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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



by Polly Reid

The final race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Thompson International Speedway came down to the closing circuits after a late caution set up a dash to the finish. Fans on their feet, they watched Doug Coby bring the field to the green for last restart of the year. Ted Christopher on the outside, held nothing back and when Coby’s car suddenly dropped on power, Christopher was there, diving low for the winning pass with three to go. Ryan Preece bolted into the mix taking over second while Coby crossed for third. Mike Stefanik followed for fourth, Ron Silk fifth, Bobby Santos sixth. The win for Christopher marks his fourth of the season and his third consecutive season closing Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing win.

And then there was a championship title to settle. The sixth place finish for Bobby Santos in the Mystic Missile Dodge, combined with Mike Stefanik’s fourth, was enough for Santos to claim the 2010 crown. Taking on the full NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season for the first time, Santos made his mark capturing four wins, four Coors Light Pole Awards and nine top five finishes to earn car owner Bob Garbarino his third championship title in four years.

“It was a great finish to the season,” said Santos. “Kind of a disappointing day here in the race but it sums up a great season. On a rough day that we had here, we ran 6th and that just shows how great this team is and that’s the way it was all year. I’m just so thankful to this team, they’ve done a great job and they proved why they belonged here. This car is the to beat on the Tour right now. It was a lot of fun this year and hopefully we can have more wins in the future. I guess it was testing my will to see if I could do it with a car that wasn’t perfect.”

“I guess the repeat part hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Garbarino about winning back to back championship titles. “It feels very good to be doing this with Bobby. It’s been a great year. We had some less than stellar performances with equipment and we still came back. Nobody got down, everyone dug in, just made it happen. Today wasn’t our best show either , we were off today.”

“Bobby has a very quiet tenacity about him” Garbarino thoughtfully explained. “When things don’t happen just right on the race track, you never hear him come in and talk about it. He doesn’t forget it, he doesn’t dwell on it.” Garbarino refused to think about the title being theirs until the checkered flag dropped. “Like Yogi said it ain’t over until it’s over. A lot can happen out there.”

“Our goal was to get Bobby a championship and ourselves one obliviously, but get him some of the attention that he honestly deserves. When he came on board I said you know, here’s the way it’s going to work, you have to commit to the whole season,” Garbarino hesitated before continuing. “Well, we got about six races in and I said to my wife, if he got the right phone call, I’d have to wish him the best. He deserves a Hendrick type phone call.”

While there were four drivers mathematically in the hunt, the focus however over the last two weeks was on Santos and Coventry, RI’s Mike Stefanik who was 37 points behind in the Diversified Metals/R.B. Enterprises modified going into the World Series.
Santos did suffer with a car that was off a bit and in the end, had trouble shifting on the restarts. At one point during the race, the seven-time NWMT champion was indeed ahead in points.

“This has been the least amount of pressure for being in a points battle,” said Stefanik about the last two weeks. “The way we kind of snuck up on it, it didn’t really seem like ours to loose. We had a strong performance throughout the year. We came here, unloaded a good race car, practiced well, qualified well and raced well. We mixed it up (with our early pit stop) but we thought we could get out front first, lead a lap- just change it up and get to the front. I was loose at the end, same as the 6 (Ron Silk) he pitted the same time we did. We put the best effort we could put forward. We had a great pit stop and it was kind of looking good there for a while, I know the 4 was back deep in the field. I glanced in my mirror and didn’t see him around so I knew he was a ways back. It didn’t work out for us but second is better than seventh which is where we finished the last three years.”

“To get that taste of a possible championship, to tell you the truth I was actually excited to be in the championship hunt, just to play into it,” said Stefanik. “We haven’t been in that position for several years and before that we won the championship. We’ve been out of contention for the last three years then all of a sudden we have an opportunity to possibly get another one. I know what it’s like not to figure into a championship, so I enjoyed the excitement of the last couple of weeks.”

Christopher from Plainville, CT used a late pitting strategy that played out well for the Al-Lee Installations 36 including a caution setting up a sprint to the checkers with less than ten to go. “I drove that thing from lap one to the end as hard as I could drive it,” said Christopher. “We were off a little bit, then we got a little bit too free at the end but it was a fun run. Thompson has been really, really good to me this year and I hope that was a good show for everybody.”

“Coby was real loose at the get go on that restart,” explained Christopher about his wining pass. “He sort of pulled away then all of a sudden I almost ran him over three quarters of the way down the straight away. I thought he was having motor problems.”

Tying Santos for the most wins of the season, Christopher moved up a spot to third in the final standings. “I was happy because we were the only ones to get into the (points) lead and thought we’d have a good run after that until the motor blew (Bristol). I thought it was going to be an uphill deal after that but it was downhill.”

