By Jacob Seelman
OREGON, Wis. – After four years of blood, sweat, tears, heartache and close calls, Bobby Santos III finally picked up his first-career Must See Racing Sprint Car Series victory on Friday night at Madison Int’l Speedway.
Santos and car owner Dick Fieler, who joined forces at the start of the 2015 season, had done everything but with a Must See Racing feature. During America’s Winged Tailgate Party at the semi-banked, half-mile oval, everything finally came together for the former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion.
The Franklin, Mass., native was the fast qualifier for the night at 15.037 seconds, but rolled a six on the inversion die and lined up for the initial start on the outside of the third row.
However, after polesitter Charlie Schultz spun during warm-ups for the feature and then fourth-starting Jacob Wilson smacked the wall when outside pole-man Johnny Petrozelle III spun the tires coming to the green flag, Santos ended up on the outside of the second row when the 30-lap feature finally kicked off.
Anthony McCune jumped into the lead when the green flag waved, having inherited the top starting spot after Schultz’s spin, and quickly engaged into a torrid tug-of-war battle for the lead with his uncle, three-time defending series champion Jimmy McCune.
Though Jimmy McCune won the series’ inaugural visit to Rockford in 2016 and appeared to have the better car at times, Anthony McCune held every advance from his uncle at bay, maintaining the lead as Santos started to close in on both of them.
Santos wrestled second away from Jimmy McCune on lap 11, then made his move for the lead three circuits later, when Anthony McCune got hung up trying to lap the slower car of Adam Biltz.
Rolling the extreme bottom groove of the speedway, Santos charged to the inside of the younger McCune, seized control of the race and never looked back.
Not even a green-white checkered restart, set up after Petrozelle spun in turn two with two laps left, could keep Santos out of victory lane.
He timed his jump perfectly when the green flag waved for the last time, pulling Jimmy McCune by five car lengths and ultimately crossing the finish line nearly two seconds in front when the twin checkers were displayed over the field.
“This feels really good,” said Santos in victory lane. “I’ve had a major learning curve in these things, but we’ve gotten better with each race we’ve run. I have to thank Dick (Fieler) and my team for the job they’ve done and the effort they’ve put in. We’ve spent a lot of time chasing these guys (the McCunes). They’ve been the class of the field and as far as I’m concerned they’re the guys to beat each night.
“To finally win one against them feels really special, but now we’ve got to back it up (in the future).”
For Fieler, Friday night’s win marked his first Must See Racing victory since Troy DeCaire swept the season finale at Berlin Raceway on Aug. 23, 2014.
“It’s hard to win in this series and this is a win I know we’ll cherish as a group for a long time,” noted Fieler. “We’ve struggled to learn how to run American Racer tires, but I think maybe we’ve finally got something figured out because that was a stellar race tonight. Bobby did a great job and this exactly the kind of result we hope for each night. I couldn’t be happier.”
McCune came home as the runner-up to extend his series points lead, but admitted after the race that motor issues kept him from mounting a charge on the final restart.
“I didn’t really try there on that last green flag,” admitted McCune. “I was fighting some gremlins with the car and it was running really hot. The water temperature was fluctuating around 20 degrees … even before the race started, so I knew something wasn’t right. When he (Santos) got by, I just got by Anthony and then cruised … because I didn’t want to blow a hose off or hurt the motor.”
Anthony McCune completed the podium, followed by Petrozelle, who was the last car on the lead lap in fourth and made his first appearance in the No. 81 for veteran car owner Mike Blake on Friday night.
Jerry Caryer finished fifth ahead of Schultz, Tom Jewell and Biltz. Eight cars were running at the finish.
The Must See Racing Sprint Car Series concludes its Western Swing on Saturday night at Illinois’ Rockford Speedway. Brian Gerster won last year’s Must See Racing stop at the historic quarter-mile.
RESULTS: Must See Racing Sprint Car Series; Madison Int’l Speedway; July 27, 2018
1-800-RADIATOR A-Feature (30 laps): 1. #22a – Bobby Santos III ; 2. #88 – Jimmy McCune ; 3. #8 – Anthony McCune ; 4. #81 – Johnny Petrozelle III ; 5. #75c – Jerry Caryer ; 6. #9 – Charlie Schultz ; 7. #7 – Tom Jewell ; 8. #8a – Adam Biltz ; 9. #72s – Joe Speakman ]; 10. #26 – Jeff Bloom ; 11. #07w – Jacob Wilson ; 12. #4L – Anthony Linkenhoker .
Hamilton Trucking Time Trials (best of two laps): 1. #22a – Bobby Santos III, 15.037; 2. #88 – Jimmy McCune, 15.099; 3. #07 – Jacob Wilson, 15.266; 4. #8 – Anthony McCune, 15.399; 5. #81 – Johnny Petrozelle III, 15.614; 6. #9s – Charlie Schultz, 15.616; 7. #7 – Tom Jewell, 15.706; 8. #75c – Jerry Caryer, 16.010; 9. #8a – Adam Biltz, 16.093; 10. #72s – Joe Speakman, 16.159; 11. #26b – Jeff Bloom, 16.596; 12. #4L – Anthony Linkenhoker, 20.112.
Abe’s Auto Parts Heat Race #1 (8 laps): 1. Adam Biltz, 2. Jerry Caryer, 3. Joe Speakman, 4. Tom Jewell, 5. Jeff Bloom (DNS) 6. Anthony Linkenhoker (DNS).
Abe’s Auto Parts Heat Race #2 (8 laps): 1. Jacob Wilson, 2. Anthony McCune, 3. Bobby Santos III, 4. Jimmy McCune, 5. Charlie Schultz, 6. Johnny Petrozelle III.