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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Bonsignore had one goal as he began his first full-time season of competition in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour: Improve on his limited number of starts last season and get better every race.
Bonsignore used nine top-10 finishes in 11 races to finish a solid seventh in the final championship standings and as a result walks away as the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year for the southern tour.
Bonsignore and his team never stopped working harder to improve.
“We had some new people on the crew and a lot of learning to do early in the season,” Bonsignore said. “We kept working at it and we found a lot of speed at the beginning of the year.”
The first thing every race car driver will tell you is that they want speed in their race car and while Bonsignore’s car had the speed, there were still several things to work on with a new crew, car and series for the Bay Shore, New York, native.
“We had speed but we needed to work on getting the gremlins out of the way for our team,” he added. “Learning how to work well on the pit stops and just getting the car comfortable to drive were some of the things we concentrated on early in the year.”
In addition to the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honor, Bonsignore also celebrated his first Coors Light Pole Award as the highest southern tour regular to qualify at Bristol with the combination race in August.
He kept the momentum from that performance at Bristol going and two races latter scored his best finish to date coming home second to James Civali at the fall race at Virginia's South Boston Speedway.
Bonsignore finished the season strong with five consecutive top-10 showings and after that performance he wished the season didn’t end at Charlotte last week.
“Hopefully we’ll pick up right were we left off (at the end of the season),” Bonsignore said. “After learning a lot racing against modified veterans like George Brunnhoelzl III, Burt Myers, Jason Myers and others makes me want to get back out there on the track.”
Austin Pickens finished second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, followed by Shawn Balluzo, Lauren Edgerton and Robert Babb.
Rookie points are earned on a 10-to-1 system with the highest-finishing first-year driver in a race scoring 10, the second nine, and so on down to one point for the lowest finishers.
Bonsignore will receive the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award on Dec. 10 as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Series Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.