RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; Closing Out The 2019 Whelen Mod Season At Thompson

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified closes out their 2019 season this weekend with the running of the Annual World Series at the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway.

The 57th annual Sunoco World Series will take place from October 11-13, with 20 different divisions of racing scheduled to compete over three days of racing.

Featured Races: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (150); ACT Tour (75); ISMA (50); VMRS (50); Granite State Pro Stock Series (50); Exit Realty Pro Truck Challenge (35); Sunoco Modifieds (30); NEMA Midgets (25); Late Models (25); NHSTRA Late Model Sportsman (25); Pro 4 Modifieds (22); SK Light Modifieds (20); Limited Sportsman (20); Street Stock Showdown (20); NEMA Lites (20); Open Vintage Modifieds (20); Northeast Mini Stock Tour (20); Mini Stocks (15); Senior Tour Auto Racers Mods (12); Senior Tour Auto Racers Sportsman (12)

The 57th annual Sunoco World Series will take the green flag on Friday, October 11, and roll through Sunday, October 13. The event begins on Friday, with practice sessions running throughout the afternoon, and heat racing set to begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. Feature racing on Friday includes the Granite State Pro Stock Series, Late Models, Open Vintage Modifieds and Senior Tour Auto Racers.

Saturday, action begins early with practice at 9 a.m., while qualifying begins at 2:30 p.m. There are 10 different feature races planned for Saturday night. Sunday, action begins at 1 p.m., with the season-finale for Thompson’s Sunoco Modified division. The NEMA Lites, ISMA Supermodifieds and TSMP Limited Sportsman will also join the headliner of Sunday — the Sunoco World Series 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Admission to the paddock area for the entire three days is $75, with grandstand general admission set at $55. Any seniors (65+), veterans and active military will have general admission tickets priced at $50, while kids 12 and under are free in general admission.

In the Sunoco (SK type) Modifieds Keith Rocco leads Woody Pitkat by 40 points heading into the finale, which is a lead he should be more than comfortable with. Thompson competitors earn 50 points for winning a feature race, while each position down through the field earns two less, meaning second earns 48, third receives 46, etc. In heat races, the winner earns five points, with a one-point drop throughout the top five, with fifth earning just one. Pitkat would need Rocco to have a major stumble to have a shot. On the stats front, his eighth track title would be his 17th overall NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I track championship. Rocco also has six championships to his credit under the NASCAR sanction at New London-Waterford Speedbowl, and three at Stafford Motor Speedway.

While the Connecticut speedways were quiet the racing was hot and heavy at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire. Woody Pitkat wanted to prove that his Valenti Modified Racing Series victory during last year’s Oktoberfest at Lee USA Speedway was not a fluke. He did just that Sunday afternoon by winning the first of two 50-lap features at the northern New England oval. Pitkat returned to Russ Conway’s Oktoberfest after winning a bizarre rain-shortened race in 2018. Only 19 green flag laps were completed that day before Pitkat and his Stan Mertz No. 6 team celebrated a victory in the rain.

Pitkat started the first 50-lap “King Cone” feature from the fourth position and methodically put himself in a position to challenge for the lead. After Les Hinckley led the opening 38 laps, Pitkat powered to the inside of the early race leader on Lap 39 to take the lead. From there, Pitkat was challenged by Tommy Barrett, a driver known for his ability to save tires and pounce when it matters most. Barrett stayed even with Pitkat on a restart with six laps remaining before peeking to the inside and making slight contact on two different occasions.

Pitkat survived all challenges from Barrett in the closing laps to earn his first Valenti Modified Racing Series victory of the season in just his second start. Barrett, Hinckley, Ronnie Williams and Brian Robie competed the top five in the first twin 50.

In the second 50 lapper Anthony Nocella wasn’t sure exactly where things went wrong in the first 50-lap race, but he was more than happy to rectify whatever it was in the second race. Nocella held off a fierce challenge from Ronnie Williams on a late-race restart to score his 15th career Valenti Modified Racing Series victory.

Maine native Josh Cantara led the first 27 laps of the race until Beech Ridge Motor Speedway winner and fellow Maine driver Tony Ricci took control on Lap 28. Ten laps later, Nocella charged to the front and made his way by Ricci to take command. Nocella was forced to hold off both Les Hinckley and Ronnie Williams on a pair of late-race restarts, including one with just two laps remaining. Williams, Tommy Barrett, Les Hinckley and race one winner Woody Pitkat completed the top five in the second 50-lap race. Shortly after the final checker fell the predicted rain began.

In other action at Lee, a big shout-out to Jacob Perry for his win in the Pro Truck Series feature. Perry started last and took the lead on the final lap. Corey Caddick was the Mini Stock winner, Derek Griffith was the Granite State Pro Stock 100 winner, Aaron Fellows won the Late Model Sportsman 100 and Sammy Swindell was the 25 lap NEMA Midget winner.

The 50th Annual Stafford Speedway Champion’s Awards Banquet has been scheduled for Friday, November 15 at Maneeley’s in South Windsor. Tickets to the awards banquet are $50 and are on sale now. Tickets can be ordered by calling the track at 860-684-2783 or they can be ordered online at www.staffordspeedway.com.