Justin Bonsignore and defending champion Rowan Pennink were tied atop the standings heading into the penultimate race for the Valenti Modified Racing Series last Sunday at Lee USA Speedway (NH).
The standings looked very different 100 laps later.
Bonsignore’s weekend was a bit tumultuous. He finished in the top six in his qualifying heat race on Saturday afternoon locking him into the feature, but series officials ruled that he made too much contact in his heat and placed him in the consolation race.
He failed to finish in a transfer spot in the consolation race and was forced to use a provisional to be in Sunday’s feature, but he would start shotgun on the field. Bonsignore took the green flag on Sunday afternoon in 24th of 24 cars.
“We got penalized yesterday, but that’s part of it,” Bonsignore told Speed51.com powered by JEGS immediately after Sunday’s race.
Meanwhile Pennink won his heat race and would start fourth for the feature. Pennink probably had one of the strongest cars all day long, but retired from the race with just about 20 laps remaining.
“It seemed like something with the ignition just broke,” said Pennink. “It’s a shame. It was a tight points battle and I think we had the car to beat today.”
The points battle certainly was tight, but it’s far from it now after the ignition issue relegated Pennink to a 23rd-place finish. Bonsignore rallied from the rear of the field to finish second.
Bonsignore and Pennink now turn their attention to Saturday evening’s 75-lap season finale at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut, where Bonsignore will now carry with him a 37-point lead. If Bonsignore fails to score any points from his heat, he has to finish 13th or better to clinch the championship.
“We’re going to go there and try and win and see what happens,” said Pennink, knowing his odds at winning a second straight VMRS title are now very slim.
Bonsignore has a little breathing room headed into Thompson. He has been as consistent as anybody all season long. The New Yorker only has one win coming a few weeks ago at Airborne Park Speedway (NY), but he’s finished second several times. He also was right in the thick of things for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship before an engine failure at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a crash at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) ended his chances for a NWMT title.
“We’ve had a good year,” said Bonsignore. “We’ve had a few mishaps but I’m glad we can go into Thompson with a little bit of breathing room to have a solid day. I love going to Thompson. I’m looking forward to it. It’s been an amazing year.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Regional Editor (Long Island, CT and NJ) -Twitter: @RobBlount