Bobby Santos III Crosses Over To Stock Car Racing

Nextel Cup superstar Jeff Gordon sparked the stampede of open-wheel racers to stock car racing. His accomplishments drew the likes of Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and most recently, Juan Pablo Montoya. The crossover has shown no indications of slowing down and youthful Bobby Santos has added his name to the list of hopefuls searching for fame and fortune with NASCAR.

The 21-year old Massachusetts native has signed a development contract with Bill Davis Racing?s Toyota team, and he will drive ten ARCA and ten Busch Series races this season. Even at his youthful age, Santos has been a winner in midgets, sprint cars and the lightning fast super-modified cars.

?We are excited about his future,? Davis said. ?Bobby (Santos) has tested Busch, Cup and Cars of Tomorrow for us, and everyone is satisfied with him.? Davis indicated that crew chief Tommy Baldwin had been scouting Santos and is the one that deserves the credit for the selection.

According to Davis, Santos will run certain the ARCA and Busch races as planned and possibly a few truck races toward year-end. Thereafter, the Davis organization will devise a game plan for 2008.

?Things have definitely changed for me,? Santos said prior to making his Busch Series debut at the Richmond International Raceway. ?It is a big jump, and it is a different form of racing. I have no stock car experience, and I have a lot to learn.?

At Richmond, Santos qualified his Toyota seventh and finished 30th. His car was fielded by the start-up Riley-D?Hondt team in a joint venture with Davis Racing. ?It was exciting to qualify for my first Busch race,? Santos.

A week later, Santos drove his Toyota to an impressive third-place finish in an ARCA RE/MAX Series race at the Kentucky Speedway. In doing so, he succeeded in giving Toyota its best ARCA finish.

While many of the up and coming drivers relocate to North Carolina, Santos continues to reside in Massachusetts with his parents, Bob and Ellen Santos. And his proud parents are usually in attendance wherever their only son races.

Prior to signing with the Davis team, Santos had never driven a stock car. ?These cars are a challenge and require a different driving style. Good drivers have to adapt quickly and I will be trying hard. So far, I have been in a stock car five times, and I have learned a lot each time.?

Assisting Santos is former Busch Series champion David Green. ?I went to Richmond with the team and Bobby (Santos) for a test, and he did really well. We had a game plan and we followed it. It is not all about sitting on the pole and winning races. A young driver has to establish a good foundation going forward,? he said.

Green said young drivers shouldn?t need a lot of coaching. ?Bobby (Santos) has the talent and he is an excellent listener. His resume? speaks for itself.? Green, who expects to be a teammate with Santos in future Busch races, doesn?t view himself as a coach or a mentor. ?Any driver that gets to this level doesn?t need to be coached.?

Fifteen years ago Bobby Labonte took Green under his wing and steered him to a championship (1994). ?Bobby (Labonte) helped me make it through the trenches,? he noted. ?If I can share things with him like Bobby did for me, I feel I will be giving back to the sport. And I will be building a bridge for Bobby (Santos) to help him move forward, just as Bobby Labonte did for me.

?David (Green) has been very helpful to me,? Santos said. ?When I come off the track, David tells me things I can do and improve upon.? The young driver also credits Davis drivers Dave Blaney and Jeremy Mayfield with giving him lots of guidance.

Santos has been accustomed to competing in short, high-intensity races, and stock car racing features much lengthier events. ?I like the longer races, as they fit my style,? he said. ?Pit stops are new to me, and I have to figure them out. The veteran drivers are smart when it comes to pit stops, and they know how to make time on pit road.?

When not racing stock cars, Santos plans to race the family midgets and sprint cars and an occasional PRA Big Car race. It was in a Big Car race at the Stafford Motor Speedway where Santos had his biggest day in racing. In a midget and Big Car double-header, promoter Jack Arute and his family offered a $50,000 bonus to the driver that could win both races.

To the delight of his many fans, Santos won the midget race handily and starting last in the 100-lap PRA feature, he blasted through the 20-car field to capture the final event. In a jubilant victory lane celebration, Santos was joined by his parents, his grandfather, his three sisters, other relatives and a host of supporters. ?Winning at Stafford was cool,? Santos said.

Santos is eagerly looking forward to the upcoming weeks and months, and he knows that he will have a lot of support. However, he knows there is no substitute for seat time. ?I learn by doing,? he said.

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