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   The Chrome Horn - News




by Polly Reid

The Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom in the NASCAR Hall of Fame provided the backdrop for the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala Saturday night where Bobby Santos, the #4 Mystic Missile team and car owners Bob and Joan Garbarino were honored as the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champions.

Mike Joy and Dr. Dick Berggren hosted the evening that included honoring the six regional touring champions, K&N Pro Series- East and West, Whelen Modified Tour- North and South, the Canadian Tire Series and the Mexico Series.

“I’m excited, it’s been a lot of fun,” said Santos prior to the Gala about his week in Charlotte. Among the ‘fun’ activities included Santos winning the Third Annual NASCAR Champions/Media Showdown karting race at Victory Lane Indoor Karting in Charlotte. “We’ve had a fun week.”

A third trip to the Awards Gala in the last four years as the Championship car owner, Bob Garbarino echoed Santos. “We had some things to do which was very nice and we had some time to take in what this is all about at the same time,” said Garbarino. “We’ve had a good time this week.”

Thoughtfully, Garbarino spoke on stage about the Mystic Missile season. “When we started off it was almost like a dream. But if you’ve been in this game for a little while you realize dreams don’t make things happen, people make things happen.” Garbarino took the time to reflect on the passing of Jim Hunter, thank NASCAR, Phil Kurze and Whelen, the track operators, Heinke Baldwin Racing, Bobby’s parents and his wife Joan. When Garbarino went to thank the #4 crew, listing each name, he gestured to the championship trophy behind him. “That says it all, you’ve done it, no one can take it away,” said Garbarino. “I’m so proud of the effort that these guys all put in.”

Inviting the team onto the stage, Santos spoke about the people that helped put him there. “Bob and Joan Garbarino, they’re just unbelievable people. Thank you so much for letting me drive for your team. They’ve been on this Tour since its inception, they’re one of the strongest teams, you know, three championships the last few years, it shows. I’m just proud to be added to their list of successful drivers. Bob and Beth Mueller, Bob is so much fun to work worth, he’s so talented setting up race cars, making the right calls, he made my job so much easier giving me top cars all the time. Beth, feeding all the guys, everybody needs that, thank you Beth.”
Santos thanked ‘all the guys in the shop’ for their effort, for having the car race ready off the trailer, recognizing team dedication, “You guys are awesome.” He also thanked his sister Ericka, who Santos sincerely acknowledged taking a back seat to his career, his mom and dad as well as Woody Pitkat.

But Santos began the night, thanking the two people who brought his name and talent to the attention of Garbarino not all that many months ago. “Al Heinke and Tommy Baldwin, thank you so much for teaming me with Mystic Missile Racing. They believed I’d get the job done. Tommy, he’s believed in me for a long time, thank you Tommy, you’ve done a ton for me.”
Championship crew chief Bob Mueller summed up best what the Mystic Missile team has indeed accomplished, “16 wins with three different drivers in the last four years, 3 championships.”

“You know, somebody asked me the other night, they said of all the championships, which is the best one,” said Garbarino. “I said ‘the next one.’ They’re all different. The first year we kind of got out there and away from everybody. The second year we had to come from behind and this year we had to hang on so I have to say they’re all different in that sense.”
Garbarino, sitting at the championship table with Joan, making good use of the pre-banquet calm as he gave his speech a final glance over, added with a quiet smile, “There is no way this can get old.”

Gala night notes:

Ted Christopher for the third consecutive year, crossed the stage to accept the Most Popular Driver of the Year award. Christopher as well as Mike Stefanik, will be breaking up the long winter with the indoor racing competition at Atlantic City Jan 28th and 29th then Providence, RI Feb 5th.

Ed Flemke, Jr. will be back teamed up again with car owner Gary Teto while Eric Beers returns to his ride for the 2011 season. Erick Rudolph will once again take on the full Tour schedule. “I think we’ll do good this year now that we have the mechanical things out of the way.” The announcement of the Delaware track in Canada will bring the Tour to the Ransomville, NY driver’s area at only two and a half hours away. “I wouldn’t call it our home track but it is the closet track.”

Todd Szegedy’s car owner Mike Smergilio has been more than busy since the checker flag waved in October. MSR, Inc has moved their entire operation to a new shop in Newtown, CT. Smergilio has not stopped there as he has successfully reunited the 2003 championship combination bringing Phil Moran back as Szegedy’s crew chief for 2011.

Source: Polly Reid/TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: December 14, 2010

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