up front pretty much stayed up front. In the second segment, there was a lot of hard racing by the top finishers in segment 1 to get from the back to the front.

    Woody did a GREAT job working his way to the front in segment 2. In fact, I don’t think anyone passed more cars. Lot of fun to watch.

    To the people complaining about a “bad call” (“nazi dictator?” Really? Good God, dude (or dudette) do you even have a CLUE what the Nazis did?), it SOUNDS like the MRS followed its rule book.

    I wasn’t aware of the A-B rule. If I understand Travis’ description — two drivers hit, BOTH go to the rear — then the MRS did EXACTLY what the rule book called for.

    It also explains the chatter I heard on the scanner. I’m paraphrasing here: One official said the 99 turned into Woody. The other official said, “then both were involved and both get dropped to the rear.” Sounded weird to me — until I read this article.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t see the whole incident. But, from what I heard on the scanner, the consensus was that Savary was in the wrong.

    So, did Woody get screwed? I suppose — IF the officials had the leeway to MAKE a judgement call. But, in light of the A-B rule, it sounds like the officials did exactly what the rule book dictated.

    Get angry about the rule, if you want. But it SOUNDS like the officials got it right.

    Personally, I can see both sides to this. Take away the “judgement” from the call, and no one can accuse the officials of favoritism (or being blind, stupid, etc.). On the other hand, it seems like a recipe for drivers to get screwed in those instances where they’re clearly not at fault.

    Keep in mind, too, Woody DID NOT NEED to win this segment to win the overall race. He and his crew DISCUSSED this during the immediately prior yellow flag. They KNEW Woody didn’t need to pass the 99. And yet, he tried it. There’s an argument here that Woody should’ve been smarter; he shot himself in the foot. If he knew the A-B rule — and the risks of a possible crash — then he should’ve been content to take 2nd and the overall win.

    Last thought: I liked the 50/50 format. It made for a really interesting second half. Same was true for the race at Lee, where they used this format.

    The drawback last night: It took FAR too long to announce the winner. Given that determining the winner is a fairly simple math exercise, I have to imagine it’s because they were debating how to handle the 99/42 incident.

  9. Question for Travis:

    Why was JP Cyr in the Casella car? I don’t think Pennink had a conflict last night. I’d hate to see this team split up.

  10. Mike86

    I think Rowan planned to run only select events for the team this season.

  11. The 50/50 format is fine if the overall winner wins at least 1 half. Finishing in the top 5 twice without winning a segment is not winning anything to me. The emphasis should be on winning, not sandbagging for points.

  12. “I’m pretty shocked,” Pitkat said. “When the guy is blatantly turning left on you because he doesn’t want you to pass him, you have to get out of it? That makes absolutely no sense. What did they think — that I got underneath (Savary) and was turning right?”

    Kind of reminds you of the Pitkat\Preece tangle several weeks ago at Stafford,

  13. Mod Tour Fan says

    Horrible call that Bateman made last night, Savary is nothing but a wanna-be that is never gonna be, nothing more than a hack on the track! Always has been and always will be, the sad part is Bateman has all these crazy rules, however they are only for certain drivers. Go back to the MRS race at Seekonk, Savary did manage to win that race, but it was a gift from Bateman, according to the MRS rules, 2.22. Aggressive driving would be continuous use of bumper, chopping, blocking, ect. Any of these can result in placement at the rear of the field or disqualification, depending on severity of the infraction and possible probation. Those of us that were at Seekonk, sat there lap after lap and watched Savary, chop, block and brake check { I guess that could be considered the ect. in the rule} the 42 of Pitkat, where was the penalty for Savary??? There was none, he went on to win the race and thought he was a big hero, when in fact he was nothing more than a zero! The fans once again did not witness good racing, they witnessed a moron doing everything but race to get a win. But once again series officials did not follow their own rules, I guess it depends on who you are. I personally have no desire to attend any racing event where the outcome is decided by Officials that don’t seem to have a clue on what racing is. I know Mario Fiore can go a bit over board at times, however, I feel he is correct in his view of this series, it is a joke. I can remember watching Savary’s dad race years ago, believe me , Richard has not inherited any talent or skill from his dad. Last night the officials, along with everyone else that was there, saw the 99 turn into the 42 and spin himself out, I guess he thought if he wasn’t going to win, he was going to make damn sure Pitkat didn’t. Why Savary thought it was a big deal to win the second segment, he finished in the back of the first segment, so he was not going to be the winner. It appears Savary has MRS Officials in his hip pocket, if that is the kind of drivers they want on the MRS, go for it, but don’t expect the fans to follow.

