MOD LEFTOVERS: NORTH-SOUTH SHOOTOUT by MAtt Kentfield
Loftin Leads Southern Drivers, Tim Brown Pissed, "Big Show" In Attendance
LOFTIN LEADS SOUTHERN CHARGE
The drivers that make up the Southern states’ contingent in the North-South Shootout have traditionally struggled to best their Northern counterparts. In the two previous Shootouts, the Northern drivers held a stronghold on the top-five finishing positions, with only L.W. Miller having posted a top-five finish, a fourth, in 2003.
Brian Loftin did everything he could to not only put a Southern driver in the top-five, but also in Victory Lane at Concord. Loftin was the master of the outside lane during the 100-lap feature, but couldn’t make it by winner John Blewett, III and runner-up Zach Sylvester before the checkered flag flew, so the Lexington, NC native had to settle for third.
“The car was just a little tight and it wouldn’t rotate through the center,” said Loftin, the four-time winner on the 2005 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season. “Anytime I got underneath someone, I’d just pinch it down and it’d break loose so I had to get to the outside to keep it rolling. If I could get to the outside of
anyone, I could pretty much beat them. I think I was as good as those two that beat me, but I wasn’t any better.”
Loftin’s third-place finish gives all Southern drivers a new “highwater” mark for further editions of the North-South Shootout.
“I think we showed that the Southern drivers can run a little bit better than we showed in the first couple North-South races. Hopefully we’re gaining on them so hopefully we can get into victory lane one of these days. I know we’re going to work on our stuff to make it better and all the other Southern guys will too. So hopefully we’ll keep getting better and better each time.”
"WOODY WINS" SK FEATURE
Woody Pitkat is one of the most decorated short track racers in New England. With dozens of Late Model wins at Stafford (CT) Speedway and a track championship at Thompson (CT) Speedway, Pitkat made the move into an SK Modified at the start of 2004 at Stafford.
Although he has only two seasons of SK racing under his belt, Pitkat looked like a steady-handed veteran at the front of the SK Modified field in the 50-lap SK feature. Jimmy Blewett was Pitkat’s only formidable foe, but the Stafford, CT driver held on to take the emotional win.
“All I wanted to do was stay out front,” said an ecstatic Pitkat. “I knew Jimmy was there and the guys were telling me to just be smooth. I was just trying to stay smooth and roll on the throttle instead of snapping it to the floor. Once I started doing that, my crew chief said that it may seem like I’m going slower, but I’m actually going faster. I started pulling away after that.”
Pole sitter Bobby Santos, III failed to come up to speed
on the race’s opening lap, handing the lead to Blewett. Blewett led the first 10 laps before Pitkat used the outside lane to his advantage to take the top spot on lap 11. He had to endure several late-race restarts, but Pitkat held onto his lead over the final 39 laps to take one of the biggest wins of his career.
“The restarts were killer. I knew that when I was on the outside I was going to get him but every time I got ahead another yellow came out. On the restarts when I was low, I was tight. When I was down there, I wanted to give him room so I didn’t smash him in the fence, but I stayed ahead. Once we went to single file restarts, I wasn’t worried anymore. It’s a huge win for us. Now we just get it together for next year and add this win to the resume and start sending them out as much as I can.”
LIA THE MAN TO BEAT... BUT HE DOESN'T WIN
Donny Lia’s win in the 2004 edition of the North-South Shootout immediately put a target on his back for all drivers to aim for in 2005’s edition.
Unfazed, Lia showed that he was the man to beat again this year early in the weekend by setting fast time in Friday’s time trials and immediately checking out on the field at the drop of the feature’s green flag. Just when everything was going according to plan for the ace from Jericho, NY, a miscommunication on a pit stop cost him valuable track position and possibly a shot at the win.
Lia entered a closed pit road on lap 36 and the ensuing penalty forced him to work his way back to the front from the 23rd position on the ensuing restart.
