Justin Bonsignore and Ryan Preece squared off in a heavyweight matchup for the ages in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Buzz Chew Auto Group 200 at Long Island’s Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night. The pair traded passes for the lead multiple times over the course of the final 100 laps, but ultimately it was Bonsignore who was celebrating in victory lane for the fourth time this season.
Bonsignore, who entered the night as the points leader, led the day’s only practice session, and won the pole position. However, Bonsignore lost the lead on the initial start to Timmy Solomito.
But, the Holtsville, New York native didn’t waiver and instead stayed right behind Solomito for many of the opening laps until Preece was able to work his way by both drivers. Bonsignore followed Preece by Solomito and ran in second behind Preece for the rest of the first half of the race.
The caution flag waved right at the halfway mark for an incident between Rob Summers and Craig Lutz, and that caution was the equivalent of hitting the restart button on a video game.
Preece to the inside. Bonsignore to the outside. That’s where they stayed for five laps as they ran side-by-side before Bonsignore prevailed from the outside line.
From there the two veteran Modified drivers put on a performance that will be talked about for years to come as they worked inside and outside of lapped traffic, all the while trading passes for the lead and even some paint as they made contact on more than one occasion.
“I got the lead on that restart, which was an awesome battle,” said Bonsignore. “We were leaning on each other. Not wrecking and not doing anything rough but just leaning on each other. I got the lead there and then he snookered me in lapped traffic. I kind of gave it back to him and I was determined to not lose the race because of that.”
Bonsignore took the lead back for the final time with a daring move into turn three as he slid underneath Preece’s No. 6 machine. From there, Bonsignore just had to continue to manage traffic as he and Preece caught drivers who were battling within the top five.
“Lapped traffic was crazy when you have almost a 100-lap green flag run,” Bonsignore said. “We caught fourth through eighth or whatever it was and they’re not just going to pull over. Honestly, when we got into traffic like that the second time I wasn’t going to let him snooker me again. It was a great battle and a lot of fun and I’m glad we were able to come out on top.”
Preece came home in the second spot, followed by Doug Coby in third, who was almost half a lap down to the top two. Those three cars were the only three cars on the lead lap.
Even though Preece didn’t get the win, he said after the race that he had a lot of fun battling with Bonsignore through the traffic and was amazed at how deep into the field they were lapping cars.
“Did we lap all the way to fourth? That’s freaking dope,” exclaimed Preece afterwards. “He was just better at the end when it counted. But I’m pumped. This is the best race I’ve had here in a long time. I had a fun race. Sometimes, us as racers, we lose sight of the fun part of it for more of the competitive part. I’m very competitive, but I’m super pumped with what kind of a show we put on. That’s what racing is all about is a show for the fans and I felt he and I were able to do that today.”
After winning for the fifth time in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competition at his home track of Riverhead, Bonsignore was walking back to the pit area from victory lane and he paused for a moment of reflection.
“Man. That’s the most fun I’ve had racing here in a long time. I’ve won five here now and we’ve had some great races, but that battle and those moves were as good as it gets.”
That’s what every fan thought as they walked out of Riverhead Raceway too.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Associate Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Buzz Chew Auto Group 200
Riverhead Raceway, Riverhead, New York
|8||82||Tom Rogers Jr.|
|15||5||John Beatty Jr|
|19||34||John Fortin Jr|