Even though they only have five races together so far, Justin Bonsignore and his new crew chief Ryan Stone are putting on quite the show in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competition.
Thursday, in the Thompson 125 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut, Bonsignore placed the No. 51 Kenneth Massa Motorsports Chevrolet into Victory Lane for the third time in five starts in 2018. The victory was the 15th of his career, seventh at Thompson, and his second of the season on the high-banks.
More importantly, the checkered flag helped him continue to isolate himself as the championship favorite — as he now holds a 19-point advantage over rising star Chase Dowling in the title race. Craig Lutz is third, 29 points back, while all of the other challengers sit more than 40 points from the top.
The Holtsville, New York, veteran is confident, but also cautious looking ahead to the final 11 races.
“We just have to keep our heads down, and keep focused,” Bonsignore said.
He has been quick to note that anything can happen, and momentum can shift easily with the competition level on the track.
POST-RACE AUDIO: Bonsignore Wins Again at Thompson
Coby, Preece Put On Riveting Battle For Top Spot
Even though Bonsignore ended up with the checkered flag, the first 92 laps of the race went green, and the fierce battle for the lead for much of that stretch saw two former champions battling it out through lapped traffic. Doug Coby, who led a race-high 82 laps, seemed to find some rhythm after getting off to another slow start this season. Preece, who started 10th, worked his way to the front and chased Coby’s No. 2 Mayhew Tools Chevrolet for much of the first half. After multiple attempts to make the bottom work, and efforts to try the top, Preece had to settle behind, and allowed Coby to place a gap out front.
The race between the two most recent series champions, as they cut through the lapped traffic and raced three-wide at times, put on a classic Thursday night short-track show.
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) June 15, 2018
Pennink Continues To Show Speed
Rowan Pennink missed the season-opener at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway with a back injury, but since his return to competition, it’s been difficult for anyone to slow him down. Pennink continued his impressive show of speed in the Thompson 125, capturing his fourth straight top-five finish to open his season.
He has a finish of fourth, two thirds, and now a second following the most recent stop at Thompson.
“Obviously, when you are that close to being able to win a race, you want to get it, but it could be a lot worse,” Pennink said. “I didn’t want to miss that race, but these guys have brought fast cars to the race track every week. We haven’t run a race this season where we didn’t end up in tech, and you can’t complain about that.”
POST-RACE AUDIO: Rowan Pennink Finds More Speed at Thompson
- Chase Dowling, who had been matching Bonsignore’s stellar start to the season entering Thompson, finished ninth — his worst effort of the season so far. Dowling started 11th, and ran most of the first green flag stint inside the top 10, slowly working his way to the front. During the lap 92 caution, he pitted, and came out inside the top five, but lost ground on the restart and wasn’t able to gain it back. Dowling still sits second in points, and certainly his finish of ninth shouldn’t cause any concern for the team or his fans.
- Dave Sapienza put together a quiet, but impressive effort on Thursday and was able to come home fifth at the checkered flag. He started ninth, and was able to stay on the lead lap while Doug Coby and Ryan Preece placed much of the field down a circuit, which ended up helping him in the long run. In the end, Sapienza was able to make some moves in the final laps and capture his fifth career top five.
- Ronnie Williams entered the race with a lot of optimism, was fastest in practice, and qualified second for the Thompson 125. However, much like his experience in the Icebreaker, Williams went backwards at the green, and this time, he wasn’t able to rebound. He finished 20th.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams will now have their fastest turnaround between races so far. The series returns to the track at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on Saturday, June 23, for the second straight year.
— NASCAR Home Tracks (@NASCARHomeTrack) June 15, 2018