Santos comes from 13th to win in Richmond

Bobby Santos III came from a thirteenth place starting position to win tonight's 60 lap Rotondo Weirich Showdown USAC National Sprint race at Richmond International Raceway. He was followed by front row starters Darren Hagen and Brad Sweet. The...

Bobby Santos III came from a thirteenth place starting position to win tonight's 60 lap Rotondo Weirich Showdown USAC National Sprint race at Richmond International Raceway. He was followed by front row starters Darren Hagen and Brad Sweet.

The race was run in two 30 lap segments, with a 10 minute intermission. The first half was led flag-to-flag by polesitter Sweet, who held a commanding lead most of the way. Behind him, though, Bobby East and Santos moved up from their 8th and 13th place starts to finish the segment in second and fifth, respectively. East had erased most of Sweet's lead by the intermission. Second place starter Darren Hagen held onto second for most of the half, falling to third when East took the spot.

Sweet, East and Hagen adjusted their cars for the second segment start. East's hopes of continuing his climb were dashed when he made no progress on Sweet. Santos continued his charge, advancing to third in the next few laps. Sweet, East and Santos then ran nose to tail, pulling head of Hagen and the rest of the field. On the 43rd lap the three merged into a blur of passes with Santos taking the lead and East and Sweet winding up in second and third.

The field was slowed by a caution with 12 laps to go when Shane Hmiel's engine blew. After the final restart, the tale of who had something left played out. Hagen got past Sweet, and East began a slide backwards that dropped him to sixth at the end of the race.

"This race means a lot to me," Santos said in Victory Lane. "I feel like we should have won this a few times. I made a mistake one year that cost me a win. The car broke another year and cost us a win. My very first sprint car start was here and I ran fourth from 17th. This track means a lot to me. To finally get a sprint car win here means everything.

"During the break we just adjusted everything on the race car. We did everything we could and just worked it together, did what we needed to win."

Runner up Hagen and his team did what they could, but recognized who they were running against.

"These guys put a great race car underneath me every time out on the race track," Hagen said. "We made a few adjustments under that pit stop, and the car came alive, but Bobby Santos is one of the greats and it's hard to beat him."

Sweet settled for third place. "It was a good race," he said. "I got out there in the lead. I tried to set a good pace, try to not go too hard and burn my tires out, but I think I went a little too early on the last 30 and I started falling off pretty hard there at the end. Those guys came up pretty strong. We're happy to have finished third, but you know we wish we had gotten first."

Further back in the field, Levi Jones's eighth place finish over Dave Darland's ninth place put Jones in the series lead by two points. Jesse Hockett, Jerry Coons Jr., and Cole Whitt remain in third through fifth.

The next USAC National Sprint Car race will be on July 2 at the Winchester (IN) Speedway.

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Series USAC
Drivers Shane Hmiel , Bobby East , Levi Jones , Bobby Santos III , Darren Hagen , Cole Whitt , Brad Sweet , Bobby Santos , Jerry Coons Jr.