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LOUDON, N.H. – Bobby Santos entered the Sunoco 100 looking for a little extra magic to change his fortunes at the “Magic Mile.” He waited until the final lap, but he got it.
In a race that featured multiple lead changes on nearly every lap – 35 official lead changes – the Franklin, Mass., driver made just one pass for the lead and led just one lap Saturday. Santos drove his No. 44 Tinio Racing/ImperialCars.com Chevrolet by Ted Christopher in Turn 4 of the last lap en route to winning the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
It was Santos’ 13th career win but first in 16 career starts at the 1.058-mile oval.
"Definitely my biggest Modified win of my career, for sure," said Santos. "This is our Super Bowl, and these guys work hard to get this win. Whatever happens the rest of the season -- we won at Loudon."
Doug Coby also got by Christopher in the final turn and finished second by just .065 seconds.
"It's a blur right now," Coby said. "The way the restarts shook out, I wound up getting a couple good runs."
Said Santos: "The last lap, I knew if I was in second going down the backstretch, I'd have a shot at it."
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman was fourth and NASCAR Next driver Ryan Preece came home fifth. The top five cars finished within three-tenths of a second of the leader.
Justin Bonsignore finished sixth, followed by Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Tommy Barrett Jr., NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour points leader Andy Seuss, Ron Silk and Chuck Hossfeld.
Silk, who won the Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying Saturday morning, led a race-high 36 laps. Preece led 30 laps and Christopher 28.
The 36 lead changes broke the Whelen Modified Tour all-time race record of 30, also at Loudon on July 7, 2000.
The race went into overtime – to a total of 110 laps – with two green-white-checkered finishes following late-race cautions. The race had seven caution periods for 30 total laps.
"Our race didn't start out spectacular," said Santos, who started seventh and was as far back as 14th at halfway. "The guys gave me what I needed for the second half of the race. They made a couple of adjustments. It couldn't have been better.
"We drove ourselves to the front. We put ourselves in position."
During the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Christopher and Newman swapped the front spot three times within the lap on the restart but a wreck by Donny Lia brought out the caution flag before the white flag was show. On the ensuing restart, Christopher initially got away before Santos and Co. chased him down on the final lap.
It was a tough end for Christopher, who led 66 laps last week at Riverhead (New York) Raceway before giving up the lead late to Eric Goodale and settling for second.
"Unfortunately on a green-white-checkered, you can think of all the scenarios you want to do, but obviously I picked the wrong one on that one," said Christopher, who has five Whelen Modified wins at Loudon. "It was a good run. That's one of the cars we put together out of our stable ... and first time we ever ran with a SPEC motor. I was pretty happy with it. It's definitely something to build on."
"I didn't know what the hell was going on the last lap," said Coby, who overcame early issues with a shock. "I saw Ted down on the grass and Bobby was taking the outside. I figured Ted was going to door-slam Bobby and I tried to push Bobby out there as far as I could so that he couldn't do what he did. And ended up doing that cross-over.
"It was close coming off of Turn 4. We were about an inch apart. ... I'm happy with second, I'm happy the cars in one piece, and happy the fans got a good show."
Santos closed within two points of Coby for the championship lead with his third win in six races. Christopher is eight points behind Santos and Bonsignore is two points further back. Silk completes the top five, one point of defending tour champion Preece.
The Sunoco 100 will air on FOX Sports 1 on Friday, July 18 at noon.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s next race, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 200, is scheduled for Saturday, July 19 at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire.
Bobby Santos (44) edges Doug Coby (between Santos and the wall) and Ted Christopher (13) to win Saturday's Sunoco 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Getty Images for NASCAR