Justin Bonsignore returned to a place that he's quite familiar with Sunday afternoon: victory lane at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT). The driver from Holtsville, NY survived a chaotic final 50 laps to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150.
His win on Sunday was his sixth career NWMT victory at the Thompson, CT oval.
Bonsignore's path to victory lane on Sunday wasn't an easy one. The race began with him locking up his brakes and making contact with Rowan Pennink during the opening lap. He survived the contact and had a few breaks go his way to help land the No. 51 in victory lane for the first time since the 2016 World Series at Thompson.
"First of all, I just need to apologize to everyone. I just got in there a little too hot with cold brakes. I hope nobody got wrecked in that," Bonsignore said of the incident on the first lap. "Great car, just a little bit too tight all day to outrun the 15 (Chase Dowling) or 7 (Jon McKennedy) but those guys put themselves in bad positions jumping starts, and I don't know what happened to the 7. After the 2017 season I'll take some good luck."
After battling near the front of the field for most of the day, Bonsignore found himself lined up next to leader Jon McKennedy on a restart with five laps to go. Luck fell his way when McKennedy ran out of gas and slowed in turn four coming to the green flag. Bonsignore took over the lead, restarted from the preferred outside groove and held off a fierce charge from Ronnie Williams to score the win.
"Just a total reboot and in two races we've got a top five and a win. Just unbelievable," Bonsignore said. "Got a little torn up there at the end but I know Ronnie was going for the win and he had to do what he had to do, and luckily we were able to save the car."
Despite a valiant effort to score his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory, Williams' day ended in the turn one wall after contact with Bonsignore on the final lap. Williams, the pole award winner for Sunday's race, was unofficially credited with a 19th-place finish.
Another driver who saw his promising weekend come to an end in disappointing fashion was 2016 NWMT Rookie of the Year Chase Dowling, who led more laps (48) than any other driver during the race. Dowling was leading the race on a Lap 117 restart and was penalized by NASCAR for a restart violation, sending him to the rear of the field. He rebounded to finish eighth.
Craig Lutz survived the chaos in the final laps to score a career-best finish of second. Defending Icebreaker winner Rowan Pennink, NASCAR XFINTY Series racer Ryan Preece and part-time driver Matt Swanson completed the top five.
The win for Bonsignore came after a winless season in 2017. Throughout his post-race interviews with the media, he used one word more than any other. That word: humbling.
"We went through the end of 2016 and won half the races to end the season. 2017 humbled me for sure," he said. "You come to the race track and you think can win every week and you're just struggling to finish in the top 10. It will humble a person really quick."
The humbling experience that Bonsignore had in 2017 makes him appreciate the off-season investment his team made when they decided to purchase a brand new LFR Chassis.
"It makes me appreciate everything we've gone through over this winter, everything Ken Massa and his team have reinvested in this team. It was a big investment that we did."
Bonsignore will look to continue his strong start to the 2018 season on Sunday, April 29 when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour visits Stafford Motor Speedway.
Race fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage of Sunday's action by clicking here.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos
NWMT Icebreaker 150 Unofficial Results
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) - April 8, 2018
|35||78||Walt Sutcliffe, Jr.|