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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


by Polly Reid

The NWMT 44th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway is in the books. The traditional blanket of flowers went to hometown driver Woody Pitkat of Stafford who soaked in a victory he could have only imagined nearly 20 years ago when driving a DARE Stock.

Passing Todd Szegedy on lap 161, Pitkat of Stafford, CT never looked back as he wheeled the Buzz Chew owned Buzz Chew Chevrolet/Elbow East sponsored Chevrolet across the line in the extra distance 200 lap NWMT event. His name joins a prestigious list of winners of what has been tagged the ‘Greatest race in the history of spring.’

Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT stayed the course to finish second, pole winner Ryan Preece of Berlin, CT was third with Eric Goodale of Riverhead, NY fourth and Donny Lia of Jericho, NY fifth.

“It’s unreal,” admitted Pitkat. “To have a car that’s that good- been good ever since I got with these guys, it’s just unreal. Never thinking at 16 years old running a DARE car that one day you’d come here and win a Tour race, especially the Spring Sizzler.”

His third career NWMT win, Pitkat’s first career win came here at Stafford last August, a heartfelt victory for the hometown driver, followed by a win at Loudon in September. “Loudon was a big win, that was awesome to win but I think today was bigger than that. It’s the biggest race at Stafford, 200 laps, it really is a dream come true.” Pitkat is the first driver from Stafford to win the Sizzler.

Preece led the thirty- three car field to green with Pitkat on the outside, Rowan Pennink third, Lia fourth and Justin Bonsignore fifth. Preece in the Eddie Partridge owned, TS Haulers/East West Marine sponsored Chevrolet made it clear why he was the pole winner stepping securely out front while the rest of the field decide where they wanted to be.

The first caution waved on lap 18 and using planned strategy, Preece headed down pit row for his fuel stop surrendering the lead to Pitkat. The next caution ten laps later, Pitkat followed suit making his fuel stop surrendering the lead now to Bonsignore.

A caution on the restart cut short the day for Spencer Davis, a tangle that was a close call for Doug Coby who began a series of brief pit stops to adjust the handling on the MSR III machine. Coby continued to make strong gains with the calculated adjustments on pit row and would end his day a solid sixth.

Bonsignore continued to lead while Pitkat who restarted 14th on lap 40, marched forward to fifth by the next caution on lap 65. Bonsignore pitted under this yellow along with several other teams for fuel while up front, Preece inherited the lead with Pitkat, Pennink, Szegedy and Goodale the top five.

The green flag run was reigned in for a caution just before the half way mark that brought the majority of the field down pit row for fresh Hoosiers. The Mystic Missile team had Szegedy off pit row first with Pitkat and Coby following but all lined up behind Preece and Max Zachem who stayed out, ready for the lap 103 restart.

Preece, Szegedy, Pitkat, Coby and Goodale led the way on the next restart with Szegedy getting by Preece to become the new leader on lap 117. Keith Rocco in Canto Paving/Milton Caterpillar Chevrolet made his move from sixth to second by lap 119. Rocco held second settling in behind Szegedy until just after a restart on lap 148, was passed by Pitkat as a sudden fade began- a battery failing, Rocco held on but his car struggled. The Wallingford, CT driver managed to end his day 12th.

Ted Christopher had been as high as third but an incident earlier involving a lap car that went around in front of the leaders caused enough damage to keep Christopher out of Sizzler winning contention.

Up front, Szegedy was hitting his marks with Pitkat shadowing. Pitkat made his move to pass through turns three and four and on lap 161, became the new and final leader.

A green run to the checkers, Pitkat brought the 88 home for a deep heartfelt victory.

“I tried to save the tires until after the fuel stop then tried to drive it hard to get track position back to put yourself in a good position so that when you pit at about half way for tires, you got all your spots back. We came in, the guys had an awesome pit stop again, they’ve been spot on, everybody’s upped their game – got back up to the top five, I got to third when Todd was leading and Rocco was second. I was thinking that was a good spot to ride. Then with about 40 to 50 laps to go we had that restart and I was on the bottom, I knew it was time to get on the wheel, try and get by Keith then work on Todd. Todd was really good, I knew those guys were going to be tough to beat, they’re always good. I tried to work on him, work on him, we started getting a little bit free trying to pass him so I took a couple laps off, cooled off the right rear then tried to get back at him and get the pass done. I knew Ryan had pitted late and I figured he was going to be coming. Then I got to about ten car lengths and tried to take it easy in case there was a late restart. Every lap I was saying ‘please no caution, please stay green’ and that was it. I can’t thank Buzz and Bryon for giving me this opportunity.”

“We were extremely good after that pit stop,” said Szegedy who crossed second and led two different times for a total of 41 laps. “We just needed to tighten the car up a little bit more after that restart where Woody got back by me- we lost a little bit of the drive on exit. If we were able to maintain that drive we would have been in pretty good shape. Woody’s strong- it’s a new car, spec motor, they seem to get through the corners really well. I’m happy to be in a competitive car and have a good finish. I’m very happy for the team- this is what we all need. It was amazing how the team got me out of the pits the way they did. It’s a good feeling going by guys on pit road. The restarts went our way, at Thompson they didn’t. A good pit stop, restarts going your way, being patient and we got a second place finish out of it,” explained Szegedy. “ Woody winning this race was probably the race of his life. We all have our tracks we want to win at and Stafford is obviously on all our lists because this is one of the toughest tracks to race, to win, to master. I would say Woody has mastered this track, no question about it.”

“Pit strategy,” said Preece, “basically anything after 20 laps we were going to come in, pit for fuel then ride it out. I felt like the car was really good, I talked to Tommy (Grasso) and he agreed, let’s wait, anything from 60 to 30 to go and we got what we needed. We got what we needed then when we got to where we needed to be, we just didn’t get the cautions we needed. We had a great car. I don’t know if we could have beat Woody or not, his car was on and Todd was really good too. It was a lot of fun to drive up through the pack like that twice. I’m really happy.”

“We’re very happy, my Dad really wanted to win this race,” said Bryon Chew speaking for car owner Buzz Chew. “It’s very nostalgic to win this race. I think we have a great chemistry going now with Woody. We came here with the new chassis and it’s been really good. The car we won with last year we haven’t taken out yet. This is a new chassis and we can’t say enough about Troyer and how much they’ve helped us out with this win. The crew, everybody, they just put everything together and of course my crew chief whose worked so hard to put this car where it is. No issues, no problems, the car’s been solid just because of the hard work he’s put in.”

Chew and winning crew chief Ron ‘Spot’ Ste-Marie have been together for 20 years, a relationship that continues to thrive with mutual trust and respect. “We have kind of struck our groove now,” said Ste-Marie. “We’ve got last year under our belt and I’m starting to really know Woody’s tone on what the car’s doing and read through it. It’s really good.” The work with Billy Colton from Troyer is paying off with the new car that made its debut at the Icebreaker.

Sixth went to Doug Coby, seventh to Rowan Pennink, eighth to Patrick Emerling, Jamie Tomaino starting his 32nd Spring Sizzler crossed ninth with rookie Brandon Bock tenth.

The NWMT schedule settles to a whisper until May 30thfor the Mr. Rooter 161 at Waterford Speedbowl.
See you then. 
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: April 26, 2015

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