A Story by RaceDayCT.com
After a plethora of passes for the lead over a minimal amount of time, the checkered flag flew on the Whelen Modified Tour’s exhibition Whelen All-Star Shootout with a three-wide battle coming to the start/finish line.
In the end it was Patrick Emerling of Orchard Park, N.Y. using a final lap pass for the lead to win the 35-lap Whelen All-Star Shootout.
Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass. was second and Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, N.Y. third.
“We were just good enough,” Emerling said. “… That’s definitely a close one here. You don’t see too many three-wide’s here like that.”
It was the first career victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Emerling.
“I think we were pretty close here the past couple years,” Emerling said. “A lot of top-five’s, second place, third place, fourth place finishes. We’ve just been working on getting faster. … We always race solid. … We’ll see if we can carry this momentum to tomorrow [in the Eastern Propane & Oil 100]. Awesome day for us. I knew when we unloaded off the trailer we were going to have an awesome car here.”
Santos held the lead at the white flag with Emerling second and Bonsignore third. Emerling got a solid run down the backstretch on the final lap and avoided a block by Santos to get under him into turn three.
“Earlier on in the run there I was playing around with getting stuck on the bottom there,” Emerling said. “If you do it just right you’re able to make up quite a bit of ground coming into the bottom. We just kind of had the car to do it there. We were pretty free, I couldn’t run up top at all. So that was my only chance there.”
After Emerling got by him through turn three, Santos looked to complete the crossover through turn four, coming back under Emerling through the final corner. Bonsignore was behind Emerling coming off of turn four, but darted low off the final corner and got under Santos on the frontstretch, sending the three cars three-wide to the checkered.
“We were feeling out the car the whole race there,” Emerling said. “I knew what I was going to do on the last lap. [Santos] took it easy on me. This wasn’t the 100-lapper so. I think a lot of guys were conservative too. We don’t want to wreck out cars for the race tomorrow. … I was saving up for the bottom shot there. We were able to make it stick and we came out of the corner halfway decent. It was pretty close. I wasn’t sure if he had me or not.”
Said Santos: “I’ve been in that situation multiple times and been lucky enough to be the winner. This time I wasn’t, which is a bummer. [Emerling] made the right move. He went to the bottom to make the pass. I had a couple different options and I guess I made the wrong decision.”
Bonsignore was hoping to take advantage of the leaders battling through the final corner.
“I played it pretty safe down the backstretch and saw them go down to the apron and I wasn’t sure where they’d end up,” Bonsignore said. “I kind of anticipated [Santos] to try and stay on the outside of [Emerling] through the middle of [turns] three and four and I thought maybe they’d make a little bit of contact and get up out of the groove and I could roll the bottom groove and beat them back to the line, but it didn’t work. I had a huge run off of [turn] four. … I was greedy and went for it myself and made it a little exciting.”
Santos is the two-time defending champion of the Eastern Propane & Oil 100 and has won three of the last four Whelen Modified Tour points events at the track dating back to 2017. Friday he was making his first start in the Sapienza Racing ride in place the injured regular driver Dave Sapienza.
“This was good for me today,” Santos said. “It’s my first time sitting in that car. Just working with [crew chief] Tommy Grasso and Dave Sapienza and this whole team, today was just good to learn everybody and learn my information to Tommy so that he can make the right adjustments for me. Obviously he gave me what I needed today, he gave me a good car.”