Fans at New Hampshire Motor Speedway were treated to another Modified thriller Friday afternoon during the Whelen All-Star Shootout for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. In a three-wide drag race to the granite stripe, Patrick Emerling edged Bobby Santos III by 0.022 seconds to score his first career win at The Magic Mile.
Santos, who has been the driver to beat at the Loudon, New Hampshire oval in recent years, took the white flag as the race leader. As the leaders made their way down the backstretch, Emerling shot to the bottom of Santos in turn three and washed up in front of him in the middle of the turn. As they exited turn four, Santos made a crossover move and pulled back even with Emerling. As that happened, Justin Bonsignore powered his No. 51 Modified all the way to the bottom of the race track to create a thrilling three-wide drag race to the finish line.
In the end, the driver from Orchard Park, New York prevailed in a finish that had fans on their feet.
“Early on in the run there I was playing around with getting stuck on the bottom there, and if you do it just right you’re able to make up quite a bit of ground coming into the bottom,” Emerling said in Victory Lane. “We just had the car to do it there. We were pretty free, and I couldn’t run up top at all. That was my only chance there. There’s a lot of fast cars out there. We were just able to get ourselves in the right spot at the right time and execute right at the end. It could have spun both ways. It was a really close one there.
“We were feeling out the car the whole race there. I knew what I was going to do on the last lap there. Bobby also took it easy on me. This wasn’t the 100-lapper; I think a lot of guys were a little conservative too. We didn’t want to wreck our cars for the race tomorrow. It was an awesome day for us.”
Driving the Dave Sapienza-owned No. 36 for the first time, Santos came up just short in his bid for a sixth career win at New Hampshire.
“I’ve been in that situation I feel like multiple times and I was lucky enough to be the winner; this time I wasn’t, which is a bummer,” Santos said. “Patrick made the right move and he went to the bottom to make the pass. I had a couple different options and I guess I made the wrong decision.”
Bonsignore, the winner of the All-Star Shootout one year ago, didn’t appear to be a factor for much of the race but found himself in a position to make a bold effort coming to the checkered flag.
“I played it pretty safe down the backstretch. I saw them go down to the apron and wasn’t sure where they’d end up,” Bonsignore said. “I kind of anticipated Bobby to try to stay on the outside of Patrick through the middle of three and four, and I thought maybe they’d make a little bit of contact and get up out of the grove and I could roll the bottom groove and beat them back to the line. But it didn’t work out. I had a huge run off of turn four and like Bobby said I probably could have determined who won the race between them two, but I was greedy and went for it myself and made it a little exciting.”
Although Friday’s race was just a prelude to Saturday’s Eastern Propane & Oil 100 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, scoring a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was a special moment for Emerling.
“We were pretty close here the last couple years,” he stated. “We’ve had a lot of top fives, second-place, third-place, fourth-place finishes. We’ve just been working on getting faster. We had a car before that couldn’t go fast in practice and qualifying but we always raced solid. We just wanted to come back with a car that was just a little bit faster. We worked towards it and that’s what we did. I’m definitely happy with that.”
Jon McKennedy led a handful of laps in the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7NY before finishing fourth, while Ron Silk completed the top five.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action Saturday morning at 9 a.m. ET for qualifying. The Eastern Propane & Oil 100 will get underway at 1:45 p.m. Speed51.com will have Trackside Now coverage beginning at 9 a.m. for qualifying.
To catch up on all of Saturday’s action and view photos from the day, visit our Trackside Now coverage by clicking here.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51 / Rick Ibsen
NWMT Whelen All-Star Shootout Unofficial Results
|2||36||Bobby Santos III|