With the days ticking away until the 57th Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, so to is the time on the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. With NASCAR’s mighty Modifieds once again highlighting the three-day racing extravaganza at "The Big T," all attention is focused atop the points standings where five-time champion Doug Coby enters the weekend with a 19-point gap over defending champion Justin Bonsignore.
The 5/8-mile Connecticut oval is a favorite for both drivers, with Bonsignore having won there 11 times in his career, including the remarkable six straight from the 2018 Icebreaker to the Thompson 125 in June of this year. But, last time out it was Coby snatching his sixth career Thompson win back in August at the Budweiser 150 and ending Bonsignore’s streak.
Heading into Sunday’s 150-lap season finale, Bonsignore knows that it is going to take more than an ideal drive from himself to make up the ground for a second Tour title.
“It’s going to take a perfect day on our part and a little bad luck on theirs. I don’t wish that on anybody, but that’s what it’s going to take for us," Bonsignore said on Speed51's Morning Bullring. "It would be a mechanical failure or a crash, because they just don’t go there and run 15th. They’ve been one of the best teams all year, so you can count on them running well without mistakes or issues."
If Bonsignore has a perfect day at Thompson, which includes leading the most laps and winning the race, he will need Coby to finish no better than 15th without leading a lap. If Coby finishes 14th or better, Bonisgnore will not have a shot at the championship regardless of how good of a day he has at Thompson.
Despite the rigors and long odds, Bonsignore is not letting any of that dampen his enthusiasm for one of the greatest weekends not just in the Northeast, but all of short track racing: the Sunoco World Series. Running from Friday, October 11 through Sunday, October 13, it is three days of racing across multiple disciplines on one of the fastest short tracks in the land.
“World Series is an unbelievable weekend, you have close to 400 cars there over 20 divisions. The Tour this year has just short of 40 cars for the weekend, which is unbelievable in itself. It’s a really diverse schedule from Street Stocks to ACT Late Models, and multiple Modified divisions. There’s a lot of racing over three days, it’s a fun weekend to be a part of, and it’s great for the Tour to headline it year after year and close our schedule.”
While the work schedule for the two days the Whelen Modified Tour teams will in be in attendance is high, the No. 51 team always finds the time to unwind and enjoy the weekend’s splendor for themselves.
“Usually after we qualify on Saturday the whole team will go up in the grandstands, have a beer or two, and watch all the features that run on Saturday night. You got the MRS race, the ACT Late Models, the NEMA Midgets, the Pro 4 Modifieds, all kinds of cool stuff. It’s just great to sit up there with friends and family, and just watch the races. As long as it’s not too cold it’s very enjoyable.”
Once race day comes around on Sunday morning, the thrill of hearing all the cars first fire up at high noon is still an experience that gets Bonsignore pumped up.
“Back before when we had the garages at Thompson and when I was fan before we got started, we’d walk back into the pit area, everybody would be pitted on both sides and the teams would have cars set up on jacks. Then they would fire their cars and that was just a really cool feeling, it’s a little different with the garages, but it’s cool to have the fans coming through, the place is just mobbed on Sunday morning. It’s cool to sit back on the trailer and see that.”
With the thrill and tradition of the World Series comes the realization that the racing schedule for the Whelen Modified Tour and many other divisions is at an end for another year, with the clutches of winter not far behind. But, that doesn’t mean that the work is going to stop, whether or not you come home with a trophy.
“Bittersweet to end the end the year, especially when you have been running good during the year, and winning races. But, come Monday morning we’ll be fully focused on 2020. Start getting the cars torn down immediately I’m sure, and just start planning for next year, and see what we can do better and what to improve.”
To hear more of Speed51’s interview with Justin Bonsignore on the Morning Bullring from this past Monday click here.
Be sure to stay with Speed51.com this coming weekend for coverage from all three days of the 57th Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Rick Ibsen