Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – When it comes to Open Modified competition at Stafford Speedway in 2023, parity is the word of the day.
Unlike the 2022 season that saw Woody Pitkat finish second and then win three races in a row, the 2023 season has seen 4 different winners in as many races.
Ron Silk won the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler® in April, Glen Reen won the CBYD 81 in May, Eric Goodale won the Casella 80 in June, and Pitkat won the most recent open modified race, the GAF 80 in July.
Reen, Goodale, and Pitkat know just how competitive open modified competition is at Stafford and they offer their thoughts on the high level of competition they will face once again in the Lincoln Tech 80.
“It’s not just the open cars at Stafford, it’s any car you go to Stafford with,” said Reen, driver of the #10a Avery Construction car. “I was talking with someone the other day and how they can win at one track and when they bring that same car to Stafford they struggle to run around 15th. I told him that’s just how tough Stafford is, if you can win at Stafford, you can win at any track. In every division at Stafford, not just the open cars, you have the best of the best showing up trying to win races. With the open cars it’s even tougher because you have some tour teams and drivers among the competition and they have the knowledge and crew. You really have to bring your A-game to the track when you race those guys because they all know what they’re doing when they unload their car. If you don’t pay close attention, there’s a margin for error and everyone has the same end goal in mind of winning the race.”
“The open shows have been really great over the last couple years and I wish more drivers would join in,” said Goodale, driver of the #58 Riverhead Building Supply car. “The competitiveness is on par with any other division I’ve ever raced in. With a 2-tire pit stop and 80 green flag laps, it has all the makings of great racing and with how these races have fallen they’ve all been pretty exciting and we’ve had good finishes in all of them and they’re overall just fun races to be a part of.”
“It seems like it gets harder and harder every year at Stafford,” said Pitkat, driver of the #88 Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair car. “There’s a lot of younger kids coming up now who are hungry to win races like Teddy Hodgdon and George Bessette. That not only makes it tougher to win races, but you’ve got to get up on the wheel a little more because what most of those younger guys are accustomed to is that 40-lap mentality of driving as hard as you can for 40 laps. The old ride around and wait for the pitstop and adjustments to get after it philosophy isn’t totally gone but it’s kind of going away. The track has been a little different this season and we’ve struggled even though we’ve had good results. The Open 80’s are awesome and they’re a lot of fun to race with the different engine combinations that you can run and trying to figure out what the best combination is.”
All three drivers are no strangers to NAPA Victory Lane at Stafford. Both Pitkat and Reen are former track champions with Pitkat serving as the most decorated winner of the trio with 82 career wins and counting across 6 different divisions. Reen has won 17 races spread across 4 different divisions and Goodale has 3 career Stafford wins in Mod Tour and Open Modified competition. All 3 drivers will look to become the one and only repeat open modified feature winner this season as the August 18 Lincoln Tech 80 will mark the final open modified race of the 2023 season at Stafford.
“We’re going to test a few things on the car at Waterford with Jeff Rocco driving the car and see if there’s anything we can apply for Stafford,” said Reen. “I think we’ll have a good shot at winning the race even though there’s a stout group of guys we’ll have to beat. I think we could have had two wins in a row at Stafford earlier this season if we had made a better adjustment on the car but I have a great group of guys and a great car to go racing with. I said my goal for this year was just to have fun and we’re all having a lot of fun this season racing at Stafford.”
“It’s been a bit challenging the last few races at Stafford,” said Goodale. “The track has really changed a lot week to week from when we race. You show up with a base setup and it’s all about your day of changes to realize what your car needs to grip to the track. I feel like we have a solid package to be competitive but there’s always one, two, or three teams that really hit their adjustments just right and when they pass you on the track you say to yourself ‘man I want what they have in my car.’ Keeping up with the track has been the difference between winning and finishing fifth, so that’s what we’re going to be focused on for the Lincoln Tech 80.”
“We have to keep up with the car,” said Pitkat. “We’ll fine tune on what we had back in July and see what adjustments we need to make on the car. We have good notes to work with and we have a good baseline to work with between myself and my crew chief Cam McDermott so we should be a contender again without having to overthink things too much. There’s guys like Goodale and Reen that have won races this season and then there’s guys like Ronnie Williams who have struggled a little but are due to break out, or someone I’m not even thinking about that could be a contender. With everything that Lincoln Tech is doing for winners with trophies and they’re going to have a championship belt this season, it makes you want to win the race that much more.”
The Lincoln Tech Open 80 is scheduled for Friday, August 18. Stafford’s SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, and Street Stock divisions will join the Open Modifieds in feature action. Tickets for the Lincoln Tech 80 are available now online and tickets will also be available for purchase at the admission gates. Tickets for the Lincoln Tech 80 are $30.00 for adults, $10.00 for kids 6-14, and free for kids 5 & under. Reserved seating is priced at $35.00 for all ages and pit passes are $45.00 with a valid 2023 Stafford Competition License and $50.00 without a Stafford license.