|By Dale Wolbrink
Stafford, CT (July 10,
2007): Tuesday was a career night for Erica Santos of Franklin,
MA, a night of historical proportions for the Northeastern
Midget Association (NEMA) and a great night for racing. By
virtue of her victory, Santos became the first female in history
to win a NEMA race. It was the first career win for Santos, who
is in only her first full season of midget racing competition.
After the race a gracious crowd greeted the 24-year-old driver
with a prolonged ovation.
“It is very meaningful to make history with this club that
involves so many great people,” said Santos with controlled
enthusiasm, “but it doesn’t matter that I’m a girl. Tonight I’m a
Santos took the lead from the drop of the green flag and after
losing the lead briefly to Greg Stoehr made the winning move on
a daring pass in lapped traffic. Santos went unchallenged over
the final four laps of the event to take down the popular win.
“Week after week my car owner Ed Breault gives me great
equipment and Mike Scrivani has done a tremendous job
maintaining this race car,” continued Santos. “This week, I had
another advantage. My father (Bob, Jr.) and my brother (Bobby)
went over the car during the week. They made some changes to the
set-up in the car including a shock change. They were all the
right changes I guess.”
The drama unfolded on the event even before the drop of the
green flag. After NEMA’s trademark four-wide pace lap, opening
day winner Lou Cicconi headed to pit road with mechanical
troubles. On track it was smooth sailing for Santos, who jumped
out from her pole starting position to take the early lead.
Taking chase were Adam Cantor, Mark Irving and Aaron Wall.
Deeper in the pack Nokie Fornoro, last week’s winner Ben Seitz,
Joey Payne, and Greg Stoehr battled for track position.
Cantor relinquished the second spot when his machine lost power
on the backstretch to bring out the first caution. Cantor was
able to return to competition. Joining Cantor on pit road under
the caution was Payne.
On the ensuing restart, Santos lined up with Mark Irving to her
outside. Jeremy Frankoski and Tim Heath made up the second row.
Wall lined up in the fifth position. The big guns Fornoro,
Seitz, Stoehr, Randy Cabral, and Jeff Horn stalked the top five.
Irving took a quick shot at Santos’ lead but had to settle back
into second. Heath moved into the third position but had his
hands full with Fornoro, who had made quick work of Wall. In one
sweeping move on the backstretch on lap four, Fornoro soared
from fourth to second position grabbing spots from both Heath
Heath dogged Irving for third and was able to take the spot on
lap six. The Spirit of Boston #29 of Aaron Wall came to rest in
turn three to bring out the event’s second caution on lap seven.
The restart pitted the high-flying Fornoro against the leader
Santos. On the restart, the top five were Santos, Fornoro,
Heath, Seitz and Frankoski. Payne was already back into the top
ten on the restart.
A little anxious to protect her lead, Santos jumped early
necessitating a false start call. Before the second attempt at
green on lap seven, Seitz headed down pit road with a flat right
rear tire. His crew, with the help of fellow competitor Cicconi,
had the tire changed and Seitz back in competition.
This time, Santos got a great restart to retain her lead.
Fornoro faltered a bit allowing Heath to briefly grab second.
Fornoro was back in the runner-up position before the completion
of lap nine. Stoehr was on the move and applying pressure to
Heath. Stoehr took over the third position lap 10. Heath became
another victim of the mounting attrition; heading to pit road on
lap 12 with mechanical problems.
While Santos continued to show the way, the top three, which
also included Fornoro and Stoehr, began to get strung out. The
best battle on track was for fourth between Cabral and Frankoski.
On lap 13, Cabral had gained the position but a single lap later
Frankoski resumed his place ahead of Cabral.
The running order at halfway found Santos leading Fornoro,
Frankoski, Cabral, and a fully-recovered Cantor. Both Seitz and
Payne ran outside of the top five. Fornoro was starting to reel
in Santos in heavy lapped traffic.
The caution flew again when the #77 of Mike Lugelle made hard
contact with the outside wall in turn four. During the caution
period, Fornoro came to rest on the backstretch. He was pushed
to pit road where he would remain for the remainder of the
Santos now had to fend off the challenges of Greg Stoehr to
maintain her lead. Stoehr took over the top spot on the lap 17
restart. Frankoski continued to run strong in the third spot.
Cabral was holding a charging Joey Payne at bay. His efforts
were for naught when the point leader’s Bertrand Motorsports #47
slowed on the front stretch.
Back up front, the action was beginning to heat up. In lapped
traffic, Santos edged closer to the leader Stoehr. Santos made a
bold move on Stoehr in lapped traffic. The crowd collectively
held their breath, when Santos went weaving around a lapped car
and Stoehr to retake the lead on lap 26.
“It was close,” said Santos when asked about the circumstances
of the pass for the lead. “It was real close.”
To the delight of the crowd, the pass stuck. Shortly after,
Stoehr ran out of fuel, dropping out of the race from
In the closing stages, Payne looked as if he was shot out of a
cannon. He came screaming through traffic, taking over the
second spot from Frankoski. Payne had begun to chop into Santos’
lead but ran out of time before being able to mount any serious
The victory by Santos was wildly popular for the fans and her
fellow competitors. Payne was happy to settle for second, just
this once, to Santos.
Jeremy Frankoski also had a career night, posting his best NEMA
Midget finish in third. Jeff Horn, who always runs strong at
Stafford, poured it on in the end as well to finish fourth. Ben
Seitz recovered from his visit to pit road to complete the top
five. Sixth-place finisher Adam Cantor salvaged a great finish
after his dismal start to the night. Mark Irving, Shane Hammond,
Chris Leonard and Mike Horn rounded out the top ten.
“I have wanted to win a race so badly,” said Santos in victory
lane amongst her family. “The competition is stronger than ever
and it gets harder and harder to win. This is so exciting. I
wish that Stu Murray could have been here with us to enjoy it.”
Murray is the President of NEMA’s title sponsor and long-time
Santos family sponsor, Wirtgen America.
The next stop for Erica Santos and the Northeastern Midget
Association is the Seekonk Speedway on July 18, 2007. For more
information on this event visit