The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) for the second time in 2018 for the Thompson 125 on Wednesday night. With two wins to his credit already this season, points leader Justin Bonsignore was looking to continue his early season momentum. The driver from Holtsville, New York was able to do just that with a fast pit stop leading him to his third win of the season.
At the start of the night, five-time and defending Tour champion Doug Coby seemed to have the leg up, starting from the pole and leading early on. Even when Bonsignore took the lead for a short period of time, Coby seemed to have turned the tables by running the No. 51 down to retake the lead.
Soon Bonsignore fell to fourth, as Coby held the lead from Ryan Preece in a spirited 50-lap duel. The long green flag run to start the night finally ended after 90 laps. That brought the leaders to pit road, with the Ken Massa Motorsports crew turning the tables and getting their man Bonsignore back to the lead, where he would stay for good over the final 30 laps.
“I didn’t have the best car to start the race. Just a little too free to run with Doug, but good to get some points for leading. I just fell into a rhythm running fourth. I figured if we got a restart we’d be in good shape,” Bonsignore said after the race.
“As the laps wind down, it kind of narrows down everyone’s strategy to where everyone stops at once. The guys won us that race. They got us off of pit road first right in front of Doug which was good. You know how crucial the top is here. I got a good start both times to clear him.”
As for what the Ryan Stone-led crew did for adjustments, Bonsignore was not entirely sure, knowing they had switched to the softer optional tire compound.
“Everybody puts the option tire on now. It’s kind of the thing. You can’t win without it. I don’t really know (what adjustments they made). I didn’t ask. They put the option tire on and said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’”
Coby fell behind Rowan Pennink in the closing laps to eventually finish third, coming up just short in what had been a momentum building race after a tough start to the year.
“I think our car stayed the same. I think they all got better,” Coby said after the race. “If the race had stayed green, we might have won. But you get us bunched up on fresh tires after a caution, you’ve got to feel the car out real quick and have at it. Justin was really good and so was Rowan. We had a third-place car and we got third.”
After getting by Coby following a second yellow flag, Pennink gave Bonsignore a run for a number of laps before Bonsignore could open the lead back up again with two laps to go.
“I thought we were good enough not to have to compete with anybody, but Rowan gave us a good run those last 15 laps or so. But I was able to get back into my rhythm and drive away from him,” Bonsignore explained.
Unofficially, Bonsignore now has a 19-point lead exiting Thompson and heading to Langley Speedway (VA) on June 23. It comes in the wake of what has been an amazing run for KMM and first year crew chief Ryan Stone with the team’s new LFR chassis. Beyond that, Bonsignore feels they are taking advantage of some of his best tracks, and they still have a few more in the coming weeks.
“Before we went to Seekonk I said we have five really good race tracks coming up for us. We went there, here, Langley we ran well last year, Riverhead which is my home track, and Loudon we’ve done well at in the past, and the LFR cars are good there. I knew we had to capitalize on this stretch and if we could just keep building that points lead. Like I said last week, jokingly, the best way to points race is to win, and we have momentum on our side.”
For Coby, he is encouraged by what they had Wednesday night at the ‘Big T,’ but he still would have liked to have gotten the job done.
“Little disappointing not to have a car like they have that seems to be fast at every track. We had two years of that in 2015 and 2016 where we couldn’t do any wrong. They have that golden halo right now and it’s very well deserved.”
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be back in action on Saturday, June 23 when teams travel south to Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen
1 51 Justin Bonsignore
2 3 Rowan Pennink
3 2 Doug Coby
4 6 Ryan Preece
5 36 Dave Sapienza
6 16 Timmy Solomito
7 46 Craig Lutz
8 64 Rob Summers
9 15 Chase Dowling
10 89 Matt Swanson
11 58 Eric Goodale
12 66 Shawn Solomito
13 75 Chris Pasteryak
14 76 Jimmy Blewett
15 82 Woody Pitkat
16 63 Ray Parent
17 14 Blake Barney
18 24 Andrew Krause
19 1 Burt Myers
20 21 Ronnie Williams
21 25 Calvin Carrol
22 54 Tommy Catalano
23 18 Ken Heagy
24 26 Gary McDonald
25 78 Walt Sutcliffe, Jr.
26 23 Joe DeGarcia
27 33 Wade Cole
28 01 Melissa Fifield
29 7 Jon McKennedy