Bobby Santos did what Bobby Santos does best Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. After being invisible for much of the Eastern Propane & Oil 100, Santos pounced late and beat Chase Dowling to the granite stripe by 0.014 seconds to win another NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour thriller at “The Magic Mile.”
Santos started the 100-lap race from the 14th position and didn’t appear to be a contender for the win throughout the first 95 laps of the event. But when push came to shove, Santos put himself in a position to make a last-lap pass on Ryan Newman and hold off Dowling for his third straight win at the Loudon, New Hampshire oval.
“It’s a 100-lap race. You race it like a 100-lap race,” Santos began. “We weren’t as good as we needed to be at the beginning and we knew that. We got a little bit further behind than we wanted to. We certainly didn’t want to get that far behind, but the yellow fell when we needed it. We made the right call on the pit stop and we knew it was time to give it the best we could from there on.”
Santos’ best shot proved to be better than his competitor’s best, as he prevailed during a ferocious final lap.
“The last couple laps there were crazy. I just knew that I needed either to be leading or second,” Santos explained. “Usually when you’re in third or fourth or further back you’re flushed out of it and it seems like the top two guys have the advantage. I knew I had to put myself in the top two spots and try to lead as much as I could. Lately it seems like leading on the last lap seems to work. I went for the lead going under the white and made a little bit of a block down the backstretch. Honestly, I washed up a little more in three and four more than I wanted to and hoped to. Chase had the momentum and made a great move on the bottom. I kinda tried to squeeze him just a little bit, but he had the momentum.
“Lucky thing the start/finish line wasn’t closer to (turn) one because he probably would’ve won. But we won the race and that’s all that matters.”
Dowling, who led a handful of laps throughout Saturday’s race, came up just short of his first NWMT victory after making a bid for the win on the final lap. With only inches separating his No. 15 Modified from the inside wall on the frontstretch, Dowling settled for his third runner-up finish of the 2018 season.
“Not much at all,” Dowling said when asked how much room he had between himself and the wall. “Bobby ran me down to try to kill the draft there on the straightaway, but that’s all I had. He went to the bottom and he had to do the block. I watched the All-Star Race yesterday from the spotter’s stand and I saw what happened so I knew that I was going to go in lower there. I just went up, lifted earlier than him, let him wash up, crossed him over and then just tried to get the momentum. Just came up a little short.”
After winning the pole and leading the field to the green flag, Newman remained in contention throughout the 100-lap race. The NASCAR Cup Series driver made a daring three-wide move in turn three to take the lead with two laps to go, but settled for a birds-eye view of the thrilling finish on the final lap.
“I was hoping they were going to wad each other up coming to the checkered, but nobody turned left hard enough and nobody turned right hard enough,” Newman said. “Just an awesome race. It helped to have it bunched up there at the end and have some cautions late, but we were in a good position pretty much the whole race.”
After the race, there was one thing that every driver could agree on: the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at New Hampshire is some of the best racing you’ll watch anywhere.
“That’s the best racing you get here at New Hampshire,” Dowling said. “Under that red flag a lot of the cars freed up a little bit, which was good at the end. Four-wide, three-wide, that’s just the best racing here. Inside, outside with the draft, that’s all you can get.”
“Just good hard racing,” Newman said. “I don’t know what much else to say. If you don’t like that then you need to find another hobby.”
For Santos, the win is particularly special because of the path that his team took to victory lane. A weekend that ultimately ended in cheers and celebration began on Friday with an expired motor on the No. 44 machine.
“Just everything that led up to this weekend made it really special,” Santos stated. “At the shop the guys worked really hard to give me the race car I needed. Sully Tinio and my team brought a brand-new motor here. The weekend started out disappointing by having to do an engine change. Who knows how it would have went from there, but Billy the Kid came through and gave us what we needed. The guys worked so hard. This one really means a lot. The way the weekend started just shows that you don’t give up and put yourself in position to win.”
Putting himself in a position to win is exactly what Bobby Santos does best at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and that’s what he did again on Saturday.
“The guys gave me a great race car, put us in position when it mattered. This is really cool. I’ve just got great people behind me and I’m really happy.
Friday’s Whelen All-Star Shootout winner Justin Bonsignore finished fourth on Saturday afternoon after leading a handful of laps during the race. Long Island native Eric Goodale completed a strong weekend in New Hampshire by completing the top five.
Race fans can find on-demand coverage of Saturday’s Eastern Propane & Oil 100 by visiting Speed51.com’s Trackside Now.
Next up for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be a visit to Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday, August 3.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
NWMT Eastern Propane & Oil 100 Unofficial Results
New Hampshire Motor Speedway – July 21, 2018
|1||44||Bobby Santos III|
|33||78||Walter Sutcliffe, Jr.|