June 1, 2010

ARCHIVES                                         

By Brian Danko

STAFFORD, CT.-------It isn’t often that a driver gets schooled once and wins a race but what are the odds that a driver gets taken to school twice on back to back restarts and still takes the checkered flag. That was what happened to Bobby Santos Friday night as the 24 year old won his second race of the season winning the TSI Harley Davidson 125 at the Stafford Motor Speedway.

“Jimmy took me to school on those two restarts.” Said the soft spoken driver, “I guess I was lucky to win tonight. But I’d rather be lucky than good any day.”

Twice on restarts, Santos got the jump as the field rumbled into turn one but both times, Santos drifted up and Blewett in the Dick Barney #14 shot underneath to garner the lead but each time a caution flew, thus, giving the lead back to Santos.

The race was extended to 137 laps and on the restart on lap 135, Santos took off midway between turns three and four and powered out front off turn four but NASCAR radioed back to the 4 crew and told Santos to let Blewett back to his side.

Santos was able to get the lead back as they headed off turn two as Blewett finished second, with a flat tire and Todd Szegedy was third.

“This win is pretty awesome. I have to thank the crew as we didn’t get a lot of practice as we lost the clutch four laps into practice.” Santos, the winner of a midget race in Iowa last week said.

When asked about the final restart, Santos said, “Jimmy got me to go earlier than I wanted too and I knew that I had to give him the spot back (or NASCAR would have required a trip down pit road). Once we were even again, I got on the gas as soon as I could.”

For the runner up Blewett, he was thrilled for the second place, especially after hearing talk that he was losing it as a driver.

“Our day will come. We got the leader several times today but had those cautions but it was a good run for us. Yeah, it frustrating. It wasn’t my day today but you’ve got to earn the win.”

The race started about 10 p.m., one hour later than scheduled with Ron Silk and Santos on the front row.

Silk led the first three circuits before Eric Berndt powered by on lap three but Bobby Santos assumed the front spot on lap five.

On the 11th circuit, Berndt took over the front spot and from there it looked like he was about to make this his own special playground as by the 27th lap he had opened up a 10 car advantage over Santos, Chuck Hossfeld and Silk.

The first caution of the night came out on lap 35 when James Civali slid up in turn two and touched the wall.

That sent several cars to the pit area including Mike Stefanik, Rowan Pennick, Ryan Preece, Woody Pitkat and Chris Pasteryak.

Another caution flew on lap 43 when Eric Beers spun in turn one.

Berndt was quick on the gas each time and sped away while Ron Silk and Bobby Santos were fighting for second by lap 49.

As the race continued clean and green, Berndt was gone opening up a nearly 30 car advantage as a good battle for the second through fifth spot with Hossfeld, Silk, Santos, Robbie Summers and Jimmy Blewett battling.

Berndt continued to set a torrid pace as the lap marker clicked off lap 90 but slowly Chuck Hossfeld was moving in on the leader, picking up two tenths of a second per lap.

On the 94th lap, Hossfeld was just cars away from Berndt and was on his rear bumper on lap 103 when just the third caution flew on the night.

That caution sends Ted Christopher, who was mired in 10th place into the pits for three tires.

On the restart on lap 108, Eric Berndt never got going and that allowed Hossfeld into the top spot with Jimmy Blewett getting into second but Hossfeld’s lead would be short lived as he and Blewett tangled off turn four sending Chuck spinning into the infield and bringing out another caution.

On lap 116, Santos had retaken the lead after the tangle between the two leaders with Todd Szegedy second, Berndt third, Blewett fourth and Rob Summers in a strong run for him in fifth.

On lap 117, Blewett moved into second and set his sights on Santos before another caution flew on lap 120 when Eddie Flemke, Jr., Hossfeld, Kevin Goodale, Rowan Pennick and Renee Dupuis got together in turn four.

Just as the field went green, Glenn Tyler spun heading into turn four and stopped and then Ted Christopher was sent spinning to the infield as Blewett was able to get the lead on Santos but it was all for naught when the caution flew on lap 124.

In a repeat on lap 127 restart, Santos powered into turn one and again drifted high allowing Blewett to scoot underneath for the lead but the caution again flew saving Santos.

On the restart on 135 Santos went early but allowed Blewett to get back side by side and then Santos, with the aid of a Blewett tire going down pulled away to win his second race of the season and his third career win.

“We were thinking with the lead that Eric had that we might be able to get a top three finish but the crew put us in position to win.”

When asked about racing with Jimmy Blewett, who at times can make it very challenging for drivers, Santos said the two have the utmost respect for each other.

“Me and Jimmy have a lot of respect for each other. I have always looked up to Jimmy and his brother (John).”

As Jimmy and Bobby exchanged small talk in the press box, Bobby Santos said he was ‘lucky’ to win, in which, Jimmy shot back, “you earned this win.”

The win earned the Bob Garbarino driver $6,600 but there was to be little sleep for the winning driver as he was to board a plane to Indy and compete in the traditional “Night before the 500” midget race.

