DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A winner in two of the last three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events, Justin Bonsignore will look to build on the momentum that has thrust him into championship contention in Wednesday’s Bush’s Beans 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Bonsignore, from Holtsville, New York, stands just three tallies behind points leader Doug Coby entering the 10th of 14 scheduled events. Wins in July at New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway and last week at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park have him positioned squarely in the spotlight for the sixth annual combination race with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
Tennessee’s “World’s Fastest Half Mile” has been one of Bonsignore’s best tracks on the tour. He became the first Whelen Modified pole winner at Bristol in 2010, and has finished in the top five in three of the previous five events, including a runner-up effort to Ryan Newman in 2011.
“I’m excited to go to Bristol,” Bonsignore said. “As a team, we’ve run really good there. We’ve had a lot of speed. Different things have taken wins from us, but I’m looking forward to getting there.”
Bristol will mark the halfway point on the schedule for the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, but for the northeast-based tour, the championship is coming into focus with just four events left after the Bush’s Beans 150.
“From there [Bristol] we’ve got a little bit of a break, and then that last stretch to end the year,” Bonsignore said. “It’s running out quick. We’re going to try our best to make a fight at it.”
On paper, Bristol looks to be an advantage for Bonsignore in an attempt to catch or overtake Coby this week. Coby has competed in only three of the previous five combo races, and has an average finish of 14th.
Despite the numbers, Bonsignore was unwilling to concede an advantage heading to Bristol.
“The 2 [Coby] hasn’t missed a beat all year, and I don’t plan it [at Bristol], so they’ve got to be the favorites,” Bonsignore said.
The stakes will be high for the title contenders at Bristol. With 38 entries for 36 starting positions as of Monday, Bonsignore and Coby will have to contend with the largest starting grid of the season, and at the fastest track on the schedule.
RACE: Bush’s Beans 150
PLACE: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
DATE: Wednesday, Aug. 20
TIME: 6:15 p.m. ET
TELEVISION: Sunday, Aug. 31, 12 p.m., Fox Sports 1
TRACK LAYOUT: .533-mile, high-banked concrete oval
2013 WINNER: Mike Stefanik (NWMT and overall) / Burt Myers (NWSMT)
2013 POLESITTER: Donny Lia (NWMT and overall) / Tim Brown (NWSMT)
EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice 8:30-9:50 a.m., Final Practice 11-11:50 a.m., Driver Autograph Session 1:45-2:15 p.m., Qualifying 2:45 p.m.
TRACK TWITTER: @BMSupdates
EVENT HASHTAGS: #BushsBeans150, #ItsBristolBaby
The Race: The sixth annual Bush’s Beans 150 will be the 10th of 14 races for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the seventh of 14 events for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the lone combination points race for the two tours this year.
The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 30 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (79.95 miles). The race will have a five-minute midway break at or near the conclusion of Lap 75 and the tire change rule is four tires, any position.
The Track: Nicknamed the “World’s Fastest Half Mile,” Bristol Motor Speedway is a high-banked concrete oval. The track opened in 1961 as an even half-mile with 22 degrees of banking in the turns. It now features progressive banking approaching 30 degrees through the corners and a distance of .533 miles.
Race Winners: Donny Lia was victorious in 2009’s inaugural Bristol running and Ryan Newman is the event’s only two-time overall winner. George Brunnhoelzl III has twice been the highest-finishing Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver, and received credit for a win for that tour. Each of the first five editions have been won by a Whelen Modified Tour entry.
Pole Winners: Qualifying was rained out for the inaugural event and Justin Bonsignore took the first Coors Light Pole at Bristol in 2010. Lia holds the Whelen Modified track qualifying record at 14.806 seconds (129.596 seconds), set last year.
Bristol Race Notes
Combo Race Format: Combination races are nothing new to NASCAR’s regional touring series. The NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours have contested combination events since 2005, first at Martinsville Speedway and presently at Bristol Motor Speedway, while the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and K&N Pro Series West have two annual combo dates at Iowa Speedway. In these combination races, the teams race for an overall finishing position and purse, but compete relative to their own tours for championship points. For example, last year Mike Stefanik took the checkered flag at Bristol and earned a win for the Whelen Modified Tour while Burt Myers, who crossed the finish line ninth, was credited with a Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory as that tour’s highest finisher.
South Still Searching for Combo Victory: Wednesday’s race will mark the 12th head-to-head, points-paying combination race between the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours. Through the first five editions of the Bush’s Beans 150 at Bristol, and the six combo races between the two tours at Martinsville from 2005-10, the southern contingent is still seeking its first victory over its northern counterparts. James Civali – a Connecticut native – has the highest finish of a designated southern driver through the first five Bristol races when he crossed the line third overall in 2010 and was credited with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory for his efforts.
