THOMPSON, Conn. (WWLP) - A pit road mistake and a little frustration couldn't stop Bobby Santos. A near perfect performance put Santos in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bud 150 victory lane at the Thompson Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut on Thursday night.
The Franklin, Massachusetts driver had almost everything go his way. He had the final time trial spot and needed only one lap to win the pole before shutting the car down without completing his second qualifying lap. Santos elected to start from the outside of the front row for the initial drop of the green flag. Around lap 100 Bobby was almost in another time zone as he enjoyed a full straightaway lead over second place contender Todd Szegedy.
With about 25 laps to go Santos stalled the car when leaving his pit box during a caution that had almost the entire field on pit road. But restarting fourth was barely a speed bump for the #44, and in just a matter of a few laps, Santos pushed leader Justin Bonsignore up the track in turn 4 to regain the lead. Bobby outlasted the final yellow flags including two green-white-checker finishes for his 10th career NASCAR Whelen Mod Tour win.
Donny Lia, Eric Goodale, Doug Coby, and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top 5. The first green-white-checker saw Rowan Pennink's #93 cartwheel at the end of the front straight after contact with another car. Pennink's Chevrolet did a complete 360 landing back on all four tires. Rowan was able to walk to the ambulance on his own for evaluation, and a third place run ended with a finish of 18th.
Santo's post race comments included an apology, as he told reporters, "I had an awesome race car. I about blew it on the pit stop. I screwed up, I stalled the car. I lost us some spots and I kind of lost my head a little bit. I've got to apologize to my guys for that. I put a good move on Justin (Bonsignore) when we passed the first time and the yellow came out. I was a little frustrated and I knew I needed to get out front. I kind of moved him up the hill a little more than I should have. So I've got to apologize to him first of all." He dismissed his big lead around lap 100 as he told 22News, "I'm sure Mike Stefanik or Ted Christopher has done that a couple of times. We just had a really good car tonight." Donny Lia and Eric Goodale talked of how there was no grip on the bottom of the track and how hard it was to pass.
Driver Glen Reen will be remembered for his first Whelen Tour win in the 2011 Thompson World Series. Reen splits his time between his hometown of Wilbraham and Charlotte, North Carolina. Glen qualified 22nd in the 27 car field in the #8 Chevrolet. Reen told 22News what a thrill it was to get this opportunity: "Actually Mary (Sypher) called me Thursday and asked me if I'd like to drive it. I was almost dumbfounded that the opportunity came out of mid-air like that. It's huge and it's a big respect thing. It makes me feel good that someone would actually pick me. There's so many talented drivers here that don't have rides. So for him to pick me out of all those, it means a lot."
When a driver doesn't have a ride, it can be hard getting another opportunity. But many drivers in that position are still reluctant to jump into any car and Reen explained why: "I've tried that whole 'I just want a ride, it doesn't matter what it is' and then you make yourself look bad. I can't do those rides where it's 'Oh well, we'll just wing it and see what happens. Hopefully it's a top 20.' It just makes you look bad and no one wants to help you after that." NASCAR had Reen's #8 and Cole Powell's #73 start from the rear of the field for what was termed "unapproved adjustments." On track troubles kept the #8 in the pits for long periods of repairs. Reen finished 23rd.
Two drivers came to Thompson hoping to break losing streaks. Tour point leader Ryan Preece has never won in the nine mod tour races he's run at Thompson. A last lap crash gave Preece a 12th place finish and cut his lead over Doug Coby in the championship standings to just 16 points. Before the race, Preece talked with 22News about his tour winless streak here when he's won in the weekly Thompson modifieds. Ryan offered this explanation, "Luck! I've come up short quite a few times or it seemed like if I had just one or two more laps, it could have been different. But that's the way things go."
Maybe that only driver who wanted a win more than Ryan Preece was Ted Christopher. T-C's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winless streak now stands at 24. His luck didn't improve in the Bud 150. Christopher's #3 exited with right front damage after an on-track accident, giving him a 22nd place finished.
When the night was over, Thompson's management, racers, and fans all felt like winners. Racing had returned after three consecutive Thursday night rainouts. All are hoping next Thursday night's racing goes off as scheduled, since the Valenti Modified Racing Series will be back. The MRS was scheduled for all three of those recent rainouts.