The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour put on a show to remember at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Wednesday night. Caution flags set up multiple pit strategies all throughout the field and gave multiple drivers a shot at the top spot throughout the night. When it was all said and done, a final restart with three laps to go set up a duel between leader Max Zachem and former champion Bobby Santos.
After jumping to second on the restart Santos pounced on Zachem on the last lap in turn one to take the lead on the backstretch for his 14th career win and first since July 2014 at Loudon.
The win follows a tough 2015 season and a bumpy start to 2016.
“It’s huge. It’s not even the frustrations of the year it’s the frustrations all last year too. It’s been a long year and a half to finally get back here,” Santos told the media after the race. “No one gave up, everyone continued to work hard as a team and it feels really good to finally win a race.”
Santos came back after falling a lap down having trouble with a tire that was coming off the rim. He took fresh tires on the stop and soon got back on the lead lap. He pitted a second time for adjustments on lap 80 and made his march up soon after. Santos got the position on the outside line, which has been the lane of choice for the final restart.
“I was excited I was in fourth and I was excited that Max decided to take the outside. The restart before he took the bottom. When he took the top I just knew I needed a good restart and be behind him, get up in second and make a run at it. It wasn’t one of my prettier races, but we wanted to win really bad and we did what it took to win.”
Despite being so close to his first Whelen Modified Tour win, Max Zachem was plenty happy to have a shot at the win.
“I’m maybe 10-percent disappointed. Bobby put on tires later than us. He was the one I was worried about,” Said Zachem. “We had a great car. I can’t thank my crew enough. We were very bad that first run. We came in the first caution, tried adjusting it to make it a little better and it payed off in the end. We short pitted. We had to come up with a strategy because those guys are so good , you have to figure out a way to play the cards right and we did. Led some laps and we’re here to play now.”
It is the second runner-up finish for Zachem this season who firmly believes that despite not getting a win, any top team would be plenty happy with.
“It’s surreal. This is a dream season anybody would want no matter what race team they are. The worst finish we have this year, knock on wood, is 12th. That’s phenomenal, that’s how we got to compete for the championship. You got to finish these races and you got to finish in the top ten to compete.”
Rookie Matt Swanson recorded a career best third place finish after dueling with Zachem for the lead over a 40 lap period.
Patrick Emerling returned to NASCAR competition for the second time this season, coming away with fourth, while Jeff Goodale rounded the top five.
Points leader Doug Coby was in the top five late in the running after pitting late, but was black flagged for changing lanes on the second-to-last restart. Coby finished 11th.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heads to Riverhead Raceway on Long Island for race six of 2016 on Saturday, June 25.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, LI) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com