NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Pre-Stafford
They'll Be Racing Friday Night Under The Lights
Bobby Santos (Jamie Williams Photo)
Stafford Provides Plenty Of Great Memories For Santos
Bobby Santos has spent his entire racing career bouncing between different types of cars. So it’ll be no big deal for the 21-year-old from Franklin, Mass. when – less than a week after running in the ARCA race at Pocono Raceway – he’s back in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car.
“I’m so used to it, I guess, because it’s all I’ve ever done,” said Santos, who will be back behind the wheel of the No. 3 Roby's Propane/ Cape Cod Copper Ford for Friday’s New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.
“I think it actually helps me,” Santos said. “When I was running the Modified and the Busch car up in New Hampshire in July, switching back and forth, I went faster each time out.”
Santos is ready to get back to some open-wheel racing after his forgettable experience at Pocono. After winning the pole, Santos cut a tire, had an ignition problem and then, after getting that all fixed, got back on the track and was wrecked on a restart. He finished 34th.
He’ll be making his fifth Whelen Modified Tour start of the season. In his two most recent races, he was seventh June 30 at New Hampshire and third June 21 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.
“Every time we’ve run this year, I’ve felt we’ve had a top 10 car,” Santos said. “If you run in the top 10, you have a shot of winning.
“I’m looking forward to Stafford.”
The ½-mile oval, where he used to watch racing growing up, is the site of one of Santos’ biggest nights.
Last year, he earned $50,000 by winning both ends of a NEMA Midget/PRA Big Car doubleheader.
The third-generation driver is running a handful of Busch Series and ARCA races as part of Bill Davis Racing. He is running on the Modified Tour in the legendary No. 3 for car owner Lenny Boehler.
“I’m looking forward to getting back with the Boehlers,” Santos said. “It’s pretty neat to drive for the Boehlers. They have a lot of experience and it’s been fun driving for them this year.”
Szegedy looks to get title hopes back on track
Despite starting 25th, it was looking like a pretty good night at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway for Todd Szegedy (No. 2 Wisk/Snuggle Ford) as he motored his way up to 12th.
And then it all stopped. Literally.
“It was the best car we ever had at Riverhead,” Szegedy said. “The next thing you know, the car shut off. And before you know it, we’re four laps down.”
Turns out the master switch burnt up.
Szegedy left Riverhead with a 16th-place finish. While he remained third in points, he dropped to 144 behind leader (and race winner) Donny Lia.
The good news for Szegedy is there are still eight races remaining and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heads to Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway this weekend. It’s
where Szegedy has a history of success: He has three wins, including the Fall Final last season.
“We’re thinking championship right from the get-go,” Szegedy said. “We still have a mathematical chance. And we have a car that’s strong enough to win a championship. But we can’t have any more part failures or get involved in any more wrecks.”
Szegedy has three wins at Stafford, with the most recent coming last October when he led all 150 laps, forgoing a pit stop, and held off Ken Barry for the win. Szegedy was second and fifth at the Connecticut half-mile this year — with Lia winning both races.
“Both times we had a car capable of winning and just fell a little short,” Szegedy said.
Coby Back In Chase’s No. 77 For Stafford Race
After parting ways with car owner Curt Chase, Doug Coby was prepared to sit out the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season.
And then, Monday, Chase called and offered Coby a chance to run in the No. 77 Friday in the New England Dodge Dealers 150. Coby didn’t have to think long.
“I said ‘Of course I want to run Stafford,’ ” Coby said. “So I went up there (Tuesday) night and got re-fitted in my car. They had a new seat, but other than that’s it’s still the same car. It’s my favorite car, so I’m excited.”
Coby will be back at the track and with the car that resulted in his only career victory. Coby won the Spring Sizzler to open 2006.
After a seventh-place finish in points in 2005 and the win at Stafford to start 2006, things looked promising. But Coby and the team had a rough year — he had just one more top 5— and split amicably after the season.
Zach Sylvester drove the No. 77 for the first seven races of this season.
“I’m not a driver that comes with a lot of money in my pocket,” Coby said. “I wasn’t able to find the sponsorship that I needed. I understand my situation. … Things were meant to happen.”
Coby ran his own SK Modified at the Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl for the first nine weeks, but missed a couple weeks because of wrecks and work.
“I was going to take a couple weeks off,” Coby said. “And then a couple weeks turned into a month, and then a month turned into two. … When I wasn’t racing, it sucked, but I got used to it for a while.”
