THOMPSON, Conn. (WWLP) – Bobby Santos’ #44 Chevrolet didn’t look like a winning car for the first 124 laps of the race. But Santos last lap pass sent him to victory lane in Wednesday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Thompson 125 at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut. The Franklin, Massachusetts driver drove under leader Max Zachem in turn 1 to take the lead. Santos pitted four times, twice early in the race, and at one point got a lap back as the lucky dog.
In a post race interview Santos said, “It wasn’t one of my prettier races but I wanted to win really bad, and we knew what it took to win.” Santos explained he couldn’t count how many close calls he had during the race. “It was a rough race. I got roughed up two or three times, and I thought I roughed up a couple people two or three times. It’s the nature of these cars and this track right now.”
Second place finisher Zachem said he knew Santos had fresher tires when he made the move to pass. Santos last NWMT win came in July 2014 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Matt Swanson earned a career best 3rd, Patrick Emerling took 4th, and Jeff Goodale was 5th. Rounding out the top 10 were Ryan Preece, Rowan Pennink, Brendon Bock, Jimmy Blewett, and Ken Heagy. Doug Coby won the pole and is becoming the tour’s King of Qualifying. It was his 14th career NWMT pole, his 4th at Thompson. Coby has two wins and a 4th in his three previous Thompson poles. The Milford, Connecticut driver has captured four of five poles this season and seven of the last eight going back to last year. He finished 11th in the Thompson 125.
Matt Swanson of Acton, Massachusetts was more than excited by his 3rd place finish. Swanson is the youngest driver and leading rookie on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Last season he made NWMT history when he made his driving debut at age 15. Now 16 but not yet 16 and a half until August, Matt is contending for Rookie of the Year honors on the tour. He told 22News, “We’re definitely looking good as it is right now. We’re putting together a bunch of top 15 finishes and that’s our goal for the year. Kenny (crew chief Ken Barry), my dad, we all sat down, everyone on our team and we were just planning on putting together some solid finishes. I’m not going to do anything stupid, just try and get the rookie of the year.” Swanson competed in five NWMT races last season with one top 10 finish. Under NASCAR rules those five races don’t prohibit him from racing for the rookie title now. According to Matt, “We wanted to build up a little bit of a notebook. I hadn’t been to a lot of these places. I had only been to Stafford and Thompson. We got a little bit of a notebook put together and we’re just going to keep building it this year. You can never have too big of a notebook.”
There were five other divisions in action at Thompson. Paul “Buddy” Charette won the 25 lap Late Model race by nearly half a straightaway. Charette started from the pole and led every lap. Points leader Danny Cugini took the lead from Randy Cabral on lap 4 and went on to win the 20 lap NEMA Lites feature. Brent Gleason held off a charging Ryan Waterman for his first victory in the 20 lap Limited Sportsman event. Keith Rocco rocketed under Rowan Pennink in turns 3 & 4 on lap 8 to win the 30 lap Sunoco Modified feature. Rocco has won all four Sunoco Modified races at Thompson this season. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. ended Dave Trudeau’s 3 race streak by winning the 15 lap Mini Stock event.
The next race for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is Saturday, June 25th, at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Doug Coby has a 19 point lead over Max Zachem in the tour’s championship chase.