“It’s a real big accomplishment for Bobby,” Christopher added. “Because he’s raced most of these tracks sporadically, obliviously he gives real good feedback to those guys, they have a great car underneath him - congratulations for winning the championship.”

The weekend did not start on a very impressive note for Ryan Preece, but did that ever change. The Berlin, CT driver qualified 28th in the Cape Cod Copper/Mizzy/Riverview, Boehler machine on Saturday. Sunday turned into a different story when pitting past the half-way mark, Preece restarted practically in another zip code but when the final caution flew and it came down to a handful of circuits, Preece lined up sixth and turned it up. “I was going for it,” smiled Preece. “It was the last eight laps of the year, I wanted to win. Teddy already had three wins and I had two seconds this year, enough of that. I wanted it really, really bad and hopefully next year we’ll be able to get a lot of them because we just figured out what we’re going with the car. If I had five more laps or more it would have been perfect because I didn’t wear myself out and I came hard at the end.”

“My crew made an awesome adjustment on the stop and that car was a rocket, wish we had a couple more laps, just ran out of time,” said Preece. “We definitely had something for them. The 3 Team worked their butts off, we had a great pit stop today, we got out ahead of some guys, I’m just really happy it’s a good way to end the year.” One of the cars he passed in the final drive was the eventual champion. “Bobby did a great job, I saw that he was running real hard but I could see he was conservative at the same time, he did what he had to do to win and I’m happy for the whole 4 team, they did an awesome job.”

His fifth different ride this year, Doug Coby of Milford, CT made the best of Sunoco World Series of Racing including leading 25 laps at the most important time, towards the end and nearly pulled off a win for car owner Wayne Darling. “There’s lots to be happy about but the ignition or the engine was crapping out with about three to go,” explained Coby. “I just can’t catch a break I guess. One day it’ll happen. I’m happy to have a ride, but I’m disappointed, I mean I hate to say I’m disappointed with a third but it’s the worse third place I ever had. The guys did a great job with the car, that thing was awesome. The thing was ridiculous on the bottom, it just rolled and rolled, it never got loose. Next year we’ll try and put something together and see how it goes.”

Tour Notes:

After Stafford, it wasn’t looking good for Richie Pallai, Jr. to return to Thompson for the World Series finale. While the Fall Final was not kind to Pallai who was involved in one of the many wrecks of the day, the support from other teams truly was. Jamie Tomaino and Glenn Tyler both offered cars to Pallai who was determined to complete the entire season. Car owner Gary Teto offered parts- in the end, Pallai did make it to Thompson and will be credited with running the full season, his day ending on a positive note with a finish just outside the top ten, his Bosch Spark Plugs Chevrolet crossing for eleventh.

With the exception of some friends and family, Glen Reen practically funded the season out of his pocket. “Then my mom came up with an ingenious idea to have friends, family and fans donate $40. They write their names on the car and get a t-shirt, so we’re calling it ‘The People’s Car,’ that’s the only reason why we got here. Almost sixty people have donated money to help us get to Stafford and here. I had my doubts but I was pretty impressed. My mom is an awesome thinker.” Loosing his main sponsor Pep Boys to the economy, Reen will be searching for a new sponsor for 2011. “We’ll do the best we can, we had three top ten’s this year,” said Reen about his limited schedule. Resourceful would be an understatement.

If you thought Rene Dupuis’ UIG/Stratford Fire Fighters Chevrolet looked familiar you were correct. Dupuis was in the Ed Bennett modified that Chuck Hossfeld has wheeled for the season. A one off deal, Hossfeld brought his own car to test a new Hutter motor. Hossfeld finished 13th, high enough to keep him in the top ten in points for the season while Dupuis held onto to a respectable top 25, the last car on the lead lap.

A ‘new’ face at Thompson, Ron Yuhas, Jr of Groton, CT was behind the wheel of the Cliff Nelson/AARN Chevrolet with car owner Ralph Solhem. Yuhas last ran the Tour full time in 2006 and is possibly looking to return in 2011. “We’re just trying to get our feet back in the game, we haven’t sat down to map out our game plan for next year but we’d like to run some Tour races,” said Yuhas. “ Working with Ralph this weekend has been awesome, he’s been around this for a long time and to have the opportunity to do this is awesome.” Yuhas got the job done first qualifying the 0 on time, then finishing the day just outside the top 20.

The curtain has officially dropped on the 2010 season. Bobby Santos, Bob and Joan Garbarino and the entire Mystic Missile team will be honored at the banquet in December. While there is much to hash over of what happened or what could have been, that focus will shift as soon as the 2011 schedule is released. Here’s to next year.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 18, 2010

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