Rising Star Santos Earns First Modified Win by Amie Campbell
Hirschman Has to Wait for First Win
By his own estimations, Santos has won in a half dozen different types of vehicles, but before Sunday night, he’d never won in a Modified, at any level.  That changed when he won the Whelen Modified Tour’s season ending Xtra/Mart World Series at Thompson International Speedway.

“You can’t beat winning in a Modified,” said Santos with a smile.

Santos lead 109 of the 150 laps, and he only relinquished the lead when his team elected to head to pit road on lap 73 under caution.   While at some venues, that may have made the racing boring, at Thompson it was anything but.  There was plenty of passing going on, it just wasn’t happening in the lead.
Ole' Blue carried Santos to victory lane.   (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Bobby Santos III is just 22 years old, and is perhaps better known outside of greater New England as an occasional ARCA RE/MAX Series and NASCAR Busch Series competitor for car owner Bill Davis.  In New England however, old time race fans have been watching Santos race since he was just knee high.  He’s known as much for being the Frito Bandito’s grandson as he is for his own considerable talents behind the wheel.
The field was on a variety of pit stop schedules with some drivers, like Matt Hirschman, electing to pit on lap 42, and others pitting on laps 50, 61, and 73.  The battles between those on old tires and new tires made for often exhilarating passing, and most of the time, that worked out well.  Bobby Grigas III may not agree however, after his car found the wall between turns three and four after contact from the last race winner, Mike Stefanik.

While Santos drove through the field trying to get back up front, it was the younger Hirschman who led, typically pulling away from his nearest competitors and showing that he had a car good enough to win.  Unfortunately for Hirschman, Sunday simply wasn’t his day to win. 

“I’m still looking for my first Whelen Tour win,” said Hirschman.  “I really thought we’d get it this year.  We were competitive enough last year that I felt we were going to win this year. We’ve gotten close -- a second, a third, and a couple fourths [place finishes] -- we’re there; we just didn’t quite get it.  We just have to keep working at it.”

While at one point it seemed like eventual second place finisher Reggie Ruggiero might have something for Santos, once Ruggiero reached second, it seemed like Santos dug a bit deeper and stretched out the lead more.  In the end, it would be Santos giving his Boehler Racing Enterprises team a memorable win.

“They [BRE Racing] worked so hard this year,” said Santos, “Last year they were near going out of business because they had no money behind them.  That’s the reason that they’re here now – because they work hard.”

Santos was also thrilled that he was able to give the long running team an anniversary present.  The Boehler family, owners of the BRE team, have been fielding cars for 50 years, and started the season running a white car styled after their 1976 centennial Vega.

“The first race of the year we had the white car for their [50th] anniversary and after that they went back to Old Blue to change our luck,” said a grinning Santos.  He finished 32nd in the season opening Icebreaker, retiring early due to an accident.

This race ended the Whelen Modified Tour season, but there’s still Modified racing to be had.  Santos, Hirschman and others will be racing in the fifth Annual John Blewett III
Memorial North-South Shootout in Concord, North Carolina on November 2nd and 3rd, and Speed51 will be on hand covering the event.

Xtra/Mart 150
Unofficial Results
Thompson International Speedway
Thompson, CT
Lap length: 0.625 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (7) Bobby Santos, III, Millis, Mass., Chevrolet, 150 laps, 77.658 mph, $6,950.
2. (25) Reggie Ruggiero, Rocky Hill, Conn., Chevrolet, 150, $3,750.
3. (6) Matt Hirschman, Northampton, Pa., Dodge, 150, $3,450.
4. (11) Ted Christopher, Plainville, Conn., Chevrolet, 150, $3,150.
5. (12) Ronnie Silk, Norwalk, Conn., Chevrolet, 150, $2,824.
6. (30) Kevin Goodale, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 150, $3,000.
7. (23) Ryan Preece, Kensington, CT, Chevrolet, 150, $2,800.
8. (26) Mike Stefanik, Coventry, R.I., Chevrolet, 150, $3,050.
9. (8) Tony Hirschman, Jr., Northampton, Penn., Chevrolet, 150, $1,900.
10. (27) Renee Dupuis, Glastonbury, Conn., Chevrolet, 150, $1,250.
11. (19) Dick Houlihan, Bridgewater, Mass., Chevrolet, 150, $1,925.
12. (1) Anthony Ferrante, Jr., Franklin Square, N.Y., Chevrolet, 150, $1,800.
13. (21) Richard Savary, Canton, Mass., Chevrolet, 150, $1,875.
14. (20) Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., Chevrolet, 150, $1,850.
15. (28) Jamie Tomaino, Howell, N.J., Ford, 150, $1,925.
16. (24) Eric Beers, Northampton, Pa., Chevrolet, 150, $1,775.
17. (16) Jerry Marquis, Broad Brook, Conn., Chevrolet, 150, $1,750.
18. (18) Glen Tyler, Hampton Bays, N.Y., Chevrolet, 150, $1,425.
19. (22) Eddie Flemke, Southington, Conn., Chevrolet, 150, $1,800.
20. (3) Doug Coby, III, Milford, Conn., 149, accident, $975.
21. (2) Billy Pauch, Jr., Frenchtown, N.J., Dodge, 149, accident, $1,650.
22. (13) Anthony Sesely, Matawan, N.J., Chevrolet, 149, $925.
23. (31) Wade Cole, Riverton, Conn., Chevrolet, 148, $1,625.
24. (33) Rick Fuller, Auburn, Mass., Pontiac, 145, suspension, $1,075.
25. (14) Bobby Grigas, Marshfield, MA, Chevrolet, 144, $1,625.
26. (9) Jimmy Blewett, Howell, N.J., Chevrolet, 134, drive shaft, $1,725.
27. (5) Todd Szegedy, Ridgefield, Conn., Ford, 116, $1,725.
28. (4) Donny Lia, Jericho, N.Y., Dodge, 85, ignition, $1,875.
29. (32) Joe Hartmann, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 71, accident, $1,325.
30. (10) Ron Yuhas, Groton, Conn., Chevrolet, 71, accident, $925.
31. (15) Woody Pitkat, Stafford Springs, Conn., Pontiac, 16, carburetor, $1,325.
32. (17) James Civali, Meriden, Conn., Chevrolet, 150, penalty, $1,925.

Santos enjoys that winning feeling at the World Series.  (Jim DuPont Photo)
Matt Hirschman (#59) got close to Santos at the end, but couldn't get in front.  (Jim DuPont Photo)