The last few NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events have been as aggressive as many people can remember. It seems that if you were to name a driver, chances are that driver is angry at somebody. So it’s only natural that the Tour heads to its smallest race track next.
On Saturday night the ground-pounders will take on the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. The tight confines of the quarter-mile bullring make it the perfect place for some payback. That fact has some drivers on high-alert for an extra rough race at “The Head.”
“The Tour in general seems to be pretty rough this year,” said Justin Bonsignore, the winner of the last two Riverhead NWMT races. “It’s not something that I think any of us drivers should be proud about. Hopefully the officials can reign that back in a bit and get things back under control. But Riverhead and pretty much any short track is going to provide some more aggressive racing than usual.”
“It just seems like tempers are a little bit high and the retaliation level has been a little bit higher than normal,” Timmy Solomito told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “There’s been a lot of taking and no giving. There’s been a couple instances this year where guys are seeing holes and they fill them and there’s been three or four guys racing for the same piece of real estate at one time. Unfortunately, when that happens you have wrecks and you have carnage and you have a lot of people upset.”
Solomito, who started the season off by scoring his first NWMT win at the Icebreaker at Thompson (CT), seems to be the one on the short-end of the stick lately. If there’s going to be a crash, the youngest Solomito is going to be involved in it. Solomito has crashed in each of the last three races.
When talking about his luck, or lack thereof, over the past three races, Solomito echoed his fellow Long Islander’s thoughts.
“Hopefully they get the series back under control and everyone races with a smart head on Saturday night and we don’t tear anything up,” said Solomito. “We’ve had three races now with torn up cars. We can’t really afford another one.”
At the end of the most recent race at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park there were plenty of angry drivers. Timmy Solomito and his older brother Shawn were both angry at Rowan Pennink, Jimmy Blewett too was angry at Pennink, and they weren’t the only drivers angry at each other.
So with that in mind, are these drivers expecting to see some retaliatory moves?
“It’s sometimes in the back of your mind,” Bonsignore said. “You have to keep an eye on people that you may have gotten into it with, but you just have to go out there and run your own race. Typically, things aren’t intentional in racing and I think a lot of the guys in our series understand that. They may try to rough you up, but I don’t think you should just intentionally wreck somebody. I don’t see anybody intentionally wrecking anybody. I hope not. I don’t think that’s what our series needs to have in it.”
Solomito said he doesn’t expect to be looking for any payback on anybody come Saturday night. He plans to instead be looking for the checkered flag at the end of 200 laps.
“Coming up from go-karts racing at Riverhead and winning Modified races there and Street Stock races there and everything else, it would be huge to win there in front of my hometown crowd,” he said. “That’s what we want to do. That’s been a goal since I set out on the Tour. Hopefully it finally comes true.”
Bonsignore too said he’s not looking to exact any revenge on anybody. Instead he’s looking to score his third straight win at Riverhead, which would tie him with Mike Ewanitsko and Ryan Preece as the only three drivers to win three in a row there.
“That would be huge,” Bonsignore said. “To tie anything with Mike Ewanitsko’s name on it would be awesome. Ryan had a really good stretch there when he won three in a row. We actually ran second I think almost every time. We’d love to do it. I know we’ll have the car to do it.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor –Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen