The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ended an unpredictable 2020 season Saturday afternoon at a familiar place – the 58th Annual World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. At the end of the World Series 150, a pair of drivers from Long Island celebrated major feats in victory lane.
Craig Lutz of Miller Place, New York celebrated his first World Series victory, while Holtsville, New York’s Justin Bonsignore claimed his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in three years.
Lutz ran a competitive race all afternoon, consistently hanging out around the top five. A mid-race pit stop let him make the adjustments he needed, and he was able to hold off the white-hot Jon McKennedy and his Tommy Baldwin Racing team to score his second NWMT win of the season.
“As soon as the race got going, the 7 (McKennedy) got out front,” Lutz said. “I was second, and I think we were pretty even the first 70-something laps until that caution. I knew that if things worked out, it was going to be between me and him. But it was just hard racing. We got out to a pretty big lead and then the caution came out, and at Thompson, the restarts with ten to go here are brutal. I was able to get the spot back, hold on, and pull it off.”
McKennedy was participating in his second race of the day, having won the 50-lap ISMA Supermodified feature to kick off Sunday’s event. He had an extremely fast car all afternoon, but late-race contact with Ron Silk ended his bid for victory.
“It was a good race, both our cars were really good,” McKennedy said. “Tommy [Baldwin] and the guys gave me a really good car today, the guys on pit road were awesome. We were in position to win there at the end, but the 85 [of Silk] got into me with a few laps to go, and our chance to winning was down the drain after that. But overall a great weekend, a lot to be proud of.”
Although Lutz won the 150-lap battle, it was Bonsignore winning the season-long war. In nine races, he finished no lower than fifth, often with fields of more than 30 cars.
“It’s special to come back,” Bonsignore said. “We just missed it last year in our shot to defend. We were really gunning to come back this year and win the title, and then obviously COVID hits and you don’t know what to expect. It’s a tough year, but we went out and had a top five in every race, I think we led laps in all but one. Really proud of everybody involved in this team, and can’t thank them enough for everything they do.”
Despite winning the 2020 title, and his second title in three years, Bonsignore thinks this team still has more potential to unlock.
“I think if anything, we’ve kind of just maintained,” he said. “When we started the season, I felt like we were a little bit better than everybody at some race tracks, but I feel like guys worked hard and other chassis groups have been trying hard to try and beat us and they’re definitely right there with us, so we’re going to work hard over the winter and head into 2021.”
Stay tuned to Speed51.TV for more post-race coverage of Sunday’s Sunoco World Series at Thompson.
-Story by Ian Pettigrew, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51