THOMPSON – World champion drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr. spent the afternoon Thursday putting on displays of car sliding prowess behind the wheel of his Ford Mustang at Thompson International Speedway.
But by the end of the day, of the day it was Bobby Santos III using a little drifting display of his own to ensure he would be the one most celebrated at Thompson Speedway Thursday.
After stalling his car and losing the lead in the pits, Santos stormed back from seventh place and used a turn three slide job to steal the lead back from Justin Bonsignore and go on to win the Whelen Modified Tour Budweiser 150 Thursday at Thompson Speedway.
It was the second victory of the season for Santos, of Franklin, Mass.
Donny Lia of Jericho, N.Y. was second and Eric Goodale of Riverhead, N.Y. third.
Santos had a perfect day at the track as the fastest car in practice and the pole-winner in qualifying. It proved a perfect homecoming day for his Tinio Motorsports team, which also runs in weekly competition at Thompson.
“This is my home track and this is [my team’s] home track,” Santos said. “It means a lot to win at Thompson. I’ve won here in the fall, I’ve won here in the spring but I had never won here during the summer. I’ve actually seemed to struggle during the summer races here. So this means a lot to add a Bud 150 win. It means a ton to this team to win at home.”
The race was extended to 158 laps because of late cautions.
It was the 10th career Whelen Modified Tour victory for Santos, the 2010 series champion, and his fourth at Thompson.
Santos started on the pole and was the dominant factor for the first two thirds of the event. He had more than a straight away lead over second place Todd Szegedy when caution flew on lap 109. The yellow flag sent all the lead lap cars to the pits.
Szegedy came out of the pits with the lead, with Santos falling back to seventh after stalling his car while coming out of his pit stall. On the ensuing restart, Szegedy got high in turn two and grazed the wall, giving the lead to Bonsignore.
On a lap 133 restart, Santos went from fourth to second. Two laps later he made a diving move under Bonsignore in turn three, sending Bonsignore toward the wall as Santos drove away with the lead firmly in his grasp once again.
“Two apologies,” Santos said. “Justin Bonsignore, I definitely lost my cool a little bit when I passed him. I was mad at myself for the pit stop. Sorry to my guys, I kind of lost them that [lead] on the pit stop. But it made it exciting.”
After the getting knocked up the track by Santos, Bonsignore fell back through the top-10 and out of the race with electrical issues after a late caution.
“I’m pretty pissed,” said Bonsignore , who ended up 20th in the 27-car field. “He had a better car than us and we knew it. I was trying to let him go. I was content ride to see if maybe in a couple laps I could get back to him. He had a far superior car to everybody and he just drove us right out of the park. It’s pretty frustrating, a guy like that that usually doesn’t race like that. It’s pretty [expletive] frustrating. Part of racing I guess.”
Santos made it through three restarts after taking over the lead before taking the checkered, which came with the caution also flying as series point leader Ryan Preece crashed in turn two.
The wreck dropped Preece to a 13th place finish. Combined with Doug Coby’s fourth place run, Preece, of Berlin, saw a 25-point lead coming into the event cut to 16 points with five events remaining. Coby, of Milford, is the defending series champion.
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