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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series



Valenti Modified Racing Series
Thompson World Series 75
Polly Reid

A fifteenth place finish or better was all Justin Bonsignore needed to clench the Valenti Modified Racing Series Championship title. Starting sixth in the thirty-two car field, Bonsignore was well on his way to making his first series title a reality. At the half way mark, Bonsignore was up to fourth and with Rowan Pennink, the closest threat to snatching the title away was bogged down mid-pack in sixteenth, it appeared the Islip, NY driver had his first championship wrapped up.

Two cautions later and twenty-five to go, Bonsignore was shuffled back to eighth. Gaining a spot, now only twenty circuits left around the sweeping CT oval, Bonsignore was being shadowed by Pennink. His SPAFCO chassis dialed in, Bonsignore began to work on the next car - getting a nose under Dan Meservey, Jr., Bonsignore backed out.

Getting another run with ten to go, Bonsignore was under Meservey, side by side going into turn four when contact sent the duo in a spin. Merservey’s day was done and while Bonsignore was able to drive away, there was visible right front damage.

Ten laps away from a title, Bonsignore was forced to come down pit row.

Suddenly, Pennink, in line to restart fourth was just gifted a shot at taking the title as Bonsignore, should he make it back out in time, would have to restart at the rear of the field, 20th, the last car on the lead lap.

As the crew began to work on the 21, the red flag was brought out for Brian Schofield whose car was up against the turn three outside wall.

“Justin said something was bent but he said it didn’t look real bad,” crew chief Ken Barry explained. “We were trying to figure out what to do so we had him take another lap so the spotter could take a look at it. Then when he did, we had him come down pit row. They were going to penalize us anyway, I called him down and we looked at it. There was a lot more damage than it looked like. It was a good thing he came in or we would have been in big trouble. We ended up changing the upper A frame, the lower A frame, a strut rod, a clevis, a tie rod- basically everything on the right front except the spindle and hub. We tried to make it good enough to get the last couple of spots we needed.”

“I saw the 25 coming,” said Bonsignore about the incident. “I thought I had position on the 45 and we just banged wheels too much and I don’t know what happened from there.”

The 21 team went to task getting the car back out, Bonsignore restarting with ten to go was practically in another zip code he was that far from the leaders.

Seven to go, up to sixteenth, one circuit later Bonsignore was able to make it to the magic 15th place position. No matter where Pennink finished, as long as Bonsignore could maintain, he would have the title.

But one more caution with two to go closed up the field, another restart, Bonsignore had to keep it steady. Chris Pasteryak running just ahead of Bonsignore, suddenly pulled down pit row with motor issues. Gaining one more spot, crossing the line fourteenth, Justin Bonsignore was now indeed the 2014 Valenti Modified Racing Series Champion.

“Art and Kenny (Barry) they did a hell of a job all year, they gave us a great race car,” said Bonsignore. “I almost took it away from us tonight but they deserve a championship- we’ve had a few hiccups that made it as close as it is, we’ll take it.”

In victory lane, Bonsignore expressed sincere concern for his fellow competitor. “My thoughts and prayers are out to Brian right now.”

“Our year was just amazing on the series, but not the way we wanted to end it,” admitted Bonsignore. “But we’ll take the title. We were trying to do the math on pit road under the red – we had an idea that 17th was enough. The guys in 8th to 10th were really racing each other and I didn’t want to get wrecked again so I did what I had to do. Rowan didn’t have the best of cars tonight- we expected him to come out and be the car to beat.”

“It’s pretty cool to win a touring title. I’ve won at the weekly level at a tough little track, Riverhead, so to do it at a touring level is awesome.”

This is the second VMRS title for Art Barry, the first earned with driver Jon McKennedy. “It’s an honor to come and win the second one,” said Barry. “I think the race car keeps me young.” But Barry confesses the week leading up to the season finale may have aged him a little bit. “I’ll tell you, it was nerve wracking all day long- I was worried about the engine in the car ‘cause it had a lot of miles on it. Then when we got wrecked I was like, ‘oh boy, now what are we going to do.’ But the crew did an awesome job, I’ve got to take my hat off to them. They stayed calm, worked with the time they had- like I said, my hat off to them. I’m proud of them. “

“Justin has been cool all year long, he is an awesome driver,” continued Barry. “I can’t say enough about him. For him to come on board, his first year with us and win a title, that’s pretty rewarding. But he couldn’t have done it without a couple of things,” picture Art Barry smiling, “a good team and really good SPAFCO Chassis.”

“The night was a little bit harder than we expected to be,” said champion crew chief Ken Barry referring to the challenges the team faced with ten to go. “All year, we’ve been down on the motor program and we came here, I think they finally got it pretty evened up with this new package. Tonight was all about trying to seal the deal for the championship.”

“Everybody did a really good job- you don’t want to have to win them this way but that is exactly what wins championships,” said Ken Barry, “when you have bad nights and you make them not so bad.”

“This year we were pretty much at a disadvantage with the motor most of the year. But I think it showed up with Justin and the car getting all those second place finishes. We finally got our win up at Airborne - we hit on a few things the last four or five races and the car has been really, really good.”

“We’ve been in the points for both series all year,” said Bonsignore, “so it was stressful all year. As much as you say you’re not thinking about it, when you’re riding home from work by yourself and you’re in contention for two possible touring championships, it dwells on you.”

For now, counting points, thinking about would have, could have, should have - it’s all done for this year. Joe Coss trackside to interview Justin Bonsignore said it best- “What a moment it is to see the 21 back in the winner’s circle.”


Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 24, 2014

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