Bonsignore Earns Sixth Straight Thompson Win in Whelen Modified Series
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Series made stop number two of four to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday June 5 once again bringing the best modified drivers in the country to the nation’s oldest paved racing oval. The main event contained several storylines with NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Preece returning to his roots in the modifieds and the series’ two most recent champions seeking to continue their respective dominant performances at the Big-T.
Championship points leader Doug Coby looked to return to victory lane at a track he dominated few short years ago earning four consecutive series titles in the process. However, the heavy favorite was defending champion Justin Bonsignore who sought to increase his record setting winning streak at Thompson to six after sweeping all four races in 2018 and winning the Icebreaker in April. Bonsignore paced practice while Coby earned his fourth pole of the season putting the two favorites at the front of the field to start the event.
Surprisingly neither driver turned out to be the show stealer in the early goings as they were both overpowered by Craig Lutz who took the lead on lap 13 and led past halfway. By lap 77 Bonsignore made up the gap and found himself within striking distance of the lead. Bonsignore finally completed the pass on lap 86 and used lap traffic to his advantage to stretch his lead. A red flag scenario 26 laps from the finish bunched the field up and brought pit strategy into the equation. While Jon McKennedy beat Bonsignore out of the pits Bonsignore got the jump he needed on the restart taking the lead for the final time and storming to his sixth consecutive series win at the Big-T.
“At this point even after last year we won the four and we wondered who was going to come out next year and have better cars than us. You have to manage expectations and I think we’ve been doing a good job of that. You know you’re not going to win all of these races in a row but if you put yourself in position to have a shot that’s all you can ask for. At some point the streak will come to an end – When you get into situations like this you know how to handle your expectations and not let your emotions get too high or too low,” Bonsignore said after his win.
Doug Coby used fresh tires to finish in the runner-up position while Craig Lutz settled for third, Burt Myers fourth and Ron Silk in fifth. Ryan Preece had trouble finding speed all race long in his return to the Whelen Modified Tour relegating him to a 14th place finish.
Preece may not have had the run he was looking for in the Whelen Modifieds, but the Sunoco Modifieds were a different story serving as the first showcase of Ryan Preece’s return to Thompson earlier in the night. The 30-lap feature saw Preece work his way through traffic and eventually find himself battling for the lead against Max McLaughlin, a North Carolina phenom racing in his first start at Thompson in a Keith Rocco owned machine. It would take until lap 26 for McLaughlin and Preece to finally race side by side but a lap later Preece wrestled the lead away and never looked back leading the final three laps and scoring a homecoming victory at a track where he has seen much success.
“We got really lose really early. I started searching around for grip and found some on the bottom and made it work,” Preece said in Victory Lane. “I want to thank Thompson for having us all here and making this a big event. We had fun.”
The Mini Stock division has been one of the most competitive series early on in the 2019 season at Thompson with only four points separating Steve Michalski from Jared Roy after two races. Both drivers came into the event with wins seeking an advantage in the third event on the calendar. Jared Roy managed to nab a runner-up giving him an edge over Steve Michalski who finished in eight. However, it was a different Michalski that went on to celebrate in victory lane. Scott Michalski controlled the race for much of the 15-lap feature with Jared Roy on his bumper for nearly every lap. Roy picked his moment in the final lap, nearly passing Scott Michalski on the backstretch and taking the advantage off of the final corner. However, Michalski would not be denied and used momentum on the top groove out of turn four to rocket to the lead winning the race by .002 seconds, one of the closest finishes in Mini Stock history at Thompson.
“(Roy) was there. He actually had a car that was a little faster, but I used the track. He pinched his car on the inside, and I was able to maintain my momentum off the corner. It was a great race,” Scott Michalski said after his win. “I was the pied piper almost the whole race. He came up and I knew he was a click faster. I had my hands full. It was a great time.”
The Limited Sportsman hosted an eventful 20-lap feature starting with a strong early run from Kyle Gero as the early leader. Gero soon found himself fending off Scott Sundeen who was able to wrestle away the lead prior to a caution nine laps into the race. When the green waved again Gero was able to get an advantage but Sundeen fought hard on the inside line eventually going for a spin in turn four bringing out another caution and ending his quest for a win. Despite another strong restart Gero fell from the lead as Corey Fanning took the top spot, but it was Fanning who brought out the next caution after his car began leaking fluid, sending two other cars spinning and forcing Fanning out of the event. The final restart allowed veteran Brent Gleason to pull away with the lead with less than ten laps to go. Gleason would dominate the second half of the race and take home his first win in the Limited Sportsman in 2019.