“One of my guys said they thought they heard the pits were open on the scanner,” said Lia. “The wreck that brought out the yellow happened right at the entrance of pit road and there must’ve been a wrecker blocking the pit flagman because I don’t remember even seeing one. I figured maybe because I didn’t see the flagman and since this isn’t a NASCAR race, there must not be one. When I was told pits were open I came down, but turns out it wasn’t open. It was just a miscommunication I guess. So I had to go to the back and I was just playing catch up from then on.”
Brian Loftin (#23) gets around Nothern driver Matt Hirschman (#59) en route to his third-place finish. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Catch up was just what Lia did from the restart. He steadily knifed his way through the field and worked back up to the 12th spot by lap 50 and entered the top-10 on lap 64. Lia continued his charge all the way to the fourth position at the drop of the checkers, using every last bit of the car through the end.
“Once we went back to racing it was better than the first part of the race but I just kind of used it up making my way back through. When you’re in lap traffic at this place, especially with that dogleg on the backstretch, you’re running such a fine line. When you have to maneuver up and down through the lap cars sometimes you just have to break the car free or turn it sideways to make it through. I just beat the thing up. By the time we got to the front I really had nothing left.”
TIM BROWN PISSED AT NORTHERN DRIVERS
It was pretty obvious that Woody Pitkat's win in the SK feature was a big deal. (51 Photo)
Southern Modified regular Tim Brown felt the highest highs and the lowest lows on Saturday night. He got behind the wheel of a Vintage Modified and went out and won that division’s 20-lap feature, but he was quickly humbled in the 100-lap Tour-type Modified feature. An incident with eventual winner John Blewett, III ended Brown’s opportunity for two NSS victories on the same night.
“I had as good a car that was here,” said a noticeably angry Brown after the race. “The 76 car (Blewett) cut down on me when I was underneath him and stuffed us in the fence hard. I bent the rear end and both spindles.”
Brown’s frustrations did not start and end with Blewett, however. Brown let his feelings known about how the
Northern drivers race combination races such as the North-South Shootout.
“We just don’t race that way down here. The Northern guys don’t care. They have no respect for anyone’s damn equipment. I’ve raced all year and didn’t tear up as much shit as I tore up tonight. It’s a shame. Walk up and down the pits and see whose cars are torn up. The Southern guys’ cars still are in good shape unless they got caught up in something stupid. I’m not whining, it’s just a damn race car and we can fix it and come back next year. It’s just a shame because I had a really good race car.
Winning the Vintage Modified feature was no consolation for the misfortunes Brown suffered in the 100-lapper.
“Hell, anyone can win in that thing. That Tour modified is my bread and butter, now it’s bent. It’s just aggravating to work as hard as we did to make it fast. The frustrating thing is the car that took us out is the one that went on to win the race.”
SYLVESTER JUST MISSES
John Blewett, III dominated the final stages of the 100 lap North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsport Park on Saturday night, but Zach Sylvester did everything he could to make Blewett earn the win.
The Lebanon, Connecticut native’s outside pole starting spot gave him an upper hand at the race win, but numerous caution flags did not allow his No. 19 car to best the field as he came up one spot short of the victory.
“We had to tighten up the car quite a bit when we took tires on that pit stop, and we definitely needed it,” said Sylvester. “The cautions really didn’t help us any because after that stop I needed a long run to get the thing freed up. That last run I think we fell about 3 laps
short because those last two laps we came on really strong and just didn’t have enough to make the move. I was getting through three better, and he was getting out of one and through the tri-oval a little bit better, so we both had our weak points and our strong points. We definitely had the car to make a move, we just fell short.”
ANOTHER "COULD'VE BEEN" FOR COBY
No driver has come so close to victory without ever seeing the checkered flag first on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour than Doug Coby. Even in a non-NASCAR sanctioned Modified event, the racing Gods wouldn’t allow the young pilot to venture to victory lane. Coby led more than 30 laps in the middle stages of the North-South Shootout but a blistered tire forced him to surrender the lead to Blewett on lap 75, costing Coby his shot at the win.
