From Must See Racing
BIRCH RUN, Mich. (July 22, 2022) – Despite a litany of wild occurrences during a zany Friday night, the second Must See Racing Sprint Car Series visit of the year to Birch Run Speedway ended with a familiar result.
Bobby Santos III bounced back from a DNF in USAC Silver Crown Series competition one night earlier and landed in victory lane with his winged sprint car, despite a power outage, 45-minute red flag and a fierce charge from Jimmy McCune in a seven-lap sprint to the finish line.
Santos took the lead on lap 10 of 30 – during the restart after the night’s only stoppage – and paced the remaining distance for his third Must See Racing sprint car victory of the season and first since late April.
In victory lane, the Franklin, Mass., native stood next to his Beast Chassis race car and dedicated his win to the late Bobby East, who was tragically killed on July 13 in Westminster, Calif.
“This Beast Chassis was on rails when it counted tonight,” Santos said. “Bob and Janice (East) have always built fantastic race cars, but I think I had baby Beast (Bobby East) riding with me at the end there.
“We’re all thinking about them during this time, but I’m happy to get a Beast Chassis in victory lane tonight in their honor.”
Though East never competed with Must See Racing, he was a stalwart in open-wheel, short-track competition through the years, winning two USAC Silver Crown titles and a USAC midget championship.
Tom Jewell led the field to the green flag after a nine-car inversion, but it was outside pole-man Rick Holley who jumped out to the early lead and paced the first four circuits before Schultz roared from fifth starting spot to assume command of the field.
From there, Schultz led the next five laps and steadily pulled away from nis nearest pursuer, Bobby Santos III, before a red flag stoppage was needed on the ninth lap for a power outage in the control tower that knocked out the track’s electronic scoring system.
That interruption ended up being the turning point that led to Santos’ victory, as he jumped past Schultz on the outside when racing resumed after a 45-minute delay and never looked back again.
Despite a caution with seven circuits to go for a crash on the backstretch involving veteran Joe Speakman, Santos never relinquished control on the final restart and ultimately won by a half straightaway over five-time series champion Jimmy McCune in the end.
Even though the night was a bizarre one, with the power outage and other interruptions leading to a stop-and-start feel, Santos said afterward that he was never concerned with the quality of racing.
“The battles with Schultz and McCune were tough, but everyone with Must See and Birch Run kept their cools in what could have been a lot worse situation, with the power outage happening when it did,” Santos noted. “They’re good at running the radios and running the race, and as far as I’m concerned nothing was different from where I was sitting behind the wheel.
“I think we all felt comfortable and safe to continue on, and it definitely worked out in our favor,” he added. “It was crazy coming up through traffic; there were a lot of tough cars tonight, but we came here to win and I’m grateful we were able to do that.”
After starting 12th due to a broken nose wing during his qualifying run, McCune clawed his way through a gaggle of slower traffic to eventually end up with the runner-up honors in a remarkable comeback.
“This was a heck of a good run for us, considering everything,” McCune admitted. “It was just a lot of stupid things that set us back. We had a little oil leak in practice, the front wing broke during qualifying and then we just had to pull the suit up and drive from the back. We did some modifications for the feature to get everything working … and then my old man bet me a thousand bucks to win from the tail.
“We came up one spot short, but hopefully we put on a great show for all the fans that came out here.”
Kalamazoo winner Jason Blonde completed the podium ahead of Charlie Schultz and Joe Liguori, the two chief contenders for the season championship.
With their finishes Friday night, Schultz leaves Birch Run with a five-point lead over Liguori. Three races remain before the champion will be crowned at Pennsylvania’s Jennerstown Speedway in late August.
Liguori earned $100 as the night’s Dowker Engines Fast Qualifier, setting a time trial lap of 13.172 seconds (109.323 mph) around the four-tenths-mile, semi-banked oval to kick off the program.
It was the third straight race and the sixth time in Liguori’s Must See Racing career that he led the way during single-car qualifications.
The Florida native became the fourth driver in series history to qualify first in three consecutive events.
McCune, Jewell and Blonde each won their respective eight-lap heat races prior to the 30-lap main.
The Must See Racing Sprint Car Series season continues in eight days’ time with the return of the Engine Pro Fast Car Dash event at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway. It marks the first time in three years that Must See Racing’s national sprint cars will compete at the seven-sixteenths-mile oval in Marne, Mich.
Must See Racing Sprint Car Series; Birch Run Speedway; Birch Run, Mich.; July 22, 2022
Dowker Engines Qualifying (best of two laps): 1. Joe Liguori, 13, Liguori-13.172 [$100]; 2. Bobby Santos III, 22a, Fieler-13.484; 3. Jason Blonde, 42, Nosal-13.501; 4. Charlie Schultz, 9s, Reiser-13.514; 5. Ryan Litt, 07L, Litt-13.544; 6. Jacob Dolinar, 48, McCune-13.733; 7. Adam Biltz, 8a, Reiser-13.823; 8. Rick Holley, 85, Holley-13.984; 9. Tom Jewell, 7, Fogle-14.012; 10. Jeff Bloom, 26, Bloom-14.043; 11. Todd McQuillen, 2k, Koyan-14.153; 12. Joshua Sexton, 3k, Koyan-14.293; 13. Tom Geren, 11G, Geren-14.407; 14. Jimmy McCune, 88, McCune-14.415; 15. Teddy Alberts, 44a, Wolverine-14.449; 16. Joe Speakman, 72s, Speakman-14.536; 17. Kevin Feeney, 99, Stickney-15.061.
ARP Heat #1 (8 laps, all transfer): 1. Jimmy McCune [$100], 2. Teddy Alberts [$50], 3. Joe Speakman [$35], 4. Tom Geren , 5. Kevin Feeney .
Nitro Black Heat #2 (8 laps, all transfer): 1. Tom Jewell [$100], 2. Rick Holley [$50], 3. Adam Biltz [$35], 4. Todd McQuillen , 5. Joshua Sexton , 6. Jeff Bloom .
Mahle Heat #3 (8 laps, all transfer): 1. Jason Blonde [$100], 2. Charlie Schultz [$50], 3. Joe Liguori [$35], 4. Bobby Santos III , 5. Jacob Dolinar , 6. Ryan Litt .
Engine Pro A-Feature (30 laps): 1. Bobby Santos III , 2. Jimmy McCune , 3. Jason Blonde , 4. Charlie Schultz , 5. Joe Liguori , 6. Jacob Dolinar , 7. Rick Holley , 8. Ryan Litt , 9. Tom Jewell , 10. Adam Biltz , 11. Tom Geren , 12. Todd McQuillen , 13. Teddy Alberts , 14. Kevin Feeney , 15. Joshua Sexton , 16. Joe Speakman , 17. Jeff Bloom (DNS).
Lap Leader(s): Tom Jewell 1-4, Charlie Schultz 5-9, Bobby Santos III 10-30.
Hard Charger: #88 – Jimmy McCune (+10)