“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve struggled the last year and a half. I put a new package together last year and it did not work out. We worked hard week in and week out. This thing almost didn’t make it today. We didn’t make it the last race, it died with two to go. This thing was coughing and sputtering the last eight laps I was praying to make it,” Gleason said in Victory Lane. Gleason dedicated his win to his aunt and uncle who he said have suffered some significant loses over the last year.
William Wall earned an impressive and dominant victory in the Late Model division, his first of the year, extending his points lead as title challengers Woody Pitkat and Ryan Morgan both finished outside the top five. The SK Light© Modifieds closed out the night with Bryan Narducci looking to continue his perfect win record at Thompson seeking a seventh victory in his seventh start in the division. Narducci worked his way through traffic to the top five when a significant wreck eleven laps into the 20-lap feature brought out the red flag for track cleanup. Narducci found himself trapped in third place after the restart allowing Steven Chapman to pull away. Narducci was able to move to second with four laps to go and on the final turn of the final lap Narducci drove it in deep, pushing Chapman up the track and took the win continuing his perfect run in the SK Light© Modifieds.
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park continues its busy June schedule on Saturday, June 14 as the American Canadian Tour (ACT) series takes center stage with a 75-lap feature serving as the night’s main event. The Late Models will be off that afternoon to allow drivers the chance to run in the ACT race while the Sunoco Modifieds, SK Light© Modifieds, Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks hold their regularly scheduled features as the 2019 racing season continues.
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR THOMPSON 125 FINISH TOP-10: 1. Justin Bonsignore; 2. Doug Coby; 3. Craig Lutz; 4. Burt Myers; 5. Ron Silk; 6. Eric Goodale; 7. Matt Swanson; 8. Sam Rameau; 9. Max Zachem; 10. Woody Pitkat
SUCONO MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH TOP-10: 1. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 2. Max McLaughlin (Mooresville, NC); 3. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 4. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 5. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 6. Woody Pitkat (Sturbridge, MA); 7. Ronnie Williams (Tolland, CT); 8. Mike Christopher, Jr. (Plainville, CT); 9. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 10. Timmy Jordan (Plainfield, CT)
MINI STOCK FEATURE FINISH TOP-10: 1. Scott Michalski (Danielson, CT); 2. Jared Roy (Sterling, CT); 3. Dave Trudeau, Sr. (Mansfield, CT); 4. Russ Barboza (Willimantic, CT); 5. Joe Bavolacco (Stratford, CT); 6. Mike Anzalone (Plainfield, CT); 7. J.T. Suprenant (Central Village, CT); 8. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 9. Evan Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 10. Glynn Roy (Sterling, CT)
LATE MODEL FEATURE FINISH TOP-10: 1. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 2. Matt Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 3. Mark Jenison (Warwick, RI); 4. Derek Gluchacki (N. Dartmouth, MA); 5. Buddy Charette (Woodstock, CT); 6. Brian Tagg (Oxford, MA); 7. Ryan Morgan (North Franklin, CT); 8. Tom Carrey, III (New Salem, MA); 9. Jared Materas (Westfield, MA); 10. Jason Palmer (Berlin, CT)
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 2. Zack Robinson (Putnam, CT); 3. Ryan Morgan (North Franklin, CT); 4. Meghan Fuller (Auburn, MA); 5. Kyle Gero (Uncasville, CT); 6. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 7. Kevin Mason (West Warwick, RI); 8. Randy Waterman, Jr. (Danielson, CT); 9. Jason Chicolas (Sutton, MA); 10. Al Stone (Durham, CT)
SK LIGHT© MODIFIEDS FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Bryan Narducci (Colchester, CT); 2. Steven Chapman (Ellington, CT); 3. Bert Oulette (Ellington, CT); 4. Mikey Flynn (Hampden, MA); 5. Brett Gonyaw (Vernon, CT); 6. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 7. Nathan Pytko (Salem, CT); 8. Marc Burke; 9. Matt Rzewnicki (Chicopee,MA); 10. Keith Caruso (Millbury, MA)