Matt Gruenberg went into Tuesday night’s Speed51 Elite Modified Tour season finale at Bristol Motor Speedway with one goal: to win the series championship. He would clinch the inaugural series championship in the biggest way possible by parking it in victory lane at “The Last Great Colosseum.”
Gruenberg pressured early-race leader Max Cookson throughout the first half of the 150-lap event. After the halfway break, Gruenberg saw himself in the same position, but behind a different driver with the last name of Tour-Type Modified royalty. Gruenberg would take the lead from Mike Christopher Jr. on lap-88 and would lead the rest of the way for the win and the series championship.
“That was a really fun race, getting to race with some of those guys up front there,” Gruenberg said on the broadcast. “It’s not every day I get to race with Max J. Cookson, so it was fun to race against him. I knew he was going to be pretty quick but we ended up getting by him on pit road. I think that was a lot easier than passing him on the track, I could get to his bumper but I didn’t know how I was going to get by him. Wrestling the lead away from (Christopher) was quite the challenge, but all in all a great race and glad we could get the win. That’s one way to not lose the championship right there.”
A couple of big incidents took place in the duration of the race that altered the frontrunners, including one which saw defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore go for a ride on his roof just after the lap-100 mark while battling inside the top 10. It appeared the race would end on a long green-flag run, but a yellow with five laps to go set up a green-white-checkered for the season finale.
The championship became a virtual lock in said caution when closest points competitor Chad Frankenfield was also involved in the incident. Gruenberg and Frankfenfield, the owner of the league, have had a rivalry with each other in other eSports racing leagues. With not being able to compete in the second season of the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour due to other obligations, being able to go out as champion and with bragging rights made the win even more special.
“It was nice to win the inaugural season and it was great to get a win on Speed51,” he said. “I hadn’t gotten one of those before so that was pretty cool. Just winning in Chad’s league, it’s just kind of sticking it to Chad some more. I know we have a rivalry in 3 Wide, so I can have bragging rights on him now.”
Christopher would finish second, followed by Brandon Wilkinson, Cookson, and Thompson race winner Ryan Lutz completing the top five.
The Speed51 Elite Modified Tour will have next week off before their second season begins on Tuesday, October 15th at New Smyrna Speedway. Speed51 will broadcast every race during Season #2 live for free, starting at New Smyrna in two weeks.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com