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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



by Polly Reid

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines - the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has officially begun. Icebreaker weekend kicked off starting with Bobby Santos behind the wheel of the Mystic Missile setting the pace laying down a new track record for the Tour at Thompson International Speedway on Saturday. What a way to announce your first season as a full time driver in the NWMT.

“It’s nice to be driving equipment that’s been proven”, said Santos after his 18.418 second record setting qualifying run. “I don’t mind having the pressure on me to perform. Knowing that the equipment is there, I just need to do my job.” Santos transitioned into the seat vacated by 2009 champion Donny Lia who is competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. “I grew up coming here so having the track record, that’s pretty awesome. It’s definitely one of my favorite race tracks.”

But it did not stop there for Santos who after the top ten redrew for starting position, the Franklin, Mass. driver took the green from the pole. And when the checkers fell 150 laps later, it was Santos claiming the trip to victory lane.

“That was awesome,” said Santos. “I mean these guys gave me the best car all weekend from when we unloaded off of the trailer. It’s a championship team that I’ve got the opportunity to drive for, I’m pretty excited about that. “

But it wasn’t a stroll in the park for Santos who fended off challenges from Mike Stefanik in the early going then Ryan Preece in the closing circuits.

Santos bulleted to the lead at the green, setting the pace during the long run, staying steady over Stefanik until the first caution waved with 58 circuits showing on the scoreboard. Pit row came alive as nearly the entire field came in for service. Ted Christopher elected not to pit, his Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet staying out, inheriting the lead.

On the restart, Santos lined up 2nd behind Christopher with Preece, Stefanik and Eric Beers the top five. With the outside lane moving it was Stefanik taking over second behind Christopher, Preece holding third, Santos slipping to fourth.

On the next caution, just before the half way mark, Christopher picked the outside lane on the double file restart, Stefanik inside. Side by side, it was Stefanik who pulled his Diversified Metals/R.B. Enterprises Ford powered machine ahead for the lead and at the crossed flags it was Stefanik, Christopher, Santos, Preece and Beers the top five. Debris brought out the next yellow on lap 86 Stefanik remaining in charge of the restart, this time it was Preece on the inside, Santos, Christopher and now Szegedy the top five.

The 5th caution on lap 97 was when Christopher made the decision to pit for fresh tires. Stefanik again on the outside for the green, Preece low, this time it was the Berlin, CT driver who got the edge for the lead. The action was stopped once again on lap 102 for a turn two incident. Preece, the newest leader, came to the green double file with Stefanik inside, Rowan Pennink third, Santos fourth and Eric Berndt fifth. The outside row took off with Preece on the point, Santos, Pennink and Stefanik the top four while Christopher had moved soundly from outside the top fifteen to inside the top ten. The run was cut short by the seventh and final caution on lap 115. Taking it to a double file green once again, Preece was surrounded by Santos, Pennink, Stefanik and Berndt, it would be here that Santos would make his winning move in the Bob Garbarino owned Dodge, becoming the fourth and final leader on lap 120 of the 150 lap event. While Preece challenged for the front spot, Santos held off Preece’s Mizzy Construction/Reynolds Auto Wrecking sponsored Chevrolet for his second career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win. Following Preece was Stefanik third, Christopher fourth and Szegedy fifth.
“We have a real lot of respect for each other,” said Preece, “if I had to finish second to anybody it would be him. We race each other real hard, we won’t give each other an inch but we’ll race clean. Congratulations to Bobby and the Mystic Missile and our whole Boehler Racing team. This is a good day, I’m happy.”

Stefanik rolled onto the track with a new paint scheme not to mention a sound attitude. Stefanik talked about the talent in this division, “The competition in this Series is extremely high, there’s a lot of talented mechanics, chassis people, drivers and good equipment. We had to step up our game and I think we have. We came out not with just new cars but new equipment, we’re not laying down. Today I think we proved we’re back up where people expect us to be.” The Icebreaker Stefanik will admit has “not been kind” to him. But with the results today, not to mention being a contender for the win, Stefanik will be the first to add, “ We’re a lot closer today than we have been in a long time.”

The Spring Sizzler next on the schedule, Stefanik knows how to win there. Maybe ask him about the number of Stafford trophies he’s pulled out of his flooded basement that he’s cleaned up. So stay tuned, in two weeks the Sizzler should be nothing short of its name. The bar has indeed been raised and set.

Madhouse fans got a treat this weekend with Burt Myers making the trip north to take on the fast 5/8 mile oval. Starting fifth on the grid- Myers was in the mix until transmission problems kept him from the ideal finish, crossing the line 14th. “Everything has been a lot better than I expected,” said Myers after his Thompson debut. “The hospitality, everyone has been giving me advice, it’s been a lot better experience than I expected. The media likes to make a big deal about the rivalry, the north and south, but you would not believe how many teams offered advice and help. Even the Pasteryak’s offered to let me use their shop if I needed it. Other than the transmission issue, I think we probably had a solid top five run today. We had a blast.” If you happened to pass by the Myers trailer this weekend, you would have seen Myers keeping busy meeting with fans, signing endless autographs and when I left, nearly an hour and a half after the checker fell, Myers was still smiling, greeting fans. It’s a full schedule for Myers this year between the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Bowman Gray and yes, if it works out, maybe even one more appearance on the Northern Tour. “I’m going to try to work out a deal with another team to run New Hampshire.”

How about some reading? Be on the look out for the newest published writer. NASCAR official Joe Larson has his first book set to be released shortly. ‘View From The Ramp’ is one of three books Larson currently has in the works. Larson will let us know when his work of fiction hit’s the bookshelves via facebook.

Closing this week sending thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Henry ‘Hank’ Natale who unexpectedly passed away this last week. A former crew member of the 2 team, Hank was Todd Szegedy’s engine tuner when Szegedy won his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship title in 2003. Back around that time, on a handful of occasions, Hank would draw the short straw sort to speak and get stuck riding with me after a long day at the track back to the shop. We had our share of talks from what happened that day, to people we cared about to life in general. He always made the late night trips fly by. RIP my friend.

  Source: Polly Reid /
Posted: April 12, 2010

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