The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned to Long Island for their second stop of 2015 at Riverhead Raceway (NY) Saturday night. Noticeable were some slight differences from back in June, but a couple of the same results remained.
The weather this time around was absolutely beautiful and without a drop of rain. A full moon gleamed from the evening sky, but tempers were quite calm and after a few early cautions a long green flag run set the stage for the second half of the 200 lap event.
On the ensuing restart after a more than 50 lap run under green, June winner Justin Bonsignore was able to get an outstanding start on race leader Doug Coby from the outside. From then on, nobody was able to pass the No. 51 despite receiving some challenges.
“I honestly expected to get in line behind (Coby) and keep following and see if I could make him wear his stuff out,” Bonsignore told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I don’t know if he spun his tires or if he just didn’t get a good start, and I fired where I was supposed to at the box. By the start-finish line my spotter was screaming clear so I just took whatever shot he was willing to give me down into one.”
The cause of the subpar restart indeed was due to spinning the tires, according to Coby. The defending champion remains winless in NWMT competition at Riverhead, but came home second.
“We had a better car than Justin,” Coby stated. “As soon as he got the lead it seemed like we couldn’t get a long green flag run. It’s my best finish ever hear so I shouldn’t be too upset about it, but the reality is these guys keep giving me a good car. It’s my job to deliver wins, and I didn’t.”
Bonsignore became the fifth driver in series history to sweep both of a season’s races at Riverhead.
“You can control your pace and control the race so easily at Riverhead,” Bonsignore explained. “I have a lot of experience with that and it just definitely paid off tonight to be able to protect that bottom. Doug did everything he could possibly do using every inch of the pavement tonight, but that’s what he gets paid to do and I get paid to protect my position as much as I can. It was a great night. Really cool to sweep. It’s been a pretty tough year for us so to be able to at least have that in our back pocket this year is cool.”
What was even more meaningful for the Long Island driver was to accomplish the feat in front of Jim and Barbara Cromarty, the longtime and departing owners of Riverhead Raceway after recently closing a deal to sell the facility to NWMT car owner Ed Partridge.
“They have been a part of my racing career in some way since I was eight years old racing go karts,” Bosnignore said. “It was cool to see it packed for the Cromartys. We really owe them a lot of gratitude for everything they have done over the years. They didn’t need to stay in business and do this, but they did it for the love of racing and very thankful for them.”
Bonsignore also is optimistic about the future of his home track.
“Hopefully we can continue forward with the new ownership,” Bonsignore added. “It’s a great thing for Long Island. Everybody knows how tough it is to have race tracks around here and it’s amazing that the Partridges were able to put up that kind of money to continue racing for us, kids that are just coming up, for other people, for everybody, even the fans that come out and enjoy it.
Leading series rookie Chase Dowling turned in an impressive best career third-place finish, showing at times that he may have had something for the front two drivers.
“Justin was really doing what he’s got to do,” Dowling said. “I just gave it my all. I tried shifting at the right points and tried dropping in on them, but Doug Coby, a champion, he’s good. He wasn’t going to let me in. I just gave it my all tonight, dropped in behind him, and had a good run so can’t complain at all.”
It is a definite improvement for the young Connecticut driver and a new team, with an immense amount of help from former champion Jamie Tomaino, from the start of the season to now.
“We started off this year with a lot of mechanical problems,” Dowling recapped. “The beginning of the year we were struggling in 24th in points and now we were 10th coming into this race. Just a turnaround from the beginning of the year to now with a notebook and our crew. This team has come a long way.”
Second-place finisher Coby, a two-time series champion, even went on to commend Dowling for his performance.
“Chase Dowling did a phenomenal job racing with us,” Coby said. “If somebody else was up there I probably would have gotten punted further back. He gave me a lot of room and let me go after Justin.”
Rounding out the top five were Donny Lia and Eric Goodale, recording respectable finishes at the track both formerly raced weekly at.
NASCAR Whelen All American Series local Modified division point leader Tom Rogers Jr. swept the pole award at Riverhead for the season and led the opening laps, but faded late to a sixth place finish.
Behind Rogers, the season-long championship battle between Ryan Preece and Woody Pitkat remained close. Pitkat was as high as fifth, but slipped near the end. In the closing laps, Pitkat would rebound and made a potentially crucial pass on Preece for a seventh place finish. That pass brings the margin down to one point separating the two. Coby closes to within 25 points of the front two.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continues to wind down with one of their biggest races of the season coming up at the end of September, the second and final stop at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Three races remain in what could be a championship battle that goes down to the wire.
Speed51.com powered the Race Central Live coverage on NASCAR Home Tracks. An on-demand replay can be found here: http://speed51.com/race-central-live-whelen-modified-tour-at-riverhead/.
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com