Donald Thomas "Donny" Santos (age 36) is an American stock car driver of Mexican descent who is most known for driving in the NASCAR Lite Series, a form of stock car racing that is sponsored by NASCAR. Santos won the 2002 championship and has 32 career wins, fifth on the all-time list. He has won the sport's Most Popular Driver Award 6 out of the last 10 years. Santos has also been the subject of heavy controversy over his 16-year career. He has also been jailed twice.
Donald Thomas Santos was born on July 7, 1978 in El Paso, Texas. He is the oldest of three siblings. Santos' father, Felix, worked as a mechanic up until Santos' brother Harold was born. After that, he formed his own business and only worked part-time. Two years later, the business burned down. The family almost went into debt. Santos' mother, Linda had to work two jobs in order to support the family. At age 12, Santos asked his father to build him a Go-Kart and race at a local track, and his father agreed. Santos raced in various local races and won several. Felix decided to take him to races all over the state of Texas. At age 14, Santos was asked by a friend to fill in for him at a stock car event because he had injured his leg in a crash. Santos won the event, and was noticed by a local team owner. Within a year, he was racing for one of the best stock car teams in Texas, and had bagged dozens of wins. At age 18, Santos made his debut in the Lite Series.
Santos began racing in the series in 1998. He won two races, and finished 12th in points. In 1999, he became a competitive racer. He won five races, but lost the championship. He won tons of races per year up until 2007. In 2002, Santos won the championship by winning the final race of the season by a last-lap pass. In 2008, Santos won the most popular driver award for the first time. In 1998, Santos was cast as lead host in the skit/talk show Sportsman Talk, which discusses events in Sportsman and Lite Series. He hosted until 2004, when Kevin Long took over.
Santos has been the subject of various controversies. In 2001, Santos and fellow driver Kyle Hunter were involved in a post-race brawl which involved at least 20 people. Santos was fined $10,000 and put on probation for three races. In 2004, Santos got into a post-race arguement with fellow driver Kevin White. Later, White punched Santos while confronting him after being interviewed. Santos then threw tools at White's hauler until White exited, which then led to another fist-fight. Both drivers were fined $100,000 and were parked for two races, and Santos was jailed for three months for domestic violence. In 2008, another post-race brawl broke out between Santos and fellow driver Jim Kelly. Two crew members were suspended three races, and Santos and Kelly were fined $50,000. In 2009, after an on-track incident with driver Matthew Fellows, Santos told his crew members to set fire to Fellows' hauler. The hauler was completely destroyed, and Santos was sentenced to six months in jail for domestic violence and arson. He was also fined $200,000. After Santos was released, he stated in an interview that he had changed, and would no longer let his anger get the best of him.