  14. Just my thoughts... says

    Stones, In the Pitkat/Preece incident at Stafford, Preece claims he saw a hole and went for it, he is there to win the race. Last night Savary messed up and drifted way up the track opening up a BIG hole, Pitkat went for it, as any good racer would. The big difference here is Preece is a talented driver, Savary is not, in fact he just plain SUCKS! Again, just my thoughts…

  15. I used to attend all the VMRS races but after random enforcement of the rules really shows that Jack has his favorites. Why else would he have several of the tech guys quit? The last couple of years it has been a rotating door of tech guys (i.e.: Scott Tapley) . Jack seems to be afraid to delegate some of the management duties even though he started the series. He is not taking care of his drivers that make the show for him. Maybe a complete boycott of one of the races (never get every driver/owner to go along)would wake up Jack. I agree with NH MARK that VMRS is a second rate series(mickey mouse) and run by Goofy. This is just my thoughts!

  16. Fast Eddie says

    I can’t really comment on the finish, as I was not there. However, I have a suggestion to resolve the “overall win” issue. I was at Lee and enjoyed the “twin 50” format. Why not split the points and the prize money evenly between the two segments, with a little bonus points and money for the overall winner? Points would work out the same at the end of the event, and maybe a heat race win worth of extra points to the overall win. Separate purse money would make each segment be equally important for competitors, again with a little extra money to the overall points leader for the complete event. Just a thought…

  17. why the surprise says

    ^^^ See Oktoberfest results. No need to say more about this “series”

  18. Fast Eddie, your idea is similar to what I was thinking but there is still one problem. If someone blows up or wrecks bad in race one, they will miss race two… normally they would have a week or 2 to make repairs in time for the next race. Again I say gimmicks don’t usually work out as planned in racing.

  19. Mod tour fan, Bill and why the surprise,
    Why do you guys even go to the MRS races? You all are obviously devoted Whelan Mod Tour fans. If the MRS races are as bad as you guys say, why do you even bother????? Is it just to criticize them????

  20. Mod Tour Fan says

    Bob C. , This happens to be the first year that I have had the time to attend the MRS events on a regular basis, I have heard rumors in the past about the Series Director, but I choose to base my opinions on what I have seen with my own eyes or heard with my own ears. That being said, I have seen enough and heard enough to know that the rumors I have heard are true. It is not that all the races are bad, some are pretty good, it is the decisions that the Series Director makes that make the MRS Series a target for bad publicity. The rulebook is just crazy, Jack Bateman not only tells the drivers how to race, the rules also state what the drivers are suppose to not say about the Series. If top 15 in points do not attend the banquet, they do not get paid, what planet did Bateman come from?? I have only had a chance to glance over the rule book, but what I saw was just crazy, Bateman gives new meaning to the term “Control Freak”. I never said the MRS races are all bad, it is the calls that Bateman makes that are just crazy! Let the drivers race, if a penalty is needed give it, but don’t police the race. It is my understanding that an example of this A B rule is, car A is running in 3rd, car B is 4th, but wants 3rd, car B punts car A out of the way and causes car A to spin, car B also gets caught up in the spin, both must go to the rear. In my opinion car B should be parked and take points away, maybe disqualified for the race. Why should car A get the same penalty as car B, as car B was the cause of the incident??? Now if my example is wrong, please feel free to correct me. You can also be assured that I will not be at Waterford on Saturday, as I am not going to bother to go! There is plenty to criticize with the way this Series is run, and NO it is not The Premier Modified Series of the Northeast, as it’s website suggests!

  21. Patrick Tetreault jr says

    I go to the majority of the MRS events and I have to say if anyone watches these races and the decisions made by the officials and feels that the series is properly run then they are really not aware of how most series run their shows! It very obviously appears at times that whoever is making some of these calls is dumb! I’ll give you one quote that was said and repeated! Now remember my drivers I follow are all Swanzey NH guys I don’t know Tommy Barrett from Adam. Bateman said after a race at Lee in which Barrett passed 15 cars in the last ten laps to easily win that it was un-sportsman like! I think that is all we need to hear to know that he is unqualified to run this series!

  22. old observer says

    Ever hear of the Milk Bowl? It is a race that runs in 3 segments & drivers race hard but respectfully for 3 segments to end up on top at the end with the best overall average. I Haven’t seen any of the segment MRS races but they have to be better than the normal “save the tires from the green flag until the end races @ Lee.
    Savary has Jerry Cooks old rear bumper.
    Been to some good MRS races & hope they get back on track to that status again.
    Food for thought

  23. The VMRS event at Waterford will surely be the race that rights the ship. After all, there is NEVER any controversy there.

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