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STAFFORD, Conn. -- Bobby Santos rebounded from an opening season mechanical failure with a win Sunday in Stafford Speedway's Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST.
Santos, the defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, held off points leader Rowan Pennink over the closing laps to claim the victory.
“He [Pennink] is a good clean racer, so I don’t expect him to send it in where he doesn’t belong, but he’ll definitely be aggressive with you and try to pass you,” Santos said. “Rowan is fast, they’ve got their stuff together this year, and they’re going to be tough to beat all year.”
Santos opened the season with the Coors Light Pole Award at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway but lasted just 16 laps before engine issues ended his day.
Sunday at Stafford, the engine was never a problem.
It was Santos' third career win at Stafford and first in the track's annual season kickoff, which was running its 40th edition. Those three wins for Santos and the No. 4 Mystic Missile Racing team have come in the last four races at the historic half mile.
The runner-up finish was Pennink’s best career showing at Stafford in 15 career starts. He put a furious challenge on Santos down the stretch, but didn’t get an opening.
“We had an awesome car all weekend, right out of the trailer the thing went to the top of the charts on the practice sheet,” Pennink said. “The thing was the best car here, we just couldn’t quite get by Bobby at the end, but second is going to keep us in the points lead.”
Ron Silk edged Eric Beers for third, while Mike Stefanik finished fifth. Erick Rudolph was sixth. Ted Christopher, three-time defending race winner, finished seventh. Matt Hirschman, Tom Rogers Jr. and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top 10.
Doug Coby, who won the Coors Light Pole Award on Saturday, was involved in the first caution of the day and finished 29th.
Santos led a race-high 152 laps while Christopher paced the other 48. The first of four races in 2011 at Stafford was slowed by eight cautions for 43 laps.
After two races, Pennink has a 20-point lead on Stefanik in the season standings while Santos improved from 33rd to eighth in points with Sunday’s win.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to Stafford on Friday, May 27 for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125. It will mark the 100th race at Stafford in the Tour’s history.
Bobby Santos takes the checkered flag at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway for the victory Sunday. Getty Images