The rest of the top ten was Ryan Preece, Rob Summers, Eric Berndt, Mike Stefanik, Erick Rudolph, George Brunnhoelzl, III, and Andy Seuss.

TOUR SHORTS

Todd Szegedy finished third but said that they were off just a bit all day. “We were off just a little and we ended up using the right front tire instead of the right rear. The restarts were a little different than normal but it’s a good finish for us.

With the win, Santos extends his points lead to 64 over 7 -time series champion, Mike Stefanik while Ted Christopher, who finished 12th fell to third in the points and is 75 behind Santos while Todd Szegedy is 77 markers back.

Bobby Santos won his third consecutive pole of the season matching Ted Christopher who started off the 2009 season with three straight poles.  Bobby toured the half mile oval in 18.090 seconds good for a speed of 99.502 MPH.

Bobby Santos comes from a longtime racing family as his grandfather, the late, great, Bobby ‘Frito Bandito’ Santos competed in modified racing in the northeast for many years. Bobby’s sister, Erika competes in the SK light division at the Stafford Motor Speedway on a weekly basis.

Bobby Santos has won in just about every form of race car he has climbed into but this will be his first attempt at running for a championship. I asked Bobby why, with a driver of his talent haven’t gotten a call yet and he replied “They aren’t looking for talent; they are looking with somebody with money. It’s just the way that the sport is right now.”

The purse for the second of four modified tour races at the Stafford Motor Speedway was $76,476. It was also the 96th modified tour race at Stafford, second most of all the tour races. With Santos winning, there has now been 30 different drivers in modified tour action at Stafford with Mike Stefanik leading with 20 wins.

Long time modified driver and all around good guy, Johnny Bush of Huntington Station, L.I., N.Y. is competing on the tour in one of the spec motors and while the results haven’t  been the best for John, he is hoping to get a handle on it and get it turned around.

“NASCAR has been great to deal with the motor. I don’t know if we are doing something wrong but we’ll get it straightened out. I hope that we can and that others will see the benefits of it.”

Joe Larsen, a longtime modified tour official is now an author having his first book published. It is called ‘A view from the Ramp’ and is available from Barnes and Noble. Joe is another of the real good guys in the sport and while this book is looking to be a winner after reading the reviews, Joe is already working on another to be ready for the winter holidays and then will begin working on his third book.

We all have joked with Joe to not forget his roots, he says that will never be a problem. Good Luck, Joe.

Another of the long Island gang was at Stafford as longtime modified driver and one of the most talented drivers was back in the pit area after a lengthy illness. Mike Ewanitsko was forced out of the sport because of problems with his kidneys and after spending much time in the hospital and on many drugs to control it, he is looking great.

Mike was one driver to fear each and every week and recorded more than 11 wins on the tour before sadly being sidelined but he says everything is looking up health wise and he is enjoying life with his kids after being able to go back to work recently.

The modified tour next week heads to the Martinsville Speedway for a doubleheader with the K&N East Series on Sunday, June 6th.

HILL'S RACING

When David Hill and I talked last month at the Icebreaker, David and his father, Roger, two of the modified stalwarts were looking forward to the challenge of competing for twin NASCAR titles, the Whelen modified tour and the Whelen Southern modified tour.

They were upbeat even though one of the races, at the Bristol Motor Speedway, was a combination race but the Hill’s were informed by NASCAR that they would work with the team to accomplish the goal, seeing they were the only team looking to do the double double.

Move forward one month and suddenly the goal is out the window thanks to NASCAR. When I asked Roger what happened, he shrugged his shoulders and in his slow, southern drawl said, “I don’t know. They just told us they we had to choose which series we were going to register with for that race.”

Here is a car owner, who hails deep in the heart of the south and travels thousands of miles every year to compete on the Whelen modified tour events up north and then supports the southern modified series in their back yards and this is the thanks that they get for all their hard work and efforts in supporting both series.

While James Civali in the northern modified tour hasn’t gotten off to a great start, they are leading the southern tour with 20% of the schedule complete.

I asked Roger if they planned on then entering as a southern team and Roger replied, “I don’t know, because to win the championship doesn’t pay anything.”

I find it interesting that when the Sprint Cup drivers, who show up in Nationwide series races and steal money because racing there ‘is fun’, that NASCAR would delay the start of Nationwide races to allow drivers who followed both series ample time to get to different tracks when they weren’t companion events.

Yet, NASCAR is going to put there foot down on a modified tour team looking to not only win two NASCAR championships BUT also spending the time and money supporting both the NASCAR’s only open wheeled series.

What’s worse is that while NASCAR never said they could, they never gave the team any indication that they wouldn’t disallow it.

In an economy that is hurting fans, tracks and especially car owners, here was a small slice of bread that NASCAR could have thrown out as a good will gesture, seeing that neither tour is overfilling the pit area with modified tour cars.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.