Bobby Santos is up to his old tricks.
For the second consecutive year, the reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion set a new track record at Thompson International Speedway to win the pole for Sunday's season-opening Icebreaker.
Santos turned a lap of 18.237 seconds (123.376 mph) during Saturday's qualifying session for his third career Thompson pole. He has five career poles overall.
"Records are meant to be broken, so probably next year it will be someone else breaking it. But it's still neat to hold the record for now," said Santos, who is the defending champion of the event. "There's no reason we shouldn't have set the pole today. I know the competition is tough, but we have all the right people behind me."
A new rule adopted this year by NASCAR has abolished the traditional re-draw of the top qualifiers. Starting outside of Santos in the 150-lap main event is Ted Christopher, owner of 11 career victoriesat the track where he won a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship in 2001.
Christopher said the lack of a redraw will keep things exciting at the race's outset.
"As long as (Santos) don't run me up like he usually does on every restart," Christopher said, "it should be a good drag race into Turn 1. We'll see."
2010 Rookie of the Year Justin Bonsignore was impressive with a third-place qualifying effort, while Ryan Preece and Todd Szegedy rounded out the Top-5. Preece left the famed No. 3 Ol' Blue after last season and is with his family-owned team for 2011.
Seven-time series champion Mike Stefanik – with a series-record 70 victories, including 14 at Thompson – qualified 14th.
NOTES: Jimmy Blewett withdrew from the event after a hard practice crash... Richie Pallai Jr. missed qualifying after blowing a head gasket during practice and will start last in the 33-car field... Thompson has hosted 112 WMT events over the years, the most of any track.