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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


by Polly Reid

Bobby Santos of Franklin, MA in the Mike Curb owned, Tinio Corporation, Dan Kelley, Curb Records sponsored Chevrolet maximized a restart in the final circuits engaging in a side by side battle with leader Max Zachem- white flag in the air, Santos tucked low, Zachem high going into turn one, Santos emerged the leader out of turn two capturing the NWMT Thompson 125 win at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in a dramatic yellow/checker finish.

Zachem of Preston, CT crossed for second, 16-year-old rookie Matt Swanson from Acton, MA followed third with Patrick Emerling of Orchard Park, NY fourth and Jeff Goodale from Riverhead, NY fifth.

“It’s been a long year and a half to get back here,” said Santos whose last win was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway July 12th, 2014. “No one gave up, everyone continued to work hard as a team. It feels really good to finally win a race.”

Being in a position to win began with early, unplanned strategy. “We had a slight malfunction in our tire situation,” said Santos. “I’m honestly not exactly sure but it caused us to pit early and do a little bit different strategy than most guys but it worked out in our favor tonight for sure.”
“I’m pretty excited, we worked really well as a team today. I’ve got to thank Steve (Lemay, crew chief), the entire team and the Tinio family.” Santos also thanked his sponsor Curb Records, Ray Graham, Danny Kelly and “everyone that makes this happen. There is a lot of people that are involved in this team.”

Qualifying for the Thompson 125 in seventh, Santos was forced to pit twice during the first caution on lap 27 for a tire issue putting the 44 down a lap in the early going. A free pass put Santos back on the lead lap setting Santos up for tires on the next caution just before the half way mark on lap 60. The tide started to turn when the leaders pitted on lap 79. Santos followed the front runners, Ryan Preece, Justin Bonsignore, Timmy Solomito and Doug Coby down pit row but stopping for an adjustment only, Santos was first off of pit row.

When the lead pack all pitted, the door opened for Max Zachem who inherited the lead on lap 79. Zachem nailed the restart with Shawn Solomito, Matt Swanson, Patrick Emerling and Ron Silk the top five. Previous leaders, Doug Coby, Ryan Preece and Timmy Solomito were bogged down in traffic out of the top ten after pitting on the lap 83 restart.

A caution turned red flag on lap 93 for Preece around in turn two that involved Craig Lutz, Rob Summers and Nick Salva kept the action close- Preece was able to continue. Zachem, Swanson, Eric Goodale, Emerling and Silk the top five, brought the field to green with 27 to go. Santos held a solid eighth before making significant gains through the next two cautions.

The key turned out to be the final restart with three to go, Santos and Zachem put it all on the line for the finale. Charging into turn one on the white flag circuit, Santos was not to be denied- side by side with Zachem outside, Santos cooled his admitted hunger for a win to seal the deal with a pass for the checkered flag.

Santos and the Tinio Racing crew have quelled any doubts about this team- they are back in the game.

“It wasn’t one of my prettier races,” smiled Santos, “but I wanted to win really bad and we did what it took to win.” The challenges Santos and the 44 Tinio team overcame tonight was impressive. Speaking on behalf of the car owner, Lawny Tinio could not have been more proud and pleased with the effort and outcome. “The team was just unbelievable,” said Tinio. “The team worked together, made decisions, made the changes we needed to make, overcoming a tire falling off, pressing forward again and as Bobby mentioned, the strategy worked out perfectly for us the way the race shook out. To be watching the last ten laps, knowing where we were, knowing we had a shot at it, but you always have in the back of you mind down there in the pits stressing out- I saw him go into turn one, pass the 20 car, wow. We were excited going into the race tonight, we were able to overcome all the adversity thrown at us and pulled off the win.”

It's one thing to inherit the lead, it’s another to keep it. Zachem more than held his own as the Lu-Macs, VWS sponsored Chevrolet confidently and consistently pulled from the pack as the cautions seemed to rack up taking rookie Matt Swanson with him. Emerling, as high as third, appeared to be part of the podium finish until Santos made his move claiming second over Emerling and then passed Swanson- Santos setting his sights on Zachem.

“We had a great car, I can’t thank my crew enough,” said Zachem. “We came in under that first caution to try and adjust it to make it a little better and it paid off in the end. We short pitted- we knew we had to come up with a strategy because those guys are just so good, you have to figure out a way- play the cards right- we did- we led some laps – we’re here to play now.” The family team headed up by car owner Ken Zachem with Shaun Ruszczyk as crew chief impressed the fans at Thompson with an undeniably strong run narrowly missing out on their first career NWMT win.

“The first thing I said over the radio to my dad when I was second I said, wow, this is what it’s really like to be on the front row on the Tour,” smiled Matt Swanson. His first career NWMT podium finish, Swanson is backed by his car owner John Swanson with Ken Barry as crew chief for the SPAFCO Race Cars sponsored Chevrolet. “I just had to get my restarts down. Max and I had a real good battle going, he just had a little bit stronger car- then Bobby came on strong at the end.”

This would be a good place to remind everyone that Swanson is sixteen years old, a rookie and was mixing it up with the best of the best tonight. “This gives us a big confidence booster going into Riverhead,” said Swanson. “Especially us being such a small team and us having an open motor (Billy The Kid) compared to the specs. Max has an open motor too, it shows open motors can still run out front, you just need the car handling right.”

Pole sitter Doug Coby had cracked the top five with less than ten to go when NASCAR officials penalized the 2 car for being “out of line before the start finish line on the restart.” Coby rebound to finish eleventh.

Timmy Solomito who led 35 laps, suffered what appeared to a brake issue. The Icebreaker winner parked close to the track apron under the red flag on lap 94 as track safety personnel activated a fire extinguisher taking care of the overheating situation. Solomito ended his night fifteenth.
Dominating the early going, Ryan Preece could not catch a break after the pit stop on lap 79- the Berlin, CT driver however remained persistent to capture a sixth place finish.

Santos, Zachem, Swanson, Emerling and Jeff Goodale the top five- Preece, Rowan Pennink, Brendon Bock, Jimmy Blewett and Ken Heagy completed the top ten.

Next up for the NWMT is Riverhead Raceway on June 25th. Doug Coby carries a 19-point lead over Max Zachem heading to the New York quarter mile oval.
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: June 16, 2016

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