The Modified fielded by Bob and Joan Garbarino and the Modified campaigned by the Boehler family are easily the two most iconic cars on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour - and possibly all of short track racing. Both cars have catchy nicknames - the Garbarinos own the #4 Mystic Missile (named for their hometown of Mystic, Connecticut) and the Boehler #3 car is simply known as Ole Blue. In an age where paint schemes at the top level of the sport change from race to race, these two entries have colors that have remained the same for decades no matter who has sponsored them - bright yellow in the case of the Mystic Missile and a few shades of blue in the case of Ole Blue.
The Mystic Missile is the newer kid on the block in this duo. The Garbarinos started their race team in 1961 - four years after the Boehler Racing Enterprises was formed by its late founder Lenny Boehler and his wife Janice. Through those years, some of the best names in Modified racing have wheeled each car. The Boehlers have had Fred DeSarro, Tony Hirschman, Doug Hevron, Wayne Anderson, Kenny Bouchard and Eric Beers in their machines. The Mystic Missile has had Satch Worley, Tim Connolly, Donny Lia and Chuck Hossfeld as just a few of its pilots. A few racers, like Bugsy Stevens and Jerry Marquis, have driven both machines.
Through the years, both teams have always done things a little bit differently. Each incarnation of Ole Blue has been created in the BRE shops of Southeastern Massachusetts while the Garbarinos have had long relationships with Troyer Racecars and Hutter Racing Engines and then fine-tuned those products before hitting the track. But they have both been contenders in each of the decades that they have raced.
Now, in 2010, both teams have talented young drivers in each of their cars. Ryan Preece is back for his third season in Ole Blue while Bobby Santos, III is starting out his first year in the Mystic Missile. To start out the WMT season, fans were treated to watching those two drivers and teams battle for the victory. Both of these young men grew up around Modified racing watching those two cars, so to just get the chance to compete against each other could have been the best treat of all on Sunday at Thompson International Speedway (CT).
This time, Santos came out on top with Preece finishing second, but after the race both drivers were smiling.
“I'll tell you what, I'm going to have a lot more fun racing this year than last year,” said Preece. “I love watching Bobby race. I love racing with him. I can tell that fans that he and I are going to be putting on a show this year.”
“That was a lot of fun racing with Ryan,” said Santos. “I have a lot of trust with those guys and I respect all of those guys on that team.”
The victory was the second WMT victory of Santos' career. Ironically, his other win came while driving Ole Blue at Thompson in 2007. While many observers made the connection right away between his two winning rides, it wasn't until he discussed the victory in the technical inspection area at Thompson on Sunday evening that Santos was aware of the connection.
“No, I hadn't [thought about winning for those two teams], but thinking about it now…that's pretty cool,” said Santos. “They both came at Thompson too. So to win for Lenny Boehler ['s team] and Bob Garbarino. It is really neat to think about it now actually. I grew up coming here watching those cars with guys like Tim Connolly and the guys running these cars, so it's pretty cool.”
Preece, on the other hand, realized the significance of both cars racing against each other earlier in the day - during a time when you wouldn't think that his mind was wandering much at all.
“I was thinking about that when we were racing side by side,” said Preece. “I was thinking about how I've been looking at the #4 a lot lately and now I want to be in front of him. To stay in front of that car is going to be hard, but I think we can do it. We have a good team and a good car. That motor from Performance Technology can do the job too.”
Santos started off the weekend by setting fast time for the Icebreaker and then being lucky enough to redraw the pole position. He then used skill instead of luck to take the lead early on and then stay out front of Mike Stefanik, Preece and Ted Christopher until most of the field pitted for tires on the first caution of the day - which came at lap 59.
Christopher was the only driver who didn't pit and that put him into the lead, but Santos' team gave him a quick enough pit stop to get him out in second place, with three new tires, on the restart. He couldn't credit his crew enough for that.
“They are just good,” said Santos. “Their practice paid off and they work hard. That's what it is about. They just did an awesome job.”
But even with his older tires, Christopher was strong on the restart and Santos dropped back - eventually to third. It might have looked like Santos was pacing himself, but that wasn't the plan.
“Not really,” said Santos. “I was kind of disappointed to give up that spot and that's the mistake I made. I should have gotten right out in front of Teddy and just been out front. That's where I need to get better. I screwed up and that could have cost us the race, but it was a lucky think we got back there.”
After Christopher's time out front, Stefanik took the lead..and then Preece did. But on a lap 120 restart, Preece and Santos started on the front row and that made for the battle that decided the race. Santos got ahead of Preece on the restart and it was all over after that.
“It was one of those deals where if he got me on the restart, he was going to hold me off,” said Preece. “I think that if I got him on the start, I could have held him off. I really think that. He won the race and he did an awesome job. He didn't make any mistakes and I didn't expect him to. He's one of the best out there and I'm really looking forward to racing with him at Stafford.”
Santos is also looking forward to Stafford and beyond after winning in his first race driving the Mystic Missile.
“It means a lot to start the season right with these guys,” said Santos. “They made it so my job was easy really. They gave me a great car and that was it. They give me great equipment and it's up to me to do my job.”
Speed51.com will have more from the Icebreaker, including the return of our Modified Leftovers, later this week. Stay tuned.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season will resume on April 25th with the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT).