Justin Bonsignore converted his home-track advantage into his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. The 23-year-old from Holtsville, N.Y., drove away with the Lighthouse Mission 200 Saturday at Riverhead Raceway.
Bonsignore, the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco Rookie of the Year, also runs regularly in Riverhead's weekly NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified Division. He is second in the track's point standings.
“The car was perfect. It didn’t change from Lap 1 to Lap 175. We nailed the setup perfect tonight,” Bonsignore said. “It’s just a pleasure to get it here, my first win at my home track, the first [Riverhead] regular to do it here in a long time.”
Todd Szegedy was second, followed by Ron Silk, Ryan Preece and Doug Coby. Rowan Pennink rebounded from an early wreck to finish sixth.
Silk’s sixth-straight top-five finish allowed him to overtake Pennink atop the season standings. Silk now leads by five tallies with nine races remaining.
“We’ve had a really good car for awhile now, throughout last year and this year we’ve had a bunch of good runs,” Silk said. “I think we could have raced with Justin and Todd there a little bit more if we just didn’t start 16th. I had to use a lot of the car up toward the front.”
Szegedy now has four top 10s in a row – including two wins – and has improved from 15th to third in the standings during the run.
“I struggled for so many years here, got into so many wrecks and never qualified well,” Szegedy said. “This is a win to me. This is the best finish we’ve ever had here.”
Jamie Tomaino, Patrick Emerling, Bobby Santos and Richie Pallai Jr. rounded out the top 10. It was the best finish of the year for Tomaino and Pallai, and the best career finish for the rookie Emerling.
Earlier in the day, Riverhead veteran Howie Brode earned his first career Coors Light Pole Award on the Tour. His night ended early, though, when he was caught up in a multi-car accident in the first half of the race.
Brode led the first 17 laps before Bonsignore made the decisive move to the front on Lap 18. With track position a premium at Riverhead, Bonsignore felt fortunate he was able to get around Brode, a longtime weekly competitor at the quarter-mile bullring.
“I was trying to get a rhythm on where he was going on the restarts and time it to beat him into [Turn 1],” Bonsignore said. “He got me pretty good the first couple of times and the third time I got down into [Turn] 1 and I had my left front ahead of his right front. I knew at that point he was either going to wreck or have to give up his spot.”
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be back on track Friday, Aug. 5 for the Town Fair Tire 150 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.