As summer rains fell on Daytona Beach, Florida Saturday night, the attention of the NASCAR world shifted north to Long Island as the latest round of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour came down to a crazy conclusion at the tight quarter-mile Riverhead Raceway (NY). Two home track drivers, Justin Bonsignore the defending champion on the Tour, and weekly star John Beatty Jr. squared off for the prize.
Bonsignore was going for his third straight Tour win at home, while Beatty was looking for his first Tour triumph. On a restart in the final laps of the Buzz Chew 200, race leader Beatty selected the outside line with more grip, giving Bonsignore the inside position on the front row. The two were even as the final lap began, and as they entered turn three for the final time, Bonsignore drove in hard and the two cars banged nerf bars.
The contact cost Beatty momentum, giving Bonsignore the edge off turn four, but he and Beatty touched again, with Bonsignore getting hooked in the right-rear and spinning out. Despite crossing the finish line backwards, Bonsignore had still crossed it first and was crowned the winner of the race.
Almost immediately afterwards, fans jumped on social media to voice their opinions, including those who had seen the race live via the broadcast on Fanschoice.tv. While many attributed the last-lap collision to Riverhead’s tight confines and the spirit of hard racing, many called it a dirty move.
On Monday morning, Bonsignore appeared on Speed51’s Morning Bullring to discuss his take on what had gone down Saturday.
“It’s quarter-mile short track racing," Bonsignore began. "I was definitely very aggressive on my move but coming to the checkered with a shot at three-in-a-row at my home track, another shot at a Tour win there, I was not just going to let him have it. My guys deserve to have me go for everything I have and go for those wins, and we were fortunate to come out on top and not get too much damage in the process."
"Neither of us wrecked, well I did wreck, but we both finished," he continued. "I didn’t just go in there and clean him out like other people. We both got back to the line; it’s quarter-mile racing with a lot of taking and not a lot of giving. We go there to win, the bonus points for the wins are really important. I would’ve never of just gone there and cleaned him out, but I had an opportunity, and I was able to get my nerf bar to him, that’s why those things are on the cars, and beat him back to the line.”
Bonsignore went on to share his opinion of the impact of social media in the racing world, as well as the people that he refers to as "Social Media Warriors."
“It can be really helpful at times, but it’s also really hurtful at times," he claimed. "People have an opinion on everything no matter what the situation is, but it seems more often than not in racing from the national series all the way down to the regional series, everybody has their two cents to put in, and that’s just the day and age we live in. You don’t have to agree with any of them or all of them.”
In the current environment, Bonsignore has limited his interaction at times on social media, but it hasn’t stopped him from sitting back and enjoying some of the virtual fireworks.
“Facebook has become a stomping ground for the bashing of almost everything in life, and it’s tough to be a part of it sometimes. I stay out of it, I Facebook stalk more than anything, I love reading the comments. I had a whole day yesterday by the pool just reading the comments seeing what everybody thinks. I see competitors not even in the series that have put their two cents in. You’re better off sometimes just keeping your mouth shut instead of opening your mouth and removing all doubt.”
Speaking of social media, Speed51 conducted a Twitter poll during today's episode of The Morning Bullring, asking whether Bonsignore's move was dirty or "just racing." At the time this story was published, 80% of voters chalked it up to "just racing," while 20% called it a dirty move.
You can listen to more of what Bonsignore had to say about Riverhead, social media, and more in the latest episode of Speed51’s Morning Bullring, now on-demand here on Speed51.com.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Michael Jaworecki / MyRaceNews