With flashes of lightning popping off behind turn two in the closing laps, Tommy Barrett provided the rumble in "Thunder Valley" Wednesday night.
The 19-year-old NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rookie from Millis, Massachusetts drove from third to first in the span of two laps in the final 12 circuits to score his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory at Tennessee's Bristol Motor Speedway.
"It hasn't even sunk in yet," said Barrett. "We wanted to win before this earlier in the season, but to come here and win at this venue with the Cup guys here is amazing."
Barrett started 18th in the Bush's Beans 150, which was the same starting spot that Mike Stefanik held in the 2013 NASCAR Modified event at Bristol when he took the Christopher Our-owned No. 22 to victory lane. With Barrett behind the wheel this year, the Brad LaFontaine-prepared Chevrolet battled into the top-10 early and ran inside the top five at the race's halfway point.
After a four-tire pit stop at halfway, Barrett watched as Bobby Santos and Justin Bonsignore ran hard for the lead. As the waning laps clicked off and with foul weather rapidly approaching, Barrett turned up the wick. Bassett went wheel-to-wheel with Bonsignore, grabbing second on lap 138 and then swiftly passed Santos for the lead a lap later. Even on a final restart with four laps remaining, Barrett was too quick as he drove to his first Tour win and second for his team at "The World's Fastest Half Mile."
"We backed up in qualifying, started in the back, but we had a really good car," said Barrett. "We worked our way up to third by the break. We knew we had a good piece under us, so Brad and the guys made a couple of adjustments. They made the right ones, clearly. It was real good.
"I worked my way to second behind Bobby and got stuck on the bottom a couple times. I finally got the breaks that we needed and started on the outside. I think it was before the last restart, I got by Justin and I got by Bobby. The last restart, the car was good, we drove away and drove to victory lane."
Santos dominated much of the middle stages of the 150-lap event at Bristol, but his car began to fade in the closing laps. That allowed Justin Bonsignore to catch him for the lead and then allowed Barrett to make the winning pass.
"We had a good day overall," said Santos, who finished second. "I don't know, those last 15 laps we just got really tight. A couple other guys said they did to. The track, I felt it getting tighter as the race went."
Ron Silk started 24th and worked his way forward to battle with the leaders late. He eventually settled for third, but didn't hang his head after a hard-working effort.
"We got in a lot of good lanes on the restarts the first half of the race, kind of took my time, some holes opened up. It seemed like every restart I was stuck on the bottom until that last one. I got a little bit too tight the last run, but the end of it. All in all it was a pretty good day after qualifying 24th, it was good to rebound and finish third."
Bonsignore won the Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying and showed the way for the first 40 laps before being shuffled back near the tail of the top-10. He rallied again to battle with Santos in the closing laps, but just like Santos', his car's handling began to fade.
"The car just started to get tighter and tighter and at the end of the first half, I couldn't even drive it it was so tight," said Bonsignore. We thought we fixed it during the intermission. We were really good, but we just couldn't go anywhere for a while. We went from about eighth to second and into a battle for the lead, but like a lightswitch the car went beyond tight. You can't make any headway when you have to stop in the center of the corner."
The top-12 drivers were registered competitors of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Thirteenth-place JR Bertuccio was the highest-finishing NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver, earning that series' victory. It was the New York native's second NWSMT victory of the 2014 season.
Doug Coby finished fourth with Ryan Newman fifth overall.
Speed51.com will have more from Bristol in the coming days.
- By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director: Twitter @MattKentfield. Photo credit: Speed51.com
Unofficial Bush's Beans 150 Finish
|1||22||Tommy Barrett, Jr.||150|
|14||28||George Brunnhoelzl III||150|
|25||15||Joe Ryan Osborne||150|
|31||76||Bobby Measmer, Jr.||107|