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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



Santos Surges to Sizzler Victory
Polly Reid

Holding off a hard charging Doug Coby, Bobby Santos in the Tinio Racing, Imperialcars.com modified strategically used a lap car in the final turns of the final lap to win the prestigious NASCAR Whelen Modified Series NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler 200 at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Coby crossed for second with Rowan Pennink third, Woody Pitkat fourth and Justin Bonsignore fifth.
The coveted Sizzler win is the third in the last four years for the Franklin, MA driver. Notching his eleventh career NWMT victory, it is the sixth trip to victory lane at Stafford for Santos.

“This is cool,” said Santos. “It’s actually three in a row for me because we missed 2012. I was with Kyle Rickey on the radio this week and listening to the intros about all the past Sizzler winners, you really realize the history of this. Winning here in general is awesome- but the Sizzler? It’s the greatest race in the history of spring.”

The final circuits came down to a two car show between Santos and Coby, the duo had broken from the pack – Santos remaining solid while Coby patiently calculated when he would execute his move. But at the white flag, Santos came up to the lap car and used it to keep Coby behind him heading to the checkers.

“Doug is a very intelligent racer and with someone like him behind you, the only way he was going to pass was through the grass and Doug’s not going to do that,” said Santos. “When I saw the lap car, it definitely helped. If he was within a bumper he could have tried something in turn three but the lap car prevented that from happening. When I saw the lap car on the bottom I knew we were pretty safe from there.”

“Bobby was really smart,” admitted Coby. “He did exactly what I would have done – that’s one of those deals- that’s racing, that’s how it goes.”

The Sizzler was not an easy weekend for Santos and the Tinio team. Problems in the practice session on Saturday made the tight turn around to the qualifying session a scramble. “This was a hard fought weekend,” said crew chief Steve Lemay. “The car was OK in practice then we went out to do our mock time trial run and we blew off a freeze plug out of the motor. That’s a first for me in 38 years of racing.

We band aid that up to get through time trials yesterday, we got through that then the freeze plug was leaking this morning, we finally got another freeze plug in it – it was just a hard fought week.”

Santos qualified 8th but was not a decisive factor in the first half of the race. Tommy Barrett, Jr. of Millis, MA who had won the pole award brought the field to green. However it was hometown standout Woody Pitkat in the Buzz Chew machine that led the opening circuits. Coby was credited with leading two laps taking over the spot with six on the board before Pitkat took it back then Coby the leader again on lap 26. Barrett nailed a restart on lap 43 to become the third leader of the day losing the spot to Pennink on lap 50.

A caution on lap 99 brought the field to the pits for fresh rubber. Pitkat had been in at lap 31 for fuel and came down again for tires. Pennink, Barrett, Ron Silk and Santos were the big winners getting off of pit row first. “We were too tight the first half of the race, after the pit stop they worked on it- the team, giving us an awesome pit stop was a big thing,” said Santos.

Barrett, a rookie of the year contender, mixed it up with veteran NWMT drivers getting the lead back but his lap didn’t even register on the board as Santos made a huge effort on the outside passing for the lead and never looking back on lap 115.

“I got going right away after that restart and made it happen right away,” said Santos about his winning pass. “The guys practice hard doing pit stops at the shop,” added Lemay. “And not just changing tires- we throw different scenarios at them to make adjustments on the car, they performed just flawless. I told them before they went over the wall, the car was coming down pit row, I said guys, all I want you to do is go out there and remember, if you slow down, you’ll go faster- hit your marks and you’ll do what you’re supposed to do. We adjusted the car, Bobby went out and drove it right to the front.”

Four cautions littered the final fifty circuits but the possible game changer came on a restart with 20 to go. Santos led Coby, Barrett, Eric Goodale, Pennink, Ron Silk, Pitkat and Bonsignore to the line for the double file restart. Santos and Coby side by side, coming into turns three and four, the lead pair drifted up the track causing the outside row to suddenly checkup. Goodale’s strong effort was done, the GAF Roofing sponsored machine up against the outside wall. Barrett in third and Silk both taking evasive action to avoid the melee lost several spots, NASCAR officials making the call to line them up 10th and 11th for the final restart. Santos and Coby had another shot for a restart with Pennink now in third, Bonsignore and Pitkat the top five - the final laps of 2014 Sizzler was coming quickly to a conclusion.
All eyes on Santos and Coby, one, two, the white flag in the air, Coby knew he had a good car, Santos knew that too. A lap car tucked down in the low groove was opportunity for Santos who timed his pass effectively shutting the door on Coby, the checkers waving for Santos crossing with a .122 second margin of victory.

“I know he was a little better than us so I was very nervous,” said Santos. “The yellows definitely helped, we needed those handful of yellows- the race went our way which is really good- great job by the team and little bit of luck did it for us. Doug was better than us at the end but like I said, I’ve looked up to him since I was like five years old. And he stole I think it was a TSI race from me a couple of years ago right at the very end so I obviously had that in the back of my mind- I didn’t want that to happen again.”

“I treat every race as a jewel and you have to do what you can do,” said Coby. “I think we were both a little crazy at the end trying to win the prestigious Sizzler.” Coby in the Mike Smeriglio owned, Dunleavy’s/A&J Romano Construction sponsored modified has already established this is a team to watch, winners of the Battle on the Beach in Daytona and opening the point season with a podium finish at the Icebreaker. “As soon as we put tires on I was going for broke – I know how important track position is here. I think on a longer run I would have gone by him, we would have more time to figure it out. For our team, we needed a long run to settle in and with the way the race track was, the rubber build up, the way our cars were handling, the short runs were not really good for any of us really.”

Pennink from Huntingdon Valley, PA posted a strong third place finish in his Monk’s Hand Cleaner modified besting Icebreaker winner Justin Bonsignore and runner up Pitkat who crossed fourth and fifth. “We weren’t quite strong enough today,” said Pennink. “We had a pretty good car and I thought it was going to free up towards the end of the race but it didn’t, it stayed the same. I was a little too tight the first half and I thought it was going to free up and the car would come to me- it stayed the same the whole day- we ended up a little tight.” Pennink acknowledges what the finish means to the team. “It always boosts you’re confidence when you’re running in the top five, leading laps, I think our cars are stronger than ever this year and we’re looking forward to running in the top five the whole year.”

Lawney Tinio, speaking on behalf of car owner Sully could not have been happier about positive turn of events. “We had a tough run at Thompson where we lost an oil line, went down some laps, we couldn’t get back on the lead lap and just had to cruise around. We came here this weekend and blew a freeze plug in practice- we were still able to pull off a decent position in qualifying, then Bobby, he just did a great job, saving his stuff and the crew, I can’t say enough, they pulled off an excellent pit stop, nice and smooth, they got Bobby out quick- we picked up a spot then after that, it was up to Bobby and he did his thing and got it done.”

“The people we race with here are second to none and are just as hungry to get a win as we are. It’s very difficult to win,” continued Tinio. “Bobby is very good at Stafford and again, a big part is the team- having the team we have really helps. Everybody gives 110% and that’s what really gets wins.”

Rounding out the top ten was Ted Christopher in sixth, Donny Lia, Timmy Solomito, Matt Hirschman and Ron Silk tenth. Pole winner Tommy Barrett crossed eleventh. Defending champion Ryan Preece suffered a motor issue 30 laps shy of the checkers finishing the day 24th.

The NWMT returns to Stafford for their next event on Friday, May 23rd for the TSI Harley Davidson 125.

Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: April 28, 2014

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