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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour




Denise DuPont

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned Martinsville this year, the first weekend of June to high heat and humidity for the running of The Whelen 200. Thirty-seven teams were signed in Saturday morning ready for practice and qualifying. Seven time Tour champion Mike Stefanik captured his fifth Martinsville Coors Light Pole Award showing his ability to master the paper clip shaped track.

On Sunday as the temperatures soared and the sun beat down teams prepared for 200 laps of hot racing. The #4 Garbarino race team continued their streak of luck as the they qualified fourth, drew the fourth starting spot in the redraw and went on to win the fourth 2010 NWMT race. Bobby Santos led the field across the finish line after a green-white-checker race finish. “We had a really exciting day. It was definitely up and down at times. We had a great car at the beginning we were just trying to stay out of trouble and bite our time. We were just taking care of the brakes, taking car of the car and trying to avoid wrecks. We had a good track position in the beginning being up front. Luckily for me we were in front of all the incidents that happened so we did not have to watch out for all that.”

2010 season has found a perfect match for Santos and the #4 race team. They make it seem so easy when it comes to collecting wins. Other modified teams must wonder what the secret is to their success. “It is just the matter of a good race team giving us a great qualifying effort which is leading up to our success this year,” said Santos. “It is the race team giving me a solid race car for qualifying in and getting us qualified up front. And being able to just let me drive the race car up front and not having to avoid wrecks and that is thanks to my team.”

Going into the Martinsville race the Garbarino team knew the competition was going to be as tough as all the other races have been this year and possibly even tougher with race teams all hungry for a win. “We knew that we were not going to be perfect spot on coming here. We knew that guys like Stefanik and other guys that were really fast were going to hit today. We were confident that we had a good team, a good car and we were going to run good. We just did our job while everyone else stepped it up. We are sitting here in victory lane because I think we did not make mistakes. I think that there are other guys that are just as fast as we are right now. So we just have to stay on top of our game. Our team just did four tires on and four tires off. It made a huge difference with no mistakes in the pits. I think that is the difference right now. We are not making mistakes and we need to keep it that way.”

Probably the biggest success story of the weekend though goes to Rookie contender Justin Bonsignore. The #51 team started the race mid-pack and made all the right moves for their highest finish this season, second. “We played defense kind of drove around and tried to save our stuff until our pit stop. We came in around thirteenth for our pit stop.” The team then came back to overcome a stop and go penalty that was given when Bonsignore ran over the team’s jack exiting pit road on lap 84. “Our guys are still new at this and still learning so we lost a lap on our pit stop. It took us a little while to get a ‘Lucky Dog’. It took about three or four cautions. But once we did, we just avoided the wrecks the whole time.

One of the best places to be on race restarts was on the inside groove. Most cars found themselves hung out to dry when they were on the outside for restarts. For example, after a late race caution on lap 198, veteran Mike Stefanaik lost his second place spot during the green-white checker restart. Stefanik started outside leader Santos which allowed rookie Bonsignore to make what was one of his memorable moves of the race as he passed Stefanik on the inside for second. “We had a good restart line every time. It always went. Inside was really the only place to restart. You lost two or three spots every time when you were on the top.”

It was a race full of cautions which hurt some but was the saving factor for other drivers. Todd Szegedy overcame car issues, wrecks and received three free pass wave arounds that brought the #2 race team back on the lead lap. “I started out with full fuel load. The car was pretty sluggish I felt so at that point it was play defense and hold my position. Then we got the right front flat. I rode around the top of the track kicking up the dirt with stuff flying hoping that right front tire would fly off and it did not. I could not get down anyways. I just about took out the leader trying to get down to the bottom. I came in and pitted and went three laps down. From there on the rest of the field did it all for me. They crashed every two laps. So, it was good for me but not good for some of the other guys. We eventually got the ‘Lucky Dog’ three times in a row and came up through the pack playing defense and avoiding all the wrecks again.”

Szegedy’s luck continued on when he started on the bottom after the last restart. This rewarded him with third place and his best 2010 finish “We got lucky on some of the restarts that we had. I was on the bottom a few times and gained some positions. And here we are,
we finished third, a pretty good day for us.”

Madhouse star Burt Myers held on tight and whipped across the finish
line fifth behind Mike Stefanik. He was all smiles in inspection alley
with the #7 car intact. The team started twenty-third and managed to
be in the right place at the right time all day. “Luckily for me it seemed
like all the drama was behind me today. We just had to methodically
work our way around the field. We were not good at all in practice
and we were not good at all in qualifying. We tried to find a
happy medium and we hit it. I think we had a car that could
win the race. We only had high gear on restarts so I could not
get the good restart like I needed. So I would loose a couple of
spots here and there. But all and all the first with the adversity that
we had to overcome from starting in the field and having transmission problems, I will take it.”

