LOUDON, N.H. – When Bobby Santos III agreed to drive for the newly developing Tinio Motorsports NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team in 2012, team owner Sully Tinio had a focused objective that outweighed most other goals within his organization.
Tinio wanted a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Saturday, Santos finally gave his team owner what he was looking for.
In another drama packed event for the series in Loudon, Santos got by Ted Christopher for the lead through the final corner on the last lap to win the Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
It was the first victory at the track for the team and for Santos.
It was the 13th career Modified Tour victory in 86 series starts since 2001 for Santos, the 2010 series champion.
“This is definitely my biggest Modified win of my career,” Santos said. “When I first started driving for Sully he was talking about coming to Loudon and winning at Loudon. We’ve won for him at Thompson [Speedway] and we’ve won for him at Stafford [Motor Speedway] and he would still talk about ‘Let’s win at Loudon.’ … For this team, this is just our Super Bowl and these guys just worked so hard. From whatever happens the rest of the season from here on out, we won at Loudon. It’s pretty awesome.”
It was the third victory in six Modified Tour events this year for Santos, of Franklin, Mass.
Doug Coby of Milford edged Christopher at the line for second place. The event was extended to 110 laps because of late caution periods.
From the drop of the green flag to the checkered the action at the front of the field was virtually non-stop with 35 lead changes among five drivers. The 35 lead changes was a series record for an event in Loudon, besting the previous record of 30 lead changes set July 7, 2000.
Though the only time Santos was out front was for the final quarter of a lap.
“That was just awesome,” said Santos, who was making his 16th career Modified Tour start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and had never finished better than fourth before Saturday. “I’ve never been in the position on the last lap to win one of these things. I’ve known a lot about it, I’ve watched it a lot of times, I knew Teddy was going to send it in and protect the bottom. I knew that in the last restart and I wanted to be in second and I made it work.”
With Christopher leading, Santos second and Ryan Newman third, the caution flew on lap 98 to set up the first of two green-white-checker attempts to end the race.
When the race restarted on lap 102, Newman went diving from third to the lead in turn one, only to have Christopher take the lead back going into turn three. Newman then inched by Christopher for the lead through turn three before Christopher got back out front coming off turn four.
The breathtaking action of the lap proved all for naught though as the caution flew again before the lap was completed, setting up the decisive final restart.
On the final restart, Santos tucked behind Christopher and kept Newman at bay in third. The field took the white flag with Santos still locked on Christopher’s bumper.
“I knew if I was in second going down the backstretch [on the last lap] that I’d have a shot at it,” Santos said. “I put my mind to what Teddy was going to do. He kind of did I what I expected and it worked out.”
Going into turn three Christopher, who led 28 laps on the day, hugged the bottom of the track, but when he drifted up through the corner Santos made a diving move under him and came onto the front stretch in the lead for the first time all day. As Santos inched away Coby was able to motor past Christopher at the line for second place.
“When you’re leading this race on the last lap you’ve got to make a decision on what to do and you’re kind of just guessing,” Santos said. “I kind of knew that the typical move as the leader is you send it in on the bottom and try to protect the initial sling shot move. I knew if he did that to protect the bottom that at some point his car was going to wash up in the middle of the corner. And it did what I expected and we made our move. Teddy didn’t do anything wrong. He’s the best. He doesn’t make very many mistakes and in my opinion he didn’t make a mistake. If the roles were reversed he probably would have passed me and beat me.”
Said Christopher: “Unfortunately, for a green-white-checker [finish] you can think about all the scenarios in the world that you want to do, but obviously I picked the wrong on that one.”
Coby, who ran near the rear of the top-10 for most of the race, was surprised to be in the mix for the win at the finish.
“It’s a blur right now,” Coby said. “I think I was ninth and seventh with 10 [laps] to go, or something like that. The way the restarts shook out I ended up getting a couple good runs and then I see myself for fourth on a green-white-checker. I was kind of hoping [Christopher] would have taken the top and I could have pushed him into the lead and then had a nice setup for the last lap like Bobby had. When Ted took the bottom I knew Bobby was content to let him slide up in front of him so he could be second on the last lap. So it definitely broke my momentum and I had to race with [Newman].
“I didn’t know what the hell was going on on the last lap. I saw Ted down on the grass and Bobby was taking the outside and I figured Ted was going to do door slam Bobby and I tried push Bobby out there as far as I could so he couldn’t do what he did and he ended up doing that cross-over and it was close coming off turn four. We were about an inch apart and Bobby tried to split the two of us and one move either way and it could turned somebody in front of the whole field. I’m happy with second. I’m happy the car is one piece and I’m happy the fans got a good show.”
Coby left Loudon hanging on to a two point lead over Santos at the top of the standings. Christopher is third in the standings, 10 points behind Coby.