May 1, 2008
A lot has been
written in the last couple of years about Bobby Santos III. And for
Bobby is a pearl.
Now just 22 years old, this New Englander has been racing over 15
years, on 75 different tracks, in 20 states, and 23 different kinds
of cars. And he has developed a knack for coming out on top,
especially when the pressure wick is up. He has poles in ARCA and
USAC sprint wins; he swept both ends of a wild $50,000-to-win
challenge at Stafford (CT) Speedway; he holds the all-time closed
course midget record.
Along the way Bobby
has endeared himself to knowledgeable railbirds nationwide. Folks
know he is no yuppie with a golden wheel. He’s worked on the cars
with Herculean effort and driven his tail off, supported by a family
rich in racing tradition but modest in the checkbook. He’s the kid
next door – the one everyone’s watching, just hoping he’ll get that
But it hasn’t
happened. Bobby has been in a development program with Bill Davis
Racing. And he has verbal offers from NASCAR superspeedway teams
for great rides, if they can just find a sponsor. It seems that’s
the problem. Good as he may be, Bobby just doesn’t have the swagger
of some international open wheel star, backed by a Fortune 500
company. Bobby is on the scene for sure. He will be in the seat of
the Western Speed midget at this year’s “Night Before the 500” at
O’Reilly Raceway Park. But still, you can sense his disappointment
to be struggling day and night – and for so long.
Then came the
“Icebreaker” at Thompson, CT, at the beginning of April. Bobby, who
copped the modified portion of the Thompson World Series
spectacularly last fall, was back in a midget. Everyone anticipated
a great weekend.
In the middle of
the Saturday night before the race, someone broke into the Santos
family’s hauler. Bobby’s fire suit, helmet, Hans device, shoes, and
seat were all stolen. Strangely nothing else – including tools,
jacks, equipment – was even touched.
Bobby’s dad says
the loss amounted to almost $6,000. It was a terrible financial blow
for the underfunded team. But, somehow, even more disturbing is the
emotional damage and the symbolism of it all. How could anyone in
the racing community stoop so low? How could anyone so specifically
and purposefully hurt someone so young, so special, and so admired?
You also have to
wonder what else Bobby Santos can possibly give up for this sport.
All we can say is, “Bobby, just know how many of us out here are
rootin’ for you, kid.”
© 2008 Lew
Boyd, Coastal 181