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STAFFORD, Conn. – No one needed to show Bobby Santos the way to Victory Lane at Stafford Motor Speedway; he’s a frequent visitor.
The Franklin, Mass., driver won the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler 200 on Sunday for his 11th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory, with six of those coming at Stafford, including three of the last four Spring Sizzlers.
Santos, who started in the eighth position, took the lead from rookie Tommy Barrett Jr. on Lap 115 and battled with Doug Coby, who won the 2006 and 2012 Spring Sizzlers, down the stretch to record the win. Coby looked left, right, over and under for a way around Santos in the closing laps, but had to settle for the runner-up finish.
“I knew he was a little better than us, so I was very nervous,” Santos said of the pressure he faced from Coby down the stretch. “The yellows (cautions) definitely helped. I think the race definitely went our way at the end.”
On the last lap of the event, Santos used a lap car through the final turns to essentially set a pick on Coby and get just the space he needed to secure the victory.
“I knew that if he [Coby] was within a bumper of me that he probably could have tried something into Turn 3, but the lap car there prevented that from happening,” Santos said. “When I saw the lap car on the bottom, I knew we were pretty safe from there.”
“Bobby did what he was supposed to do, he pulled up to the lap car and used it as a pick,” Coby said. “I’m disappointed, but I’m also happy. It’s two straight top-threes to start the season, and we’ll keep marching on.”
Rowan Pennink crossed the line third followed by Woody Pitkat in the fourth spot while Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five. The remainder of the top 10 was five-time Spring Sizzler winner Ted Christopher, Donny Lia, Timmy Solomito, Matt Hirschman and Ron Silk.
Santos, the 2010 Whelen Modified Tour champion, led a group of five drivers with top-10 finishes to own at least one tour title. The others were Coby, Christopher, Lia and Silk.
Barrett claimed his first Whelen Modified Tour pole win on Saturday and finished 11th.
NASCAR Next driver and defending tour champion Ryan Preece was looking for his first Spring Sizzler victory, but engine problems spoiled his day and he settled for a 24th-place finish.
The event had seven lead changes among five drivers which is the most in a Stafford race since there were 10 on May 1, 2010.
Sunday’s race was the 29th time the Whelen Modified Tour has headlined NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler weekend. A third win for Santos now has him tied with Rick Fuller for the third-most wins in Stafford’s prestigious opening weekend event. Santos’ trio of triumphs has come in his last three Sizzler appearances. He did not participate in the 2012 race.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to Stafford for its next event in just under four weeks. The TSI Harley-Davidson 125 is set for Friday, May 23.
Bobby Santos (44) edges Doug Coby at the line. Rich Schultz/Getty Images for NASCAR