THOMPSON, Conn. — Even though he finished third in the championship standings last year, Justin Bonsignore struggled for much of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season.
As a result, over the latest offseason, his Kenneth Massa Motorsports team decided they needed to make a change. The team switched to LFR Chassis and brought Ryan Stone on board as crew chief, in what Bonsignore called a complete “reboot.”
Sunday, in the 44th annual Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Bonsignore took his new combination to the winner’s circle in just their second effort as a team. The victory was the 13th of his Whelen Modified Tour career, and his sixth on the .625-mile high-banked oval, making him the active leader in victories at the track.
“It was tough,” Bonsignore said of his struggles throughout last year. “The 2017 season humbled me a lot as a person, as a race car driver, it was just a really tough season. To come back and have a really good car at Myrtle Beach, and come here and have luck go our way today and get a win, it’s a really good feeling.”
Even though he carried the checkered flag, his return didn’t come without an array of close calls. On Lap 1, Bonsignore locked the brakes up going into Turn 3, and nearly made contact with defending race winner Rowan Pennink. In the final laps, the Holtsville, New York, driver found himself chasing Jon McKennedy looking to capture Thompson magic once again.
Coming down for a restart with five laps to go, McKennedy’s No. 7 Accell Construction Chevrolet ran out of fuel in Turn 3. Bonsignore inherited the lead for the final restart, but had to hold off a furious charge by Ronnie Williams on a green-white-checkered finish. Williams, who won his first career pole earlier in the day, was involved in a last-lap wreck, while Bonsignore went around and captured the checkered flag.
“We had a really good car,” Bonsignore said. “I’ll take the luck any day of the week. I knew Ronnie was going to be anxious. We have all been there, looking for our first win. I got a good launch on the restart. I really just love winning at Thompson.”
Craig Lutz put together an impressive final stint of the race to charge through the field and finish second, while Pennink, in his first race back since offseason back surgery, finished third.
Ryan Preece and Matt Swanson completed the top five.
Doug Coby rebounded from two wrecks and finished sixth, followed by Rob Summers, Chase Dowling, Bobby Santos and Timmy Solomito. Williams ended up 19th and McKennedy 20th.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track for the NAPA Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 29.