“We led and we had a good car and then we had a right rear tire blister,” said Coby. “With the tire blistered the car just got too loose at the top of the hill and through the dogleg, I couldn’t really get on the gas all the way and that let those guys hunt me down. I think we might’ve had the best car for a while but once the tire blistered we didn’t have anything for them.”
Although Coby was able to hold on to a fifth-place finish despite the tire issue, Coby was just as frustrated with the driving tactics of Blewett as he was the tire.
“Some guys think that when they’re the leader and there’s a car on the outside of you on a restart that they can just turn right and put you in the fence. The one time I was on the outside of John, I don’t know if his spotter was in the wrong place or what, but he must’ve cleared him and I was clearly at his door. When we got to the corner I stuffed him up in the bumper to let him know I was there and that it wasn’t cool because it was only lap 40. The next caution he brake checked us about 12 times.
One of these days, Doug Coby will get a big win.
“John’s an aggressive driver but he needs to know that if his spotter cleared him he was wrong. All of us are in one piece so it was no big deal. John drove a good race and when Zach and I got by him, I thought he was going to fade back, but he came on strong and got back by both of us.”
Although he came close once again to a race win only to come up short, Coby is holding his head high as he goes into the off-season.
“Every time we come close to a win, it’s a high point for us. This team wants to win and we’ve definitely had a car that can win. I think in four out of the last five races we’ve led at some point. Sooner or later we’ll have a car that will hang around long enough to get there. I’m happy, I would’ve liked to have finished higher up but we could’ve been wrecked, too.”
LEGEND'S CAREER COMES TO AN END
Donny Lia came flying back through the field after an early race mixup, but he couldn't make it back to the front. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Zach Sylvester (#19) put on a good show on Saturday night, but second was the best he could do. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Tim Brown won the Vintage Modified race behind the wheel of his #2... but his Tour Mod came out much worse for wear. (51 Photo)
Whenever a conversation about who some of the greatest Modified drivers of all-time are, Bob Polverari’s name is sure to come up. The legendary driver from West Springfield, MA closed out his 50-plus year racing career by strapping into his traditional No. 711 car one last time at the North-South Shootout.
“It’s emotional for me,” said Polverari. “I had second thoughts about coming down here in the first place, but the guys all wanted to come. We all had fun when we came down here a few years ago but we didn’t qualify. My guys love it down here. This time we’ve had three days of partying and raising hell and coming in at three o’clock in the morning, so it was fun.”
With pre-race festivities in his honor and thousands of fans congratulating him and saying goodbye all weekend, Polverari could’ve easily raced cautiously and walked away with a mid-pack finish. That’s not Polverari’s way, however. He raced with everything he had, competing in the top-10 on several occasions before sliding back to 12th at the checkers.
With such a solid run at Concord, is there any chance we could see Polverari return to the driver’s seat one more time?
“Nope,” smiled Polverari. “Even if we won it, I’d still be getting out. I wanted to put all 100 laps in for these guys and finish up front, so we’re happy with how it turned out. I just called my wife and told her she’s never going to see me in a race car again. I’ve got things to do at home now, so I’m ready to go do that stuff.”
SEUSS SHOWS HE BELONGS WITH THE BIG BOYS
Andy Seuss showed on Saturday that he can bounce back from any adversity and still manage a strong finish with his No. 70 race car. Seuss bounced back from a heat race crash to earn the win in a second chance heat before marching through the field in the feature to an 11th place finish.
“The two lap cars were slow and I guess one of them didn’t have a radio or something because he just cut down on us and took out all the leaders,” said Seuss of his heat race incident. “On the next restart, the linkage broke and it’s frustrating to maybe not be in the show.”
Despite this spin, Andy Seuss showed he was one of the best at the track on Saturday. (Jim DuPont Photo)
Bob Polverari was introduced to the crowd for the last time. (Jim DuPont Photo)
car earlier so that was the most frustrating part about maybe not even being in the show. We got a chance to prove that we belonged in the race and we did a great job.”