Christopher Seeks Elusive Bristol Victory: Perhaps no driver has been more dominant in the previous four editions of the Bush’s Beans 150 at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile” than Ted Christopher, but he’s yet to have anything to show for it. Christopher finished second to Donny Lia in 2009’s inaugural event after leading a race-high 110 circuits, then had to settle for an 18th-place result in 2010 when he again led the most laps – 80 – but suffered a late-race engine failure. Christopher did not participate in the 2011 race, but came back in 2012 to lead 46 more laps before getting wrecked out on Lap 105. Despite missing the 2011 race, he is still the laps led leader there with 236, 107 more than two-time winner Ryan Newman. Christopher, who ranks third in Whelen Modified Tour history with 42 career wins, has been victorious at 12-different tracks during his career.
Seuss Seeks to Add Bristol to Wins List: An 18-time winner during his Whelen Southern Modified Tour career, Andy Seuss has captured checkered flags at nine different tracks, but that list doesn’t include Bristol. Seuss has competed in all five previous combo races at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile,” and although he’s posted an average finish of sixth relative to his fellow southern tour competitors, he’s yet to finish ahead of the pack. Seuss’ best finish among Whelen Southern Modified Tour drivers at Bristol was second in 2011.
Seuss-Brunnhoelzl Battle Heads to BMS: Seuss and George Brunnhoelzl III are the winningest drivers in Whelen Southern Modified Tour history, and this year’s championship figures to go to one or the other. Seuss has a season-high 23-point lead in the standings entering Bristol, but there is still more than half of the season to go, plenty of time for the four-time champ Brunnhoelzl to get back into contention. Brunnhoelzl was the Bristol southern tour winner in both 2009 and 2012.
Two-Time Bristol Winner Newman Back for More: A four-time winner overall in Whelen Modified Tour action, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman came out victorious in the 2010 and 2011 events at Bristol. In his only previous modified appearance this year, Newman finished fourth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, which is where his other two career triumphs have been earned. Newman did also run, and won, the non-points Whelen All-Star Shootout during New Hampshire weekend.
Gale to Attempt Modified Debut: A veteran of 70 combined starts between the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Cale Gale will attempt to make his Whelen Modified debut on Wednesday at Bristol. It won’t be Gale’s first time behind the wheel of a modified, however, as he has starts this year in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at Bowman Gray Stadium. Bristol will also be familiar to Gale, who’s one Nationwide Series and one Camping World Truck Series poles were earned on the .533-mile high banks.
Szegedy Back to BMS With Special Car Tribute: The Bristol runner-up each of the two previous seasons, Todd Szegedy is set to return to BMS this year with a new team, and with added incentive. Szegedy’s No. 15 15-40 Connection Chevrolet of Rob Fuller Motorsports will carry a decal honoring Stephanie Corliss, a Stage 4 cancer survivor from Leominster, Massachusetts. This is part of a season-long effort by the No. 15 RFM team that is partnered with 15-40 Connection, a Massachusetts-based organization that raises awareness of young adults ages 15 to 40 dealing with cancer.
Tour TV Time: This week’s Bush’s Beans 150 will be one of five Whelen Modified Tour races that will be televised this year. The sixth annual combination race will air on August 31 at noon on Fox Sports 1. The tour’s return to New Hampshire in September and the season finale at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park are still to come on the 2014 telecast schedule.
Home Tracks: VanDyke Leads Volunteer State
Kres VanDyke’s success this year at Kingsport Speedway has him in position not only for a track title, but for a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series state championship. Through the latest national points standings updated on Aug. 12, VanDyke accumulated 451 points to lead the Volunteer State standings by a commanding 97 tallies over Chad Finchum out of Kingsport’s late model division. VanDyke had five wins and 12 top fives in 13 starts.
NWMT Last Time Out: Thompson
The most recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race was held at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Aug. 14. Here are some highlights from the Budweiser King of Beers 150:
- Justin Bonsignore took home the checkered flag for the third time this season, and sixth time in his career.
- Matt Hirschman finished as the runner-up for his best result since the 2008 season.
- Points leader Doug Coby crossed the line third to stay ahead of Bonsignore by three tallies.
- Donny Lia captured his 20th career Coors Light Pole prior to the event, but was caught up in an accident on Lap 124 and finished 22nd.
NWSMT Last Time Out: Bowman Gray
The sixth race of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season took place on Saturday, Aug. 2 at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Here are some highlights from the Strutmasters.com 199:
- Danny Bohn survived a wild final lap and was able to hold on and score his second tour win at the track.
- Points leader Andy Seuss rebounded from an early race incident to finish fourth while second-place George Brunnhoelzl III experienced motor woes and finished 16th. Seuss was able to build his lead to 23 points over the four-time champion.
- Spencer Davis finished fifth to win his second consecutive Sunoco Rookie of the Race honor.
NWMT Next Time Out: Riverhead
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to New York’s Riverhead Raceway for the Riverhead 200 on Saturday, Sept. 13. It will be the second and final event of the season at the Long Island quarter-mile after Eric Goodale drove to Victory Lane at the bullring on June 28.
NWSMT Next Time Out: Langley
Following this week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the second half of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule will begin with the second tour stop of the season at Langley Speedway on Labor Day weekend. George Brunnhoelzl III was able to pass Andy Seuss on Lap 85 and go on to win the spring event at the oval in Hampton, Virginia.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release – Photo Credit: Speed51.com