Bonsignore tightens title tilt with Thompson win

Justin Bonsignore (51) battling with Matt Hirschman (52). Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz
Justin Bonsignore (51) battling with Matt Hirschman (52). Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz

THOMPSON, Conn. (WWLP) – Justin Bonsignore took a hot points race and made it even hotter with a win in Thursday’s Budweiser King of Beers 150 at the Thompson Motorsports Park

Justin Bonsignore celebrates winning his third race of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season. Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz
Justin Bonsignore celebrates winning his third race of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season. Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz

in Thompson, Connecticut. It was his sixth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory, his third of this year, and he also became the first driver to win consecutive mod tour races at Thompson since Ted Christopher won four in a row during the 2010-2011 seasons.

Caution flags and late race restarts played a role in Bonsignore taking the lead with just under 10 laps to go. Matt Hirschman was second, points leader Doug Coby was third, Ryan Preece took fourth, and Ron Silk was fifth. Wilbraham’s Glen Reen scored his second top 10 finish of the season; coming home in ninth after leading a few laps just after halfway.

6. Wilbraham resident Glen Reen (8) led some laps in the Budweiser King Of Beers 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event. Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz
6. Wilbraham resident Glen Reen (8) led some laps in the Budweiser King Of Beers 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event. Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz

For Bonsignore, it was a maximum points night and he now trails Doug Coby by just three points in the championship chase. In victory lane, Justin told the crowd, “We didn’t have the best of cars to start the race. We pitted early for an adjustment. We got the car good enough. We got back to a good enough spot for our pit stop and came out in a reasonable position. It’s unfortunate that leaders get caught up with lapped cars wrecking like that. Sometimes we’ve been on the other side of that and sometimes it’s got to go your way. That was a big gift, we needed that caution. They were telling me our lap times were better or just about the same as the leaders, and we just needed to get caught back up. I got aggressive on the last few restarts. I lost a few races here the same way. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to win the race.”

Donny Lia (4) racing with Ryan Preece (16). Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz
Donny Lia (4) racing with Ryan Preece (16). Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz

Coby was involved in some tight racing, including being jammed in the middle of some incredibly exciting three wide action. He told the crowd during his post race interview, “I’m happy we survived. It didn’t look like we were going to for a while there. I just hate that we all have to drive like pigs in order to get a spot up here. Every restart we’re all slamming into each other. I’m just as guilty as everybody else. Justin passes me for the lead and shoves me up. I pass guys for the lead and shove them up. I don’t like racing like that, you just have to here. I’m happy that we all survived at the end. We all had good cars. So it would have been a shame if we got together and wrecked good cars.”

Donny Lia set fast time for his second pole of the season, fourth at Thompson, and 20th of his NWMT career. He led the first 74 laps, but didn’t finish after a late race crash that sidelined Tommy Barrett as well.

Rowan Pennink (93) crashes into the wall. Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz
Rowan Pennink (93) crashes into the wall. Image Courtesy: Matt Wiernasz

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Tony Stewart will sit out a second race when the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is at Michigan International Speedway this Sunday.  Sprint Cup driver and NBC analyst Jeff Burton will be in the seat of Stewart’s #14 Chevrolet. Stewart has not raced and has been in seclusion since the accident at Canandaigua Speedway that killed Kevin Ward, Jr. Earlier this week on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Burton explained the emotions that result in drivers getting out of their cars to confront another driver immediately after an on track incident.

On Thursday night at Thompson, we spoke with two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers who’ve both had those impromptu confrontations at various times. Rowan Pennink told 22News, “It’s just the nature of racing. Something happens and it’s just second nature to react on it. With all the adrenaline, everything going on, and how hard everyone works to get to be running up front, if that’s where you’re running, it all just builds up and stuff like that happens. I can’t say every driver’s done it before, but I guarantee you most of them have. I mean, I have. It’s just a shame that someone had to get killed. I guess it’s about time to rethink that more now that something like that’s happened.”

According to Justin Bonsignore, “It’s just adrenaline, testosterone, typically it’s male drivers. Everybody puts a lot of time and effort into racing. To have something happen where you feel you were wronged, you let your emotions get the best of you. I’ve done it, I’ve gotten out of my car and made gestures. But I won’t do it again seeing something like that happen.”

On Monday, two New York dirt tracks, Brewerton Speedway and Fulton Speedway issued a safety bulletin. Effective tonight, a driver is only supposed to get out of their car on the track for safety reasons. If a driver does get out of their car, the race will immediately be red flagged, stopping all on track movement. If a driver leaves their car for other than safety reasons, the driver could be fined or suspended. Both Pennink and Bonsignore see that kind of rule as a good starting point. According to Pennink, “It seems like a fair rule. No one wants to see anyone get hurt out there. The tracks are going to do what they have to do to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Bonsignore told 22News, It’s not going to cure everything, because as drivers you don’t care about getting fined or suspended sometimes when your emotions overcome everything. It’s a step in the right direction. As drivers, it’s our responsibility moving forward to not put each other in positions to make somebody come after you. It’s unfortunate, it’s a big wakeup call to the whole industry. So I think moving forward you won’t see that so often.”

Today, NASCAR announced what it termed a formalization of an on-track incident procedure. Drivers are not to leave their cars unless ordered to do so by series, track, or safety officials. Exceptions would be for fire, smoke inside the car, or some other emergency. Penalties would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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