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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen All-American Series




Race Day

Polly Reid

If you were to describe the perfect race weekend- ask Bobby Santos of Franklin, MA who posted fastest practice time, won the Coors Light Pole award on Saturday and led 197 of 200 laps on Sunday winning the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Tech-Net Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Under welcomed New England sunny skies, full grandstands of fans watched as a late race caution brought the field to green for the final time with three to go- Santos was able to hold off the threats of Ryan Preece and Justin Bonsignore to score the prestigious win, his ninth NWMT career overall, his 5th at Stafford and second Spring Sizzler victory.

Bonsignore crossed for second, Ted Christopher third, Preece fourth and Rowan Pennink fifth.
Santos, elated with the win, took a moment after exiting the winning Sully Tinio owned, Curb Records/Brendan Kelley Music sponsored Chevrolet and amid the congratulations, found it difficult to speak, his words emotional. “This one means the world. I just have to dedicate this win to my whole family. We lost one of my little cousins this week- this is for my Uncle Jay and Aleshia, they’re all family- they support every race for me. They couldn’t be here today, they are all at a wake today- this one is for them.”

Santos commanded the Spring Sizzler from the drop of the green. Rowan Pennink, Todd Szegedy, Preece and Chuck Hossfeld kept the leader in their sights, the field focusing on trying to catch Santos yet be there at the end of 200 laps around the half mile oval.

A yellow on lap 46 was the end of the day for Hossfeld with a terminal transmission problem. Santos led Pennink, Preece, Doug Coby, Szegedy and Mike Stefanik back to the green.

A caution just past the half way mark brought the majority of the field to pit row including Santos, Preece, Pennink, Lia, Coby, Bonsignore, Szegedy, Mike Stefanik and Ron Yuhas, Jr.

On the restart, Patrick Emerling and Jamie Tomaino who had pitted earlier led the field to green. Santos picked his way back to the front spot resuming the lead on lap 108.

A red flag on lap 150 stopped the action as the track crew cleaned up an incident on the backstretch wall, an incident that appeared terminal for Ron Silk. It did not go unnoticed the efforts of the TS Haulers/Calverton Tree Farm sponsored crew who got Silk back out onto the speedway. While several laps down, Silk was able to salvage a seventeenth place finish.

A total of ten cautions slowed the Sizzler but it was the last restart with three to go that set up the final run to the checkers. Santos with Preece, Bonsignore, Pennink, Coby, Christopher and Yuhas the top six brought the double file restart to green. Santos pulled away, the inside lane of Bonsignore moved to second with Christopher to third, Preece and Pennink crossed for the top five. As Santos was coming to the checkers, a spin in turn four forced a yellow checker finish.

“These guys are a lot of fun,” said Santos about 44 team. “It’s an honor to be involved with them.”

“We didn’t give up all day,” said Bonsignore. The Holtsville, NY driver started the Ken Massa owned, M3 Technology sponsored Chevrolet 14th on the grid. “The car was good, we made some moves. I just wish we had qualified better, it would have made it an easier day.”

“They were class of the field and they deserve that,” said Bonsignore about Santos. “Aside from Santos, it was a really close battle between everybody, it was a lot of fun. It’s hard racing- the beginning of the season, everyone wants to get off on the right foot and get the best start in points that you can and that’s what we did today.” Bonsignore crossed the finish line with a fuel deficiency needing a push into victory lane, the yellow checker working in his favor. “I sputtered off of turn two just as I got onto the gas and as my spotter called the yellow it just about shut off, we really lucked out there.”

Stafford’s most winning driver, Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT claimed a solid podium finish. “We relate so good together, we keep getting better and better,” said Christopher about the Jan Boehler owned 3 team with crew chief Scott Richards sponsored by Silver Dollar Construction/Cape Cod Copper. “There are a few issues we’re going to look at and get things better. We hope to be back at Stafford with another piece under the hood and see what happens then.”

“It was a good run from where we were,” said Christopher who took the green 15th. “It worked out where we wanted to pit. I’ll take a third from where I started. You know what it is with these things, restarts are so key- if you’re on a different (tire) cycle but as soon as you run 6 or 7 laps, everybody evens out that’s why I wanted to pit late. It turned out really good, I wanted to pit with like thirty-five to go but sixty to go was good.” Pitting early for adjustments, Christopher worked his way back into the top ten with fifty to go and kept moving forward starting seventh with ten to go. The cautions at the end helped Christopher who used the final restart going from 6th with three laps left to third at the checkers. “The car was real comfortable. They’re such great people to work with, I have a good time with those guys, they are really good to race with, I enjoy that.”

Santos was confident in his car, but knows anything can happen under yellow. “I think I had an angel in my car this weekend. I lost my cousin this week, I think he was riding with me all weekend. I heard people saying during qualifying I had a cloud- I had a little extra help this weekend.”

Santos credits the 44 crew chief Steve Lemay and the entire team with doing all the work, “They make my job easy.”

The Spring Sizzler win puts Santos in the running for the CARQUEST Triple Crown- should Santos win the August race and the Fall Final, he will collect an additional $25,000. “We have to win the August race then we’ll worry about the Fall Final. It’s really cool that Stafford and CARQUEST are doing that. I’m thankful for everything they are doing for us on the Tour.”

“We owe this all to Stevie Lemay for setting up the car and for Bobby out there taking care of the equipment,” said car owner Sully Tinio via Lawney. We have a Billy The Kid motor and the entire crew, they work so hard. The guys really dedicate a lot of time back at the shop, taking time out of their personal lives to make sure this thing is ready to go. To win it really shows their dedication- it gives them a reason to come back next week. We did a lot of number crunching on the inside wondering if we were going to take fuel or not- Bobby was insistent that he was saving so we went with it. We want to thank our new sponsor Curb Records for noticing us, for noticing Bobby.”
 About the CARQUEST Triple Crown? “We’re one third of the way there but one race at a time. You never know when the next win is coming.”

“It’s a whole team effort,” said winning crew chief Steve Lemay. “I do my part, the crew does their part and Bobby does his part. It’s all working right now. Sometimes you just hit on those things – you couldn’t ask for a better team to be with right now. My first full season doing this, we did it part time last year – we picked up a new sponsor and we’re definitely planning on running the whole Tour.” Lemay talked about how the team has been working even harder on pit stops. “We practice our pit stops – we aren’t going for how fast we can do it, but how clean we can do it without mistakes because mistakes are what cost the race. The guys pulled off a real clean stop today – we came in first and went back out first. The win, it was a whole team effort.”

“Bobby is so smooth- he saved fuel out there today – he saved and saved. I was going to come in for fuel, we talked and talked and he talked me out of coming in for fuel because he had saved enough and he would make it as long as we had some cautions he would make it and he did.

About the CARQUEST Triple Crown? Lemay echoed the same response as driver and car owner- “one race at a time.”
Lemay is looking forward to the next NWMT event at Monadnock – Lemay has a title he earned with this brother Joe in a six cylinder division years ago. “I’m excited to go back.”

Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH is the next NWMT event on Saturday May 11th. With his two top five finishes, Rowan Pennink takes the point lead with 83, one ahead of Mike Stefanik and Ryan Preece tied for second at 82. Ted Christopher -80 and Justin Bonsignore- 78 the top five. Defending champion Doug Coby is currently sixth with 75.

Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: April 29, 2013

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