While the deal calls for Coby to just run Stafford, he said that he is fairly confident they can reach an agreement to run at least one more race and possibly more.
How To Run Stafford
Mike Stefanik (18 wins): “Basically, it’s all about getting out of (turn) 4 good — it’s more important than 1 and 2 — that’s where more passes get initiated. You can also get on the outside going into turn 3. … (Turn) 1 and 2, it seems like everybody runs the same line and everybody runs so low. I don’t see many opportunities to pass there.”
Doug Coby will be back in the Chase #77 this
weekend. (51 Photo)
Todd Szegedy (three wins): “You’ve got to have some power. … You have to qualify well. The day starts when everybody goes and draws for qualifying. The first 10 guys that go out are at a disadvantage for qualifying. … Just have a good setup that’s going to last without dropping off. You don’t have do be blazing fast; you want to stay pretty consistent throughout the whole run of tires. … There’s a fine line between driving too hard and not driving hard enough. You have to drive hard to stay up front. That’s why it’s important to have a good setup. If you don’t stay with the front pack, you drop back into the middle and that’s where it seems all the trouble happens.”
News & Notes
The race: This event is the ninth of 16 races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule. It is the third of four races in 2007 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.
The procedure: The starting field is 31 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (75 miles).
The sweep: Points leader Donny Lia (No. 4 Chevrolet) won the first two Stafford races this season. In April, he led the final three laps after passing Todd Szegedy. And he returned to Victory Lane less than a month later, when he led the final 37 laps. Lia became the seventh driver to win the first two Stafford races of the season. Only twice has a driver won No. 3: Mike Stefanik (No. 16 Diversified Metals Pontiac) in 1997 and Ted Christopher (No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet) in 2002. Stefanik (1990, ’97 & ’98), Christopher (2002), Reggie Ruggiero (1987) and Tony Hirschman (2005) have won three Whelen Modified Tour events overall at Stafford in a season.
The history: Stefanik is by far the most successful driver in a Whelen Modified Tour race at Stafford. He has 18 victories, double that of second-place Ruggiero (No. 14 Atlantic Sprinkler Chevrolet). Christopher, the track’s all-time winningest driver, is third with six Whelen Modified Tour victories.
Post-Race Notes: Riverhead
Flash Fan … Count rookie Ryan Preece (No. 40 Mizzy Construction Chevrolet) as a fan of the ‘Flash’ format. The 16-year-old Kensington, Conn. driver failed to qualify in the first two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races of the season at Thompson (Conn.) and Stafford (Conn.). But he went to the first ‘Flash’ race – which featured qualifying through heat races – at Wall Township (N.J.) Speedway and raced his way in. Although he finished 27th following an accident, the experience was a positive one. “I think the Flash races were a momentum builder,” Preece said. “Those kind of races are more of a driver’s race. If you don’t do to good in qualifying, you still have that heat race to show you can drive and that you are competitive.” Preece finished 14th in the ‘Flash’ race at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H. and overcame an early spin to fight back for a 10th-place finish at Riverhead. “It was definitely worked for,” said Preece, who moved into a three-way tie for second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. “It was definitely a lot of fun though. … It was pretty much keep your toes up the whole race.”
In and then out … Bobby Grigas (No. 09 Triple G/Amsoil Racing Chevrolet) didn’t leave Riverhead as happy. Grigas originally thought he had secured one of the two driver’s provisionals. But by pitting at his hauler during the heat race, he took himself out of the event. Competitors were told during the drivers’ meeting that they had to pit in the designated area, and if they took the car to their haulers, they would be considered out of the race. That opened the door for Glenn Tyler (No. 8 Sypher Construction Chevrolet) to make the field. Tyler finished 24th after being involved in an accident.
The Regulars … Riverhead always has a large contingent of its weekly Modified racers try to make the show, and this year was no different. Points leader Bill Park (No. 20 Smithtown Nissan Chevrolet) was the top local with his second-place qualifying effort and runner-up finish. Justin Bonsignore (No. 23 Double Diamond Realty Chevrolet) finished fourth and Howie Brodie (No. 96 Long Island Freightliner Chevrolet) was eighth.
Familiar Face … Wayne Anderson (No. 15 East Feeds Chevrolet), the 1994 Whelen Modified Tour champion and five-time Riverhead track champion, also got caught up in an early wreck and finished 26th.
Todd Szegedy (#2) battled with Donny Lia for the victory at Stafford earlier this season. (Jim DuPont Photo)
Ryan Preece's #40 at Riverhead. (Rick Ibsen Photo)