Not as lucky were young hard charging racers Ron Silk and Rowan Pennink.
The race was caution laden and it seemed as though some teams were dealt more than their fair share of challenges. Ron Silk took the #6 to the lead on lap 145 and led until the car stopped on lap 174. During a caution the #6came in and stopped on pit road as it appeared the car ran out of gas. Silk’s crew pushed the car down pit road added gas and got him back on the track for racing. And race he did back up into the top ten when the same issue returned on lap 198 bringing out the last caution of the race. “I ran out of gas both times. We had a fitting break on the fuel line and it was pouring gas out the bottom. I do not know I think we would have won the race. I think it would have been pretty hard for the #4 (Bobby Santos) to drive around us. But we didn’t win congratulations to them. We have a monkey on our back right now and I am just really bummed out.”

Rowan Pennink pitted early and hung out in the back waiting for the race to shake out. But just shy of half-way the #93 car for Pennink was pushed into the garage area as the back luck continues for Pennink. “We were just hanging out there. We pitted early and were just hanging out at the back waiting for everyone else to pit. I think that we had the right car. The motor just shut off going into one turn and two there. We really do not know what happened to the car, if it was a terminal or electrical issue. We will see when we get back to the shop.”

The NWMT teams now will have a break in action with time to regroup, cool down and head from the south to the north and their next race at the Magic Mile of New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 26th.

Race Notes from Martinsville Speedway:

The NWMT drivers had a hard time getting out of one another’s way on the track and just race. Did the driver’s have any idea why all of this was going on out there?

Todd Szegedy
From what I could see every body was driving over their heads every lap. It is pretty obvious everybody is going into the corner. You can really see it when you are in the back hanging out. It is like a wave of race cars barreling into the corner out of control. It is pretty funny to watch. They just kept banging each other. Running over each other and parts were flying. One time I was stopped and someone would hit me so hard I felt that my spinal cord almost flew out of the back of me. I mean I was like what the heck is going on here. What are you going to do? It was hot and we all had an attitude eventually. That is just the way it goes. Nobody is perfect. Neither am I. I do the same stuff sometimes. What are you going to do? That is racing.”

Justin Bonsignore
“Basically I just avoided all the wrecks. I come from Riverhead so this is not much different that what I am use to. It is just a lot faster. I made a few mistakes but a lot of guys are driving in way over their head. I hate to say that as a rookie but there were a lot of stupid wrecks today that could have been avoided.”

Burt Myers
“All you can ask for is to be good enough and take advantage of the good luck when it comes around. And I think that was all that we needed.”

With all the cautions was Fuel ever an Issue?

Bobby Santos
Not with all the yellows (fuel was not an issue). The original plan was to stop for fuel and then there was a change of plan because of all the yellows. I think that all the yellows stopped it from being an issue (fuel).

Was the abnormal Temperatures or Heat affecting the race?

Burt Myers
“Maybe a little bit. We were about 240 to 250 on water and 280 on oil. This is probably the hottest weekend that we have had for a race. Yes the heats definitely affected the modified brakes, transmission, rear end and the whole works. Luckily we were able to keep it in one piece and come home with a top five. “

Was the track slick?

Justin Bonsignore
“Not for us. We were pretty good all day even on old tires.”

What went through your mind when the last caution came out on lap 198?

Justin Bonsignore
“I personally was just happy with a third. Whoever was coming on was coming on pretty hard. I figured he was going to have a pretty good restart but Steffy kind of did not get a good start going into one and he opened the door and we got in there,. They were passing behind us so it let us go in front before it got to crazy.”

On lap 175 Bobby Santos inherited the lead from Ron Silk when Silk pitted with gas issues. Was Lady Luck on Santos side or did Santos have the better car?

Bobby Santos
“I think once we go going we were actually better than him. I think I was just starting to catch him back down. But passing him was different story. But I think that we were a little better than he was. The restart where he passed me I was hesitant because I got warned at Stafford last week to be careful on restarts and they talked to me today about that. So I was being extra careful not to jump any restarts. I hope that NASCAR is happy with all my restarts. Because I felt that we did a really good job. I think that was what cost us the lead, just me being too careful. But it was just a great car and in the end I think the right car won.”

Bobby Santos, III received the traditional winning trophy at Martinsville in victory lane - a Grandfather Clock. What were Santos thoughts when he realized the clock was his to bring home?

Bobby Santos
”Our house is actually full but that is something you make room for”.

Where does winner Bobby Santos go from Martinsville?

“I am actually racing at another one of my favorite race tracks. We are going to IRP next weekend to race in the USAC Sprint race. I am very excited for. We won the last two sprint car races in IRP so now it is time to start thinking about that.”.

  Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: June 8, 2010

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