Santos Goes From Daytona To New Hampshire This Weekend
LOUDON, N.H. – Bobby Santos III may only be running a partial, race-to-race schedule on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this season, but there are a few events that were “musts” in the driver's mind.
“Absolutely. I love being here,” Santos said Friday after practice for the Town Fair Tire 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I would have been pretty disappointed if I would have missed these races this year. The two races up here and the race at Bristol are the ones I really wanted to run this year. I'm excited to be here.
“I love racing Modifieds here, so hopefully we can have a good run.”
The 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion has never won at New Hampshire. He won the pole for one of the three events held at the track last season, and he's posted five top 10s in 11 career starts at the 1.058-mile oval. And with Tinio Racing making its first start as an organization this weekend at New Hampshire, the road to Victory Lane won't be any easier.
Santos said one of the biggest adjustments has been just getting some of the team members up to speed on the intricacies of a race weekend on the undercard of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
“It's just the first time here for these guys, so it's just a learning curve with the race car and figuring it out and figuring out where we need to be,” Santos said. “They're working hard, and I think by the end of the weekend, we'll figure it out.
“We're getting better each time on the race track. It's just a new deal for everybody. It's the routine of being up here, and the schedule you have to keep up with for NASCAR is tough. It's about being on that routine – knowing where to be and when to be there.”
The No. 44 has made only two starts this season – one in the season-opener at Thompson International Speedway and a second in May at Stafford Motor Speedway. In that race at Stafford, Santos surprised everybody by winning the Coors Light Pole Award and then leading a race-high 117 laps en route to the runner-up finish. He qualified 17th for the Town Fair Tire 100.
Santos has made a habit lately of turning in impressive performances with smaller teams.
Last week, he ran in the Nationwide Series event at Daytona International Speedway – qualifying 10 in a car owned by Tommy Baldwin. He ran with the lead pack for most of the race before being collected in a late-race accident.
Make no mistake, though. Drafting at Daytona and drafting in a Modified at New Hampshire aren't the same animal.
“They're absolutely nothing alike at all,” Santos said. “You could probably ask Ryan (Newman) that. He'd probably know a little bit better than me, but it's a totally, totally different deal.”
NEW LOOK: Ryan Blaney will make his Whelen Modified Tour debut Saturday in the Town Fair Tire 100. After holding onto the top spot in qualifying through roughly half of the session on Friday, the son of Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney will roll off the starting grid from the 11th spot.
“It was a whole lot of fun today,” Blaney said. “I think it will be even more fun (Saturday), doing drafting practice and stuff. I'm really looking forward to the race.
“Our car was really good in practice, and I guess that was a pretty good lap for us (in qualifying) going out as early as we did. Again, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what we've got.”
The 18-year-old Blaney has six career NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts, including a win at Phoenix last year, and two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts. He said there weren't a whole lot of surprises behind the wheel of a Modified, though he did find they turned through the corners better than he'd expected.
“You can roll through the center so fast in these things. It's unbelievable,” he said. “You can just let them go and they stick. That was probably the biggest thing I noticed.”
NEAR MISS: Jon McKennedy received a scare in practice Friday when his No. 79 Hillbilly Racing Pontiac lost power while rolling down one of New Hampshire's long straightaways. The practice session was halted as McKennedy's car needed a push to make it back to the garage area.
“I thought the engine broke halfway down the straightaway. It made a sound and shut off,” McKennedy said. “We weren't sure what happened, but it ended up being a fuel issue – so we lucked out there.
“The car's really good. We're in the Top-8 in the speed (in practice), and the car feels good. In the draft it feels real good. It's nice and stable, which is always important here. The draft here is key. If you can draft and the car is still good, you've probably got a good piece for the race.”
McKennedy qualified 26th in the 34-car field for Saturday. He's made five previous career starts at New Hampshire with a career-best finish of 17th in 2007. He last competed at the track in 2009.
“Right away (in practice) we were in the Top-5 in speed,” McKennedy. “It's like anything you've been doing for a while. It comes back to you pretty quick.
“It's a neat place. It's basically our Super Bowl for our series, and I look forward to having a good weekend.”
Sources: Travis Barrett, Special To NASCAR Home Tracks