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Racing Commentary

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com

Bobby Santos in the Richie Evans tribute car duels
with Glenn Tyler. (Howie Hodge Photo)



The forecast for New Hampshire’s weekend of September 25-26 was about as soggy as the nation’s economy. But when Tony Stewart smoked into Victory Lane for Sunday’s Sylvania 300, he was greeted with beaming sunshine and thunderous applause.

In many ways, however, the racing at NHMS the day before was more captivating. Jerry Gappens and crew ordered up quite the meaty mixture of competition. All manner of motorized characters assembled at the Magic Mile, in modifieds, trucks, and Tour late models.

The Whelen Modifieds

As usual, the NASCAR East Coast mods delivered one ferocious thrill show. Seventeen lead changes culminated in the typical late-race scramble, this time with Todd Szegedy, Ron Silk, Justin Bonsignore, and Teddy Christopher. Silk won it, barely sneaking over Szegedy in the Series point lead.

Many fans, though, were focused on the “Mystic Missile” Dodge, starting way down in the back row. The driver, Bobby Santos III, last year’s Series champion, had been messed up in a flight from the Midwest and missed qualifying.

It’s hard to know just why young Bobby Santos has become so very popular, but try to find anyone in the Northeast who doesn’t root for him. Son and grandson of racers of the same name, Bobby climbed on shoe strings up through karts, supers, and midgets. In his smiling, soft-spoken manner, he flat-out dazzled railbirds with anything he drove. His resume already runs over with records and championships. The only thing that troubles the racing community is why in the world this kid is still racing on Saturdays. How could it possibly be that he does not sit in a Cup or Indy car?

Santos took off aggressively at the green, and the crowd was psyched. But, says Bobby, “I knew I was in trouble from the beginning. The motor was really laying down – maybe valve springs.” He did end up leading briefly through pit strategy, but then faded deep in the pack.

It was especially disappointing to modified heads, as the Mystic Missile was branded with Richie Evans colors in fitting tribute to the forthcoming induction of the late “Rapid Roman” into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame.

Bobby’s season is hardly at sunset, though. There are the remaining modified shows. He leads the USAC pavement sprint car point chase going into the final event at Indianapolis Raceway Park on October 13. And then it will be off to California for Turkey Night with the fastest midgets in the world.

The Camping World Trucks

Way back on April 23, the track held a fan appreciation day, warming that frost of a hard Loudon winter. Part of it was a singing contest of the National Anthem. The idea was that the best of the contestants would perform on race days.

Six months later, at the start of the F.W. Webb 175 truck race, an unlikely crooner took to the stage. It was Christopher Duffley’s grand moment, and he knocked it right out of the ball park. The blind and autistic nine-year-old sang perfectly and with passion, drawing a standing ovation from all who heard – even in that edgy Media Center.

(Laurie Thiboutot/NHMS staff photographer)

The race itself was not the picture of excitement. Rowdy Busch was in no way rowdy, just plainly dominant, leading all but a few circuits.

As always, though, just scratch the surface in NASCAR truck racing and look for the stories of guys desperately seeking their role on NASCAR’s national stage.

Back in 2007, a relatively unheralded shoe out of Clovis, CA, showed up at the East-West Supermodified shootout at Concord, NC. He careened from 16th starting spot to the lead in 25 laps and held off ISMA, MSA and all comers for the second 25 – and a stunning win.

It was a tipping point for A.J. Russell. The scouts of NASCAR were watching. “At some point I mentioned to someone there that I am Native American (member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma). I was never interested in playing that card before, but it hit a chord. I thought if I could raise some awareness for my community in my racing, I should.”

One thing led to another, and A.J. appeared in the Granite State with a loaner truck from Jennifer Jo Cobb. The team owner is David Melton, the crew chief, Rich Kuty.

David, too, is Native American, an entrepreneur who runs a major solar energy integration company in Albuquerque. The firm is Sacred Power, reflecting the importance of the sun as the power source of life in Indian spirituality. Melton believes this is the first Native American team in NASCAR’s national divisions.

A.J. Russell and David Melton. (Dick Berggren Photo)

The Sacred Power guys struggled a bit with brakes and other demons in the race, but Russell drove smoothly – almost confidently – finishing up 26th. “Somehow the driving part comes naturally to me,” he says quite believably. “Finding the right engineering like Austin Dillon has, though, that’s another story.” Also believable.

Jennifer Jo Cobb has agreed to collaborate again, performance-dependent, in Kentucky, Texas, Vegas, and Homestead.

And, if the team can keep the spirits up, they’ll be in Daytona, all prepped for the full 2012 season.

