WINCHESTER, N.H. (WWLP) - Ryan Preece was amazing. But Justin Bonsignore turned out to be better en route to NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory lane Saturday night at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire.
It was the second tour win of the season for Bonsignore and the fifth of his career. He also became the first repeat mod tour winner in 10 mod tour races at The Dog. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 went flag to flag with no cautions and was completed in just 45 minutes. At the checkers, there were only six cars on the lead lap. Defending NWMT Champion Preece finished second and is so far winless at the halfway point of the season. Eric Goodale took third, rookie Tommy Barrett, Jr. was fourth, Doug Coby fifth, and Matt Hirschman got sixth.
The leader of the A-Team, Hannibal Smith in every episode always said , “I have a plan.” Coming into the race Bonsignore said his team had a plan as well. Justin explained in a post race interview, “I told Ryan right before the race ‘I just want to lead one lap, and then you can go.’ He didn’t believe me. I didn’t deviate. We knew what times we needed to run. We knew how we needed to pace ourselves. And we just stuck to it. We actually didn’t have to pick the pace up with 50 to go, we maintained and he kept falling off. Once I got by him, I just made sure to save again in case there was going to be a late restart. Just stick to the plan and it worked.”
After the race, a disappointed Preece told 22News,”We were really, really good I’d say for about 125, 140 laps, maybe 150. I knew right at the beginning probably around lap 50 or 60 that my car was good, so I kind of took it easy but at the same time I tried to lap pretty much every car that I could. I wasn’t really trying to catch them, but if I caught them, I was going to go around them. If at the end of the race we did get a caution there’s enough cars a lap down that if I wore it out that I wouldn’t fall too many spots back.”
Bonsignore driving the #51 set fast time in qualifying and started from the pole, with Preece on the outside of the front row. By lap two, it was Preece in front and he was setting a blistering pace. At the halfway point, there were only six cars on the lead lap and Preece looked unbeatable, with at one point as much as a half a track margin over second place Bonsignore. Shortly after halfway, Bonsignore had cut the difference to the length of a straightaway. The #16 team told their driver that the #51 was running on the bottom of the race track, and over their radio Preece replied, “Yeah, I can’t do that!” On lap 175 just the 2nd but final lead change of the event occurred, when Justin passed Ryan eventually winning by the distance of better than a full straight.
Wilbraham’s Glen Reen started 16th and finished 12th. After competing in all seven NWMT races so far this season, the team is 15th in points with one top 10 finish. 22News spoke with Reen at the season opening Icebreaker in April about their plans for this year. On Saturday, Reen gave 22News an update on their future: “We’re all having fun. The owner’s having fun, I’m having fun, the whole team’s really coming together real well. That’s kind of what the owner said, if we’re having fun and we’re doing alright we’re going to keep going. I think it’s still race by race. There’s no definite plans to run the whole thing but there’s also no definite plans to not. We had a bad run at Loudon unfortunately we got wrecked by two different people. The car actually needs a front clip and a rear clip right now.”
In each of the last four years on the mod tour, the points leader after the first half of the season went on to win the championship. The standings right now have Doug Coby leading with 285 points, followed by Bonsignore at 281, Bobby Santos with 277, Ted Christopher has 272, and Preece at 252. Both Coby and Santos say the outcome could be different this year. According to Coby, “I think the last four years whoever’s led at halfway has had such an amazing start to the season, like three or four wins in the first seven races. This year’s a little different. I know Bobby’s (Santos) won 3. But last year it seemed like Ryan (Preece) was just unbeatable and the year before we were unbeatable. The year before that Silk was unbeatable for the first half of the season. It gives you such a cushion going into the second half that you can afford a slip-up or two.” Santos told 22News, “In my opinion this year’s been totally different than the last four years. I feel like the last four years, whoever got out front early kind of ran away with it then coasted the rest of the year. This year, it seems like there’s a lot of guys that are close. It’s going to come right down to the end with at least two people and probably more than that. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing.”
This was the third time that a NWMT tour race went flag to flag without a caution at Monadnock. In 2011, Todd Szegedy was the winner, and in 2012, it was Ryan Preece. Those two races, however, were slightly shorter at 175 laps.