Justin Bonsignore’s chances of winning his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship are looking even better after Wednesday night.
The Holtsville, New York, driver scored his fifth win of the 2018 season in the Bud “King of Beers” 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park — which was also his third in three races at the Connecticut oval this season.
The victory allowed him to open his points lead to 58 points over Chase Dowling with just six races remaining.
“It was a great race car, as always,” Bonsignore said. “We were able to lead some laps early, and then I let Chase go, and I kinda stalked him for a while. I pushed hard right around halfway to get back the lead, we knew weather was in the area. The guys did a great job with the pit stop. I was trying to save fuel as much as possible under green.”
Bonsignore’s success is eerily similar to when Doug Coby put together seven victories in his first season driving for LFR Chassis in 2015. During that campaign, Coby swept all four races at Thompson and went on to win the Whelen Modified Tour championship.
When the series returns to Thompson in October to crown the champion, Bonsignore will have the chance to complete the clean sweep at the 0.625-mile oval, and will also have the chance to seal his first title. But he knows there is a long way to go before that day.
“I just can’t believe the season we are having,” he said. “We just have to keep it going for this next stretch.”
Matt Swanson Makes Most of His Opportunity
Less than 24 hours before the garage opened for the Bud “King of Beers” 150, Matt Swanson’s mindset changed completely. In the late hours of Tuesday night, Swanson got a phone call from Boehler Racing, wondering if he would like to drive their No. 3 Mosquito Free/USNE Chevrolet.
Of course Swanson took the call and ran with it. While Rowan Pennink was on the sidelines following the birth of his first child, Swanson took the wheel and drove the famed “Ole Blue” machine to a second-place finish with additional sponsorship help from his own sponsor, Starrett Tools.
“The No. 3 guys called last night, and asked if I would want to drive their car with Rowan having his baby,” Swanson said. “They told me to go give it all I had, and I think we definitely did that tonight.”
Prior to Wednesday night, Swanson’s best career Whelen Modified Tour finish was a third at Thompson in 2016. He also finished fifth in the Icebreaker 150 at the Connecticut oval in April.
In many ways, even though it was only a one-race deal, the opportunity and the end result will leave Swanson booming with confidence.
“You have those weekends where you have off nights, and it can give you a little bit of doubt,” Swanson said. “We stepped back a little bit this year, and we have definitely been way better. Tonight is definitely a confidence booster for all of us.”
Strategy Doesn’t Work Out For Coby
It looked like Doug Coby may be in the right position to score his first Thompson victory since 2015 on Wednesday. The first 88 laps of the race went under the green flag, and even though Coby fell back early, he was able to work his way back through the field and run third just before the drop of the caution flag.
When the leaders pitted, Coby stayed out, took the advantage in the race, and started hoping he got a caution at the right time in the final laps for the tire strategy to be able to work.
Then, as he fell back through the field hanging on while others flashed by on fresh Hoosier rubber, Coby went spinning in turn two, drawing the caution on lap 123. It gave him the chance to get the tires he needed.
“I was hoping for a caution a little bit sooner,” Coby said after the race. “I just got out of control. I was hanging on. When the tires go away, you have to be in one spot, and if you get out of it, it is tough to hang on. We got the tires and we charged up through, but luckily a lot of these guys were way off today. I knew Justin was really good.”
He was able to charge back to the front and finish third, but it still wasn’t exactly what the five-time and defending series champion was looking for. With just six races to go, his chances of winning another title are all but gone at this point. The third-place effort marked the first time all year that he finished inside the top five in consecutive events.
Bud “King of Beers” 150 Race Notebook:
- Chase Dowling led 63 laps, and finished fourth, putting a together a solid effort for his LFR team. However, with Bonsignore’s win, Dowling still lost ground in the championship chase.
- Woody Pitkat finished sixth, posting his second straight run inside the top-10. Pitkat started 11th, ran inside and around the top-10 all night, and charged through the field late to score another strong finish.
- Andrew Krause posted a seventh-place finish, which marked his fourth top-10 of his career.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to the track next Thursday, August 16, at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.