The quarter-mile Riverhead Raceway (NY) has gained a reputation for being a contact track on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour with its tight confines. Saturday’s Riverhead 200 provided much the same, after a clean start to the event things began to get rambunctious in the middle of the race. It all came to a head at the end with five laps to go, one lap after a restart, when contact between Doug Coby who was running second and third-place Justin Bonsignore, sent Coby spinning around in turn four.
Bonsignore had just cleared himself of Donny Lia following the restart, while Coby settled in behind eventual race winner Timmy Solomito. Coby had a bit of a gap on Bonsignore going into turn three, but in turn four the four cars were all nearly bumper to bumper on the inside when the contact occurred.
After the race, both drivers recalled the incident.
“He was free. I came in low to protect the 8 (Lia), because I had just cleared him. I was waiting for the shot from (Lia) and I rolled in right to the bumper of the 2 (Coby). I gave him a shot, I tried to check up and nobody lifted at that point,” said Bonsignore. “They throttled up behind me and at that point it was either wreck or try and not wreck really. There was nothing I could do about it, not going to wreck the guy intentionally, I don’t drive like that. It’s quarter-mile racing with less than 10 to go, it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
A frustrated Coby attributed the incident to impatience on the part of Bonsignore.
“As far as I know I was clear by a car length going into three and coming off of four,” Coby told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’m sure he got a good run because he sailed it into three because he didn’t have a car in front of him, and just drove up off of four, drove me in the bumper and spun me around. That’s all that happened, I didn’t screw up. I didn’t have a bad lap. He had a gap and he had a fast car and he drove into me and didn’t give me a break. Part of that comes from Riverhead racing but part of that just comes from being impatient and being annoying.”
Coby then went on to say that majority of his frustrations were not with Bonsignore, but instead with NASCAR officials.
“I’m not even upset with him,” said Coby. “I’m more pissed at NASCAR for not doing anything about it. They told us at the driver’s meeting that they were done with all the drivers wrecking each other. They hear this about that and everything was done, they’re watching and they’re going to do something about it and they just don’t do anything about it. So then they just look bad.”
The message in the driver’s meeting came after some aggressive driving during the previous event at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) on June 15. NASCAR did not hand down any penalties pertaining to aggressive driving at the end of Saturday night’s race.
“They stand up in front of all of us and say they don’t want a race like that; they have a perfect opportunity to set an example and I can guarantee you if I was on the other end and I had spun him out, the example would’ve been me,” said Coby. “That’s the thing I’m most frustrated about and my team is most frustrated about is that they pick the opportunities when I make a mistake to make a decision and they don’t do it consistently. That’s a fact, you just have to watch the races and see people driving into people, wrecking somebody and then there’s no call made.
“I’ll go to the back and I’ll finish 10th; it’s Riverhead, I don’t care. But make the call and put the 51 (Bonsignore) back with us, then that sends the message to everybody that you can’t spin out the second-place car that ran first or second for a 195 laps and is leading Tour points. You can’t spin him out and go on to finish second. You go to the back, that’s how it should go, and they just look bad, that’s it.”
NASCAR released the following statement about the contact between the two drivers and the decision to not penalize Bonsignore:
“It was a judgement call, and we felt it was a racing incident; a product of close quarters racing on a tight, fast track.”
This is not the first time that Coby has had a beef with NASCAR officials. Last August at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) the defending series champion was penalized for a restart box violation. NASCAR ultimately handed down a pass through penalty to Coby. He stormed back to win the race, but was very vocal about the call in his post-race interview with the media.
Now, after a fierce battle at the Riverhead bullring, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s next stop will be at the largest track on the schedule, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, on July 15-16.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen