RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — Justin Bonsignore just continues to pull away in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship race.
The Holtsville, New York, driver found himself carrying the checkered flag for the seventh time this season on Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway.
Bonsignore took the lead from Timmy Solomito on Lap 133 and went on to capture his sixth career win at his home track, sweeping the two races at the New York oval in 2018. The victory was his his 19th career in Whelen Modified Tour competition.
“We circle these races for sure, if you can’t win anywhere else, you better win at home,” Bonsignore said. “You have to put on a show for the hometown fans. I put extra effort in as a driver to make sure I am on top of my game when I come here.”
After qualifying was rained out, Bonsignore’s No. 51 Phoenix Communications Chevrolet started from the outside pole position after the field was set by practice speeds. Bonsignore didn’t have the car to beat in the early laps, though, as polesitter Doug Coby was at the point for the first 64 circuits.
But, when Coby spun from the lead off turn two on Lap 65, Bonsignore found himself in the middle of a battle with fellow hometown favorite Solomito for the win. After chasing the back bumper of Solomito’s No. 16 Starrett Tools Ford for more than 50 laps, Bonsignore made his move on Lap 133, sliding around and putting himself in control.
A final caution flag on Lap 152 gave Solomito one last chance to mount a charge, and he was able to lead the field across the line on Lap 159. But, just one lap later, Bonsignore took back the top spot and never looked back.
The second-place finish was the best result of the season for the Islip, New York, driver.
“We faded a little bit towards the end, but I wanted to get up there and lead some laps,” Solomito said. “We haven’t really had the speed all year, but to come here and give them a run for their money, we kept them honest tonight.”
Chase Dowling, who is still looking for his first career Whelen Modified Tour win, scored his eighth podium finish in 54 career starts with a third. Coby, who spun from the lead early, rallied through the field during a green flag run and finished fourth.
Dave Sapienza, who ran as high as third spot before a crash on a restart, rallied back to finish fifth. John Fortin was sixth, followed by John Beatty, Shawn Solomito, Chris Pasteryak and Rob Summers.
Drivers with Modified Division background at Riverhead as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series filled six of the top-10 positions at the checkered flag.
With his seventh win, Bonsignore extended his points lead to 81 points over Dowling with three races remaining in the championship points schedule. Solomito is third, 106 points back.
The Miller Lite 200 will air on NBCSN on Thursday, September 13, at 6 p.m.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to the track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the inaugural Musket 250 on Saturday, September 22.
-NASCAR IMC Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen