While Justin Bonsignore was the first to the flag during an unpredictable Icebreaker 150 Sunday afternoon at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, four of the newest young guns on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour nearly stole the show for themselves on Sunday afternoon. While two drivers quietly avoided trouble for top five finishes, another two were not so lucky in the end but still managed to impress the capacity crowd at the ‘Big T’.
With all four drivers making the list of 250 prospects for 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com, the timing could not be better with the deadline for voting just over a week away.
The driver that was in the position to gain the most Sunday had to be Chase Dowling, who is running his first full season with the LFR Chassis house team after a part-time slate in 2017. Dowling had the dominant car, but was penalized for a restart violation while leading with around 30 laps to go.
“I thought I could go when I wanted to go there. We play in NASCAR’s sandbox and they made the call that we jumped the start, so we jumped the start,” Dowling told Speed51.com.
Despite the bitter disappointment, Dowling is certain that a victory is on the door step after showing all the other ingredients on Sunday.
“We knew we had a fast car all day. I think everyone knew we were here, we were in the bottom a lot of the race, we were making passes that were clean and stayed patient throughout the race. It seemed like a flawless race until 30 to go, nothing to hang our heads about our win is knocking on the door.”
Dowling’s mistake opened the possibility of a win to a number of other drivers, including fellow Connecticut driver and Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified graduate Ronnie Williams. Williams had started on pole, but fell back in the top ten early on.
After adjusting on a pit stop and taking advantage of attrition, Williams was to the inside of Bonsignore on the final restart and on the last lap made a final dive going into turn one, the two made contact with Williams losing control and hitting the outside wall. Williams did not make it back around.
“For my point of view, Justin moved down the racetrack. I think any driver would have but I also know any driver in my position would have made the move I did. We came here to win, he made his move I made my move, it just didn’t work out for me.”
For Williams, who is in his first full NWMT season, it showed a lot strength for the No. 21 Gershow Motorsports team.
“It’s good to know we’re finally competitive on the Tour. We had a very good car in the end. It’s weird when you have a perfect car but this car was pretty close to it. Sucks what happened but we’ll move on.”
Long Island driver Craig Lutz had a solid performance throughout the day, leading on pit cycles and eventually finishing second.
“We qualified 10th and kind of floated around there the first half of the race. Started off a little too free, came in, got a tire, got in the lead and led some laps. That last caution we came in for the rest of our tires and just got stuck with more caution laps than green flag laps, which we needed to get back to the lead. But to finish second is an awesome way to end the weekend.”
Lutz and the No. 46 Goodie Motorsports crew carry forward a lot of momentum that began with a good week long performance in February at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
“We were lucky enough to start off well down there. Now we’re looking good to carry it throughout the season up here. We’re going to continue to run up front every race and hopefully be there to get a win.”
Former Whelen Modified Rookie of the Year Matt Swanson, put on a solid performance as well, pitting early, adjusting, and also avoiding chaos for a top five.
“We had a good car in the beginning, we thought we could be better though. Before the pit stop we were a top 10 car for the day. But we knew we had more to prove with the car since it was handling so well. We came in for the pit stop and we picked up on it. We went forward on that green flag and we had a car that could contend. It was an awesome day.”
Sunday was the first race of 2018 for Swanson and the No. 89 Starett Tools team. After moving back to the family shop in Massachusetts during the winter, Swanson and his family decided to go to a partial schedule, running races only in New England. It is a move that is showing early signs of paying off.
“This was the first race we ran since we brought everything home. The car is being fielded out of our shop, all the work is done there. Setup wise we balance some setups with Ken and Billy from Spafco and we came up with a happy medium.”
Follow Speed51.com for more for the 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com in the coming weeks.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos