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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series



VMRS Series Celebrates
Eleventh Year
Denise DuPont

On Saturday, December 6, the Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS), crowned it’s 2014 Series Champion and officially closed out this year’s race season. Justin Bonsignore, of Holtsville, NY, and veteran car owner Art Barry, of Preston, CT, were honored as the Series Champion and Car Owner.

The series title is Justin Bonsignore’s first after competing in all of the 2014 VMRS races (17). The twenty-six year old driver notched his first VMRS win at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, New York. The #21 team of Art Barry competed consistently throughout the season with 12-top five finishes, and 13-top ten finishes. “Anytime that you win anything it is big, but winning a series title surely means a lot,” expressed Bonsignore about his 2014 VMRS Championship. “To do it in our first year together with Art and Kenny (Barry) is special. I have known them a long time and they have won a lot of big races and championships. So to have the championship with them makes the deal even better.”

From the team’s first time on the track competing this year, the #21 team had a car on rails. No matter where the team qualified, it appeared that Bonsignore just had to jump in the car and before long he was right there with the leaders of the field. “We had a lot of bad draws for qualifying and the car was good enough to charge up through most tracks, “he confessed. “That says a lot about what kind of team that we have behind us.”

Every race the #21 team made things look so easy. I asked how the team did it and Bonsignore replied: “Art, Kenny and the entire #21 team always prepare a great car. After every race they strip the car down to the bone and go through everything to make sure everything is top notch. They put a lot of time and effort into it. Unfortunately I am not close enough to come up and spend any time with them to give them a hand. But I trust when I get there that the car is going to be fast.”

Over sixty years Art Barry owned cars that have won at tracks up and down the East coast. So. with that many years of race experience, the Barry owned #21 team has notebooks and records for almost each track the team goes to. “Kenny has a good notebook for all these race tracks for past years. Nine times out of ten we unloaded really good and it made my learning curve to the newer tracks very minimal at most. And it helped with overall speed each week.” Said Bonsignore.

This is his second series title for Art Barry, a 2009 New England Racing Hall of Fame inductee. Barry was also the Championship car owner in 2012 with then driver Jon McKennedy.

“I am really proud to be here as the series championship owner with Justin (Bonsignore),” expressed Barry. “Each week is hard work. If you do not get the car ready in the garage then the driver is going to have a hard time to win with it. We do a lot of work at home on the car and try to bring it to the track ready to go. Justin is a real good driver. I really enjoyed working with him this year. He is a great guy.

With the 2014 VMRS championship season under their belt, the #21 team now has to look towards 2015. “I do not know if we are going to run for it (the 2015 VMRS Championship) again next year, but Justin is going to drive the #21 VMRS modified again and I am really proud of that.” Art Barry said with a huge smile. “And I am incredibly proud of him for winning this championship and all his accomplishments during his years of racing.”

Ken Barry has been involved in racing his whole life. Turning the wrenches with his crew, Barry prepares a pristine #21 modified each week to bring to the track.

Looking for a full time driver for the 2014 VMRS series, Ken Barry reached out to Bonsignore. “It seemed to click right away with Justin. He seemed to like a lot of things that I like as a driver so it was a pretty easy transition figuring him out.” Barry state. “It was just a matter of a few tweaks to our baseline package that we had at all these tracks. So it was nice to have a driver that liked already what we were doing. When he got to a track that he had never been to it gave him the opportunity to just go out and run the track and not have to worry about the car.

Mike Willis, Jr. finished his first year with the VMRS series sixth in points which earned him the 2014 ‘Rookie of the Year’ title. “We had a really good year for our rookie season,” expressed Willis about his race season. “I feel that we had a very successful year for our team with a rookie driver on the tour with a rookie crew.”

As the 2014 race season progressed Willis and his rookie team improved. “Towards the end of the season we finally pulled everything together as a package and got the whole deal sealed up. Then we started running pretty good with everybody. I was very happy with that. I thought that we learnt a lot and we cannot wait to some back strong for next year.”

The top fifteen 2014 VMRS drivers were: Justin Bonsignore, Rowan Pennink, Richard Savary, Chris Pasteryak, Max Zachem, Mike Willis, Jr, Steve Masse, Keith Rocco, Norm Wrenn, Todd Szegedy, Dylan Kopec, Tommy Barrett, Jr., Woody Pitkat, Matt Mead and Ted Christopher.

