Bobby Santos, III Prepared For Stafford’s Spring Sizzler; Nocera, Jr. Looking To Rebound In SK Lights

Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – When it comes to Bobby Santos, III and the NAPA Spring Sizzler® at Stafford Motor Speedway, not many drivers can claim a better record.

In only 8 career starts in “The Greatest Race in the History of Spring,” Santos has recorded 3 wins, 4 top-5, and 5 top-10 finishes for an average finish of 10.9. Santos has also led in four of his eight career Sizzler starts with a total of 488 laps led in those 4 races. With the NAPA Spring Sizzler® taking the green flag this weekend, Santos is ready to try to add a fourth Sizzler win to his racing resume and tie Mike Stefanik for 2nd place on the All-Time Sizzler Winners List.

“Another Sizzler win would be pretty cool,” said Santos. “Winning at Stafford means a lot and the Sizzler is such a big race. To be in any category alongside Mike would be meaningful. He’s done a lot in a modified and it would be neat to be tied with him in anything. The Sizzler is such a tough race to win that just to be in contention will be nice. I always look forward to Stafford, it’s one of my favorite tracks. I definitely have some good history at Stafford and I like the 200-lap race. Our goal is to be able to put ourselves into position to win and it’s been far too long since we won at Stafford, I feel way overdue for a Stafford win.”

If Santos is going to add a fourth Sizzler win to his credit this year, he and the #44 Tinio Corporation team will have to figure out a different race strategy than in years past as teams will only be allowed to change one tire per pit stop. Santos is relishing the prospect of race strategy playing a large part in who is battling for the win in the closing laps of the NAPA Spring Sizzler® and he likes his chances of being one of the cars in the mix for the win.

“The one tire deal really does change things and puts some strategy into the race,” said Santos. “I feel like for the last 5 or 7 years the races have become pretty predictable with the fast guys all pitting together and there’s a race off pit road. I like the multiple pit stops and multiple opportunities to get on to different strategies during the race. Any time strategy gets involved, it certainly can give someone that maybe doesn’t have the fastest car an opportunity to win the race. Typically you look at the rules and think about what you want to do but at the end of the day you just have to take the race as it comes with the yellow flags. I’m confident we’ll be competitive and there’s a lot of good teams and drivers so anything can happen. If we do a good job, I think we’ll have just as good a shot at winning the race as anyone else. It’s all thanks to the Tinio Family, Olivas Market, my dad and my family, Danny my car chief, and really all the guys who volunteer their time to help us go racing.”

Santos and the Tinio team are not running the full NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule in 2018, which may come in handy during the race with pit strategy calls. Santos and his team have the freedom to make whatever calls they want from pit road without worrying about how a call might affect their finishing position.

“We’ve done a partial schedule last year and this year and in a weird way it seems like there’s less pressure,” said Santos. “We always come to the track trying to win no matter what but it seems like it’s more relaxed and less tension for us than the guys who are racing for points. I don’t think it really hurts us. With our team situation I think that maybe it helps us where we’re not spreading ourselves too thin and we’re better prepared for the races that we go to. I might not be racing a modified 16 or 17 times a year like some of the other drivers but I’m racing other divisions and I think that driving other cars only helps.”

George Nocera, Jr. Looking to Rebound in Stafford’s SK Lights

For Stafford SK Light driver George Nocera, Jr., the 2017 season was a year that brought the highest of highs and the lowest of lows to the Plainville, CT native and the #38 Allstate Fire Equipment team.

Prior to the 2017 season, Nocera teamed up with Ted Christopher to drive one of his modifieds in the SK Light ranks and the first half of the season Nocera took down his first career victory on May 19th and led the SK Light points standings for 5 consecutive weeks. When August rolled around, Nocera saw his fortunes take the wrong kind of turn on the track as he scored three finishes of 14th or worse in his last 5 races and an accident in the September 1st feature sidelined him for the remainder of the season. But Nocera has expectations to return to his winning ways for 2018.

“I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel,” said Nocera. “We got into a wreck late in the season and the car was sitting in Teddy’s shop and once he passed away, that kind of put everything on hold with the car. I let the family know that I was interested in buying the car so they let me put the car back together. We bought the car and brought it back to my house, and now we’re ready to go racing. It’s an overwhelming feeling just to be in one of Teddy’s cars and it’s a great feeling to be back on the track. I didn’t really think we would have this chance but we were given this opportunity and now we have to make the most of it.”

Nocera will be looking for redemption in the extra distance, big money Dunleavy’s Modifiedz Night feature scheduled for May 25th. Nocera was battling for the lead in last year’s Dunleavy’s Modifiedz Night feature for what would have been his fourth podium in five races, but he came together with Cory DiMatteo while making a move for the lead and ended his night early, leaving him with a 15th place finish.

“I’d love to have a good run in that Dunleavy’s race and redeem myself from last year,” said Nocera. “Looking back I made a bonehead move at the end of the race with less than 10 laps to go and I drove right over Cory’s {DiMatteo] left rear. That was pretty bad and I need to redeem myself. We started in the back for that race and we were able to work our way towards the front and I’m hoping we can do that again and put the car back in NAPA victory lane.”

To go along with his win last year, Nocera also posted two seconds, a third, and two fourth place finishes in his 13 starts. Nocera got his first win at Stafford in 2005 while in the DARE Stock division and he won a total of 10 Limited Late Model feature events from 2006 to 2011. After working on the car during the winter, Nocera is confident that he can get the car back into NAPA Victory Lane and he can once again enjoy the feeling of winning a race in a car that belonged to his mentor and friend, Ted Christopher.

“I definitely think we have what we need to get back to victory lane,” said Nocera. “Last year was honestly one of the best feelings I’ve ever had with Teddy standing next to me in victory lane. I don’t think anyone else besides maybe Tony Stewart has won races in Teddy’s equipment so that win felt really good. There’s a lot of young guys coming up and there’s a lot of good guys in the division so we’ll have to see how things go in the first few races for us.”

The 2018 SK Light season kicks off with this weekend’s 47th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®. Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $40.00 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. Tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Discount Tickets are now available at participating NAPA Auto Parts stores. For a full list of the 72 participating locations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, please call the speedway office or point your web browser to www.staffordmotorspeedway.com/participating-napa-auto-parts-stores.

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