As a regular on the True Value Modified Series, Seuss was seemingly overmatched by the NASCAR stars that he was competing against. Undaunted, Seuss impressed many with his strong run.
“We were faster than Teddy Christopher and Jimmy Blewett and some of the other good Tour guys. I was right on Eric Beers’s bumper at the end. That shows that our series has plenty of good, competitive guys. Where we struggled is that we don’t have any experience on any of the big tracks. Our series only runs on 1/3 and ¼ mile tracks that have nowhere near the speed that tracks like here at Concord. That kind of threw us a curveball on our setup. We are really, really good on the short tracks but we had to work hard to get a hold of this place. We don’t know how to time trial very well either. Those Tour guys had the upper hand for sure but we showed that we can run right with them.”
DISAPPOINTING FINISH FOR HIRSCHMAN
Matt Hirschman was expecting more of his North-South Shootout than he got. A disappointing 15th place finish was not what he anticipated, but the emerging Modified star used every trick in the book to try to make the best of his night.
“Well, we finished. That’s about the only positive thing we’ve got,” said Hirschamn. “We’re a little frustrated with how we finished, but we’re capable of finishing better. We qualified good and we knew what to do with the car and we had a strong motor. We should’ve raced better than that but I got what I could out of it without taking any chances. We didn’t finish the last couple of races
Matt Hirschman (#59) races to the outside of Jimmy Blewett (#12) at Concord. (Howie Hodge Photo)
because we were taken out in wrecks, so at least we finished and the car was in one piece.”
To try to compensate for a frustrating race, Hirschman used a unique pit strategy early in the event to try to gain an upper hand.
“The caution came out on lap 29 and you had to wait until lap 30 to pit. I got an idea in my head that we’ll just come in on lap 29 and change the tires then when we get a caution after lap 30 just come in and jack the car up and drop it. It actually worked out pretty good because we came out ahead of where we would’ve if we came in and changed tires with everyone else. It was just the crew chief mentality that I have from working with my dad. We dropped a few spots in the end. I would’ve liked to have finished in the top-10. A top-five would’ve been great, but a top-10 would’ve been fine, so we just need to work on finishing a little bit better.”
"THE BIG SHOW" JUST CAN'T STAY AWAY
Seuss’s frustrations were put at ease when he won his second chance race, assuring him of a starting spot in the main event later in the night. Seuss was involved in yet another spin early in the feature but fought his way as high as fourth in the closing laps of the race before fading back to 11th at the end.
“The car was flawless in the race. We got involved in a wreck early and that put us in a position to short pit and it really worked out well for us. We restarted 12th after some guys pitted and worked our way all the way up to fourth for a while. Then the car started to slide a little bit those boys that pitted were running real hard so we faded back to 11th at the end but for not knowing if we’d even be in the show, it’s great. We knew we had a fast
Kenneth “The Big Show” Deese is one of the most fun-loving racers around. All Deese cares about is winning and having a good time at the track.
In 2005, Deese did plenty of both. Deese became the first ever champion of the CRASHCar division, an entry-level racing series that competed mainly at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway’s infield ¼ mile and its high-banked dirt track across the street driving a black car sporting his nickname, “The Big Show” across the doors.
With only oa couple of races left on his 2005 plate, Deese decided to bring out a 1952 Chevrolet racecar to Concord and compete in the Vintage Sportman feature at the North-South Shootout. Focusing on staying out of trouble, Deese brought his classic home in the sixth position.
“Hey, we finished,” exclaimed Deese after the race. “We finished sixth, so that’s not too bad. Pretty good actually. We’re just going to keep racing something, somewhere until the season quits. I just love coming out here and having fun, that’s what it’s all about. I just like to get behind the wheel whenever I can.”
"The Big Show" Kenneth Deese was even at Concord this weekend. (Hinson Photo)