2014 Specialty Awards chosen by Series officials were:
SPACO Most Improver Driver – Dave Schneider
Tough Luck Award – Matt Mead
Sportsman Award – Willie Doucette
Mechanic of the Year – Ken Barry
Volunteer of the Year Award – Ryan Doucette
Above and Beyond Award – Warren Alston
Bob Polverari 7-11 Award – Norm Wrenn

Additional Notes:

Barry's SPAFCO brand of chassis is well regarded as one of the top cars in Modified racing. Justin Bonsignore was in the seat of a SPAFCO Chassis for both the VMRS and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) races in 2014. Did using the same chassis help Bonsignore and his teams?

Justin Bonsignore
“It definitely made the tour side easier. Because that was a big change for us on that side and we had a lot of changes on the tour team. It made the learning curve a lot easier. We were unable to test with the M-3 team a lot and Kenny and Art were willing to try new things that they bounced off of the M-3 team. And we kind of used new tracks as a test of ideas and they had a baseline that they could go back to if it did not work. Nine times out of ten it worked though. So it definitely made the season a lot smoother, rather than jumping in and out of different brands. I am very happy to be a part of this SPAFCO family.”

One could almost say that Justin Bonsignore was living the dream in 2014.

Justin Bonsignore
“This year was definitely a breakout season for me. On both teams we had really good years. It was a dream. You did not want it to end when the season was coming to an end. We were running really good. You do not win every week but when you are running your best every week it makes going to the race track so much fun and you enjoy it. It makes you look good. There are times when you start to doubt yourself but this year we were fast almost everywhere where we went and that just made it a lot easier on me. And I just did not want the season to end. I get on myself pretty hard and we struggle and it was definitely nice to go to the track every week and know that you can be in contention and that people look at you as a threat that can our run them.”

What are your plans for the VMRS in 2015 race season?

Justin Bonsignore
“We are waiting on both schedules (VMRS and NWMT) to come out to see what we can do. There are also some open shows that we would like to run, even some that I have not been to in a few years and that we need to get back to. So we will sit down next week after the NASCAR banquet next week and look at both schedules and get each other’s feel for what we want to do moving forward . But we definitely will be in the $21 MRS modified again. I am not sure for how many races though because we have not sorted all that out yet. Hopefully by Christmas time we can make all our announcements “

Mike Willis, Jr.
In 2015 “We will run the full VMRS tour again. Hopefully we will win a race or at least finish in the top three. Build on what we did this year and also get better than we did this year”.

There is a new track on the tentative 2015 VMRS schedule along with the plan for the series to return to Maine and New York tracks.

Art Barry
“That is a good idea. I enjoy running from track to track. Airborne was really good for us. I use to run there years ago with Bobby Santos so it was quite an honor to go back there and win. It was my first time back there in about twenty-five years. So I would like to go back there and win”. “But I do not know what Justin’s schedule is yet because he is running the tour (NWMT). As soon as we figure that out we will know more of what we are doing.”

Ken Barry
“I enjoy going to different tracks. We have a pretty good notebook built up over the years of doing this. I mean I have been doing this myself for twenty something years. So I have a notebook of my own and then we have what dad has after that. So we can pretty much open up a notebook or pull together something for everything else out there.” “I enjoy going to different tracks and I enjoyed it as a driver. I enjoy the challenge of that.” “When we see both schedules we will go forward for there. We are building a new car for 2015. I took the old car and we are turning it into an SK-Light Modified. I am working with a young driver Swanson that we hooked up with at Stafford. So we are going to build him a new one and go from there.”

Mike Willis, Jr.
“I think that it will be good to get the whole series out there and go to new places to show that we are the best division to watch.”

Justin Bonsignore driving a SPAFCO Chassis on both the tour and series. What are your thoughts on that?

Art Barry
“Kenny works hard and he builds a real good car. And it is probably a better car than what he gets credit for. So hopefully we can do better again next year and make that chassis work!”

Ken Barry
“I hooked up with Justin early in the year (2014) hopefully to get both teams going with a SPAFCO car to prove to people that they could run with them. It worked out pretty good. We won right off the bat in Florida and we gelled right off the bat. So it was a pretty easy transition right from Florida all the way through up here.”

Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: December 7, 2014

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