BRISTOL, TN – Race report by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR photo – Bristol Motor Speedway scripted a Cinderella story to perfection on Wednesday evening when rookie Tommy Barrett Jr. triumphed on a late-race restart and made a lasting impression amongst team owners across NASCAR’s three national series.
With lightning sizzling in the air during the closing laps, Barrett led 19 laps of the 150 in the Bush’s Beans 150 en route to his first-career win in the NASCAR WHELEN Modified Tour. The win comes in Barrett’s tenth career start, and the victory also marked the second-straight victory for the Our Racing Team modified in Thunder Valley after Mike Stefanik piloted the No. 22 to the winner’s circle last season.
“It (the win) definitely hasn’t sunk in,” an ecstatic Barrett explained post-race. “It’s just so exiting. We had a good day in practice and just had a hiccup in qualifying. I knew we had a good car. We made it to third about Lap 75 and I knew we had a good piece. (So) we just drove up to the front and passed Bobby (Santos) with about 15 laps to go and he car was stellar and we pulled away.”
The win was all the more prevalent to the Massachusetts native when onlookers noted he was making his debut at ‘The Last Great Colosseum’ this week – simply adding to the Cinderella tale.
“I hadn’t even seen the track before today,” Barrett expressed. “First time out and I didn’t even know what to expect (coming here) and I’m wowed by this place. There’s nothing like this (track).”
Bobby Santos dominated the majority of the event before being stripped of the lead in the late stages. Santos finished second after a worsening tight condition irritated his machine.
“We had a good day after all,” an exhausted Santos commented. “Just those last 15 laps we were tight. Couple other drivers felt (the tightness) too. It seemed to me like the track got tighter as it went. We were just a little bit off.”
Ron Silk utilized restarts to gain the upper hand on the competition, however he was unable to capitalize on the final restart and completed his night in third.
“We had a pretty good car,” Silk said post-race. “We got good restart lines to get up (to the front). Just seemed we got the bottom line on the restart until that last one. All-in-all a good race for us.”
Modified Tour points leader Doug Coby quietly finished in the fourth position with Modified all-star race victor Ryan Newman capping the top five.
Coors Light Pole Award winner Justin Bonsignore finished sixth with Eric Goodale, Patrick Emerling, Timmy Solomito and Jimmy Zacharias rounding out the top-10 in the sixth annual North/South combination race at Bristol.
JR Bertuccio was credited with his second-career Southern Modified Tour triumph as the highest Southern division finisher.
“I was just wicked free on entry,” Bertuccio said. “It is what it is though. I’ll take the overall 13th (place finish) and the Southern Tour win. The (Northern) guys have just ran more larger racetracks. They have more financial backing, most Northern teams. So it’s kinda hard to compete with them here.”
12 cautions – including two red flags – highlighted the race and had a drastic impact during the closing stages.
On Lap 130 the plot shifted for the first time.
Northern Tour drivers Woody Pitkat and Ryan Preece made contact in Turn 2, causing Preece to loop around, drawing a caution and setting up a dash to the checkered flag.
On the ensuing restart Santos and Bonsignore dueled for the race lead until on Lap 139 rookie Barrett Jr. shot from third to first like a cannon, overpowering the veterans to take the race lead.
That wasn’t all she wrote though.
On lap 143 the caution flew again following Bryan Dauzat and Gary Putnam’s spin in Turn 2 – setting up a five lap shootout to decide the winner.
Barrett chose the high line on the restart and coasted past Santos in Turn 1 and into Victory Lane becoming the first rookie to win in the Northern Modified division since (ironically) Santos himself in 2007 at the Thompson World Series.
The Northern Modified Tour is idle until the Riverhead 200 at Riverhead Raceway on September 13th, while the Southern Modified Tour revisits Langley Speedway next weekend for the Bayport Credit Union 150.