The ACT Tour Late Model Invitational

It’s now four times that Ken Squier and Tom Curley’s American Canadian Tour cars have descended on Loudon. Would that it had been 40 times. Perhaps other than Christopher Duffley, the sprawling field – 43 strong – put on the best show of the weekend.

If Bobby Santos is the most successful all-around young driver in the Northeast, Massachusetts’ Eddie MacDonald and Vermont’s Nick Sweet have to be considered best of the new breed in the late model ranks. And starting in 25th and 27th slots, they motored in tandem through dense traffic to the front in a delightfully quick and racy 50-lap main.

Eddie Mac, already almost legendary for his blinding speed and high groove antics – especially at Loudon, was first to break out of the pack. In his hauler on the way to Dover the following Wednesday, he admitted, “I was shocked when I realized someone had come through the pack with me. I kinda hoped I could just stretch out a lead. Not so. There he was on my back bumper.”

That’s Nick Sweet on the bottom on the track and on the right post-race.
Eddie’s up top and on the left. (Eric LaFleche Photos)

And that was the beginning of an amazing ten-lap duel, the crowd fully in the vertical mode cheering them on. In the end Eddie prevailed. It was the stuff of great racing.

Nick says, “Eddie is so much more experienced than I am, and so it was really thrilling. I‘m not sure that there has been that much side-by-side racing like we did – so hard but never touching – at NHMS. We were trusting each other big time.”

Eddie went on to say, “I definitely pinched him down to take his line off the corner, but still he would pull ahead a couple of times. He was so fast. I apologized later, but I really wanted to win the race.”

Nick was thinking about that, too. “I never second-guess a race, but this time I am. I keep running it through my mind. Should I have moved him up a little? He’s the cream of the crop, and, when you’re racing with him at the end of the day, it’s one good day. Sure it was special to race him, but it would have been more special to beat him off that last turn.”

© 2011 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

If you were interested in this Tearoff, you might enjoy the books below:

Behind the Scenes at New Hampshire International Speedway

by Allen Lessels
Busch North Scene:
A Ten Year Retrospective

by George Campbell
Life Wide Open
Dave Dion: No Holds Barred

by Dave Dion with Dave Moody

Stop by our Book Store Directory for a look at our book and DVD selections:

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.: Previous Tearoffs :

9/14/11 - About J.R. Hildebrand - and that Last Lap

8/30/11 - Sideways and the Dzus Queen

8/16/11 - Totally Fast

8/2/11 - Perrotte at Plattsburgh

7/14/11 - So Here's What Jack Says

6/30/11 - Quick to Quickest - Jim “Mr. Magoo” Maguire

6/16/11 - Climb to the Clouds

6/2/11 - Irv and the Hall of Fame

5/18/11 - Makin' MOWA

5/4/11 - The Running of the Racers

4/21/11 - Pruett's Perspective

4/4/11 - Winter of Discontent

3/23/11 - Thinking of Gene Bergin

3/8/11 - Sprint Car World Record?

2/21/11 - Dinner at Daytona

2/10/11 - The Call Him 1/4ley

1/28/11 - Doc's Beard

1/15/11 - Reconsidering Generalizations

12/31/10 - Powerful Passion

12/19/10 - Tearoff at Yuletide

12/6/10 - Indy in December

11/21/10 - Mutt and the Brutal Ballet

10/29/10 - The Johnny Bensons and Their Supers

10/13/10 - Anatomy of an Accident

9/28/10 - Maybe Marty

9/14/10 - Push Refresh for Speedway Illustrated

8/23/10 - An Ode to Senior Supers

8/6/10 - Adrian and the Deep Water

7/20/10 - Holdout in Yuppieville

7/7/10 - The Wins are Gustin

6/16/10 - Racin' Kid, Racin' Dad

5/28/10 - The Monk and Matty D.

5/15/10 - Bluebird

4/27/10 - Catching Up With Steve Arpin

4/11/10 - The Song of the Fifties

3/22/10 - Davey!

3/8/10 - Restart!

2/21/10 - Miracles of the Rock

2/8/10 - Roger The Remarkable

1/21/10 -  Shane's Sensational '78

12/28/09 - The Flying Finn and The All American Boy

12/12/09 - Hello Wall

11/29/09 - Once More for Ernie

11/15/09 - Ernie's Excellent Chase

11/1/09 - In The Zone

10/19/09 - Rough Week in the Midwest

10/1/09 - Common Starts, Uncommon Comebacks

9/4/09 - South Dakota Chris

8/15/09 - Facial Exposure

7/31/09 - Dying in the Pits

7/9/09 - Barn Rat's Last Race

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2007-11 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181





































































































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