One of the most potent combinations on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in recent years will forego the 2019 season. Bobby Santos and Tinio Racing, who have combined to score 11 victories together since the 2012 season, will not be competing on the tour this season.
Last Thursday on the Bobby Santos’ Facebook fan page a post went out indicating that the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion may not be behind the wheel of a Modified during the 2019 season. The post cited a decision by the No. 44 Tinio Racing team to take a break for the season.
“We are disappointed to announce that at this point we are not sure if Bobby will be racing a Modified in 2019," the post began. "As of the moment the 44 car is taking a break. We can’t speak for the Tinio family on their plans, but I need to thank them for a great seven years of racing. Not saying that it’s over. Just not sure if or when we will race together again. On to Memphis International Raceway."
Tinio Racing team manager Lawney Tinio spoke exclusively with Speed51.com Sunday evening about the decision to skip racing during the upcoming Modified season.
“Right now, we got a whole bunch of things going on and we had to make a decision on where to focus our energy," Tinio began. "It came down to that we were better off to forgo racing this year, unfortunately. It wasn’t an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination. We thought we were going to be able to at least run the local races we’ve run the past few years, but at the last second we decided that it was going to be too much for us to handle at the moment and take the season off.
“We got some personal stuff we’re attending to, nothing bad or anything like that; we just have a lot going on, and like I said racing needed to be placed on the back-burner.”
The decision made by Tinio Racing comes two years after cutting back from a full-time schedule to just a part-time schedule for the 2017 (nine races) and 2018 (eight races) seasons. During those two seasons, Santos and the Tinio team combined to win three of the four points-counting events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
While the No. 44 crew will be missed on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Tinio went on to say that the team and family would very much like to be back on the tour in 2020 or beyond.
“I hope so. We’ll take a look at that when we get to the start of the regular silly season," he stated. "I personally want to go back, but it’s a family and team decision, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it next year."
Tinio continued by stating that any future plans for the team moving forward would likely have Santos behind the wheel.
“I consider Bobby one of my best friends, we’re really close. We talked just today. In fact, if we end up racing next year I would expect that Bobby would be driving the car," Tinio said. "There’s nothing wrong on that front and Bobby understands. The unfortunate part was timing. I would’ve rather that this had been decided sooner so he could have worked on a ride for this year. That’s why the Facebook post was out as fast as it was; we had talked and a couple of hours later he posted it. That way if there’s still an opportunity he can jump on it.”
With such an announcement comes a storm of reaction from all directions. But no matter what, Lawney and the entire Tinio family have seven years worth of great memories to look back on, as well as hope for the future.
"There’s some folks that like to figure things out for themselves, but their opinion doesn’t matter at the end of the day," he commented. "At first I was aggravated, but then I went back in the office and looked at all the pictures we had and I said, ‘Why would I let someone get me all worked up?' We’ve done good stuff and God willing we’ll be back racing next year.’”
In the meantime, Santos still has more than 25 races planned outside of the Modifieds, running once again this year with the No. 22A DJ Racing team in select races for USAC Silver Crown, Must See Racing Sprints, King of the Wing, and possibly more.
The Tinio family will be cheering on Santos the whole way, with Lawney hoping to get on the road for some shows.
“I’m trying to figure out the first Sprint race I’m going to, do what I can to support Bobby and have a good time.”
Santos is celebrating his 30th season of racing in 2019, his first planned race is the USAC Silver Crown season opener on March 23 at Memphis International Raceway.
Speed51's attempts to reach Santos for this story were unsuccessful.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com