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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Icebreaker 150
presented by Town Fair Tire
Bonsignore Hot at the Icebreaker
Polly Reid with contributions by Denise DuPont

Making a run for the checkers, Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, NY dove low into turns three and four passing Woody Pitkat with eight circuits remaining on the board emerging the new and final leader to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150 presented by Town Fair Tire at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

Woody Pitkat who set fast time starting on the pole crossed for second with Doug Coby third, Timmy Solomito fourth and Eric Goodale fifth.

“Great car, I was just hoping I wasn’t the guy to mess it up the last 25 laps,” said Bonsignore after parking his Ken Massa owned, Chem3.com sponsored modified in victory lane, his second win at the historic CT speedway, his fourth career NWMT win overall. “I kind of knew I had a little bit better car and kind of had to be a little aggressive but everyone knows how it goes here at Thompson, the bottom shot is the way you’re going to get by. I can’t say enough about the M3 guys, SPAFCO, Robert Yates spec engine- this is going to be the year.”

Woody Pitkat in the Buzz Chew owned modified had already had a head turning weekend being at the top of the charts during practice then setting fast time collecting his first career Coors Light Pole award behind the wheel of his new ride. The Stafford, CT driver led the field to green with Bonsignore second, Donny Lia, Ryan Preece and Rowan Pennink the top five.

The first caution waving on lap seven brought Preece down pit row, the defending champion in early for adjustments. Pitkat picked up where he started leading the way with Bonsignore making a his move for the lead completing the pass on lap 17 only to have Pitkat battle back meanwhile Pennink made his move low in turn three to become the third leader of the afternoon just a tick over 20 laps into the Icebreaker. Pennink in the Monk Mechanics Hand Cleaner sponsored modified remained dominant through the next caution and at the half Pennink led Pitkat, Solomito, Bonsignore and Ron Yuhas, Jr the top five. Pitkat was not to be denied and made his move for the top spot taking it over on lap 79. Pitkat put distance between himself and Pennink until suddenly four laps shy of the century mark, the caution waved for Pennink hard into the turn thee outside wall the car slowing before snapping around. Pennink ok, the red flag came out for the cleanup.

Pit row became a hub of activity as teams pitted under yellow with Glen Reen the first car back out. Lia who had pitted on lap 57 under yellow, inherited the lead with Matt Hirschman, Keith Rocco and Rob Fuller the top five.

Lia in the Mystic Missile became the new car to beat, Hirschman in second kept the pace with Lia meanwhile Pitkat who restarted 8th after the pit stop was on the move- forward. The field closed up for a yellow on lap 113, the restart keeping the action close. Pitkat took over second on lap 118 and with his eyes on the top spot, made his move passing Lia low going into turn one. But the momentum Pitkat was carrying into the turn, there was contact and Lia was sent up the track hitting the turn one outside wall, Lia’s afternoon done.

The restart key, 21 to go, Pitkat lined up with Bonsignore, Hirschman, Yuhas, Jr, Solomito and Coby the top six. Pitkat and Bonsignore side by side, Pitkat edged out for the lead only to have Bonsignore battle back side by side again. The action was pulled back to yellow for a spin in turns one and two for Wade Cole and Patrick Emerling.

The stage was set for a 12 lap dash to the finish. Pitkat, Bonsignore, Yuhas, Jr, Coby and Hirschman the top five came around for the green. Coby battled for third taking the spot with ten to go and one lap later, Bonsignore made his winning move under Pitkat in turn three completing the pass coming out of four.

Once out front Bonsignore remained solid and at the checkers it was Bonsignore, Pitkat coming up a little short in second with Coby who started 14th crossing for third followed by Solomito, Goodale, Yuhas, Jr, Ron Silk, Ted Christopher, Ryan Preece and Jimmy Zacharias the top ten.

“We had a lot of confidence coming out of Florida,” said Bonsignore. “Some people say it’s not that important down there, not a lot of cars but a win is a win- it gets the morale up on the team, gets my morale up and shows that I can still do this. This is the same car we had in Florida. We knew what we had down there and we wanted to prove it wasn’t a fluke, it was all legit. Florida was a big boost in itself, just getting comfortable in a new car and I’ll be the first to tell you, I wasn’t sure how it would go this year. We didn’t know if there would be a learning curve with me and Bill (Michael) learning each other as crew chief and driver, we didn’t know how the spec motor would come out and didn’t know how the SPAFCO would come out but everything is clicking right now. It’s a start of hopefully a great year for us. I can’t wait to go to Stafford.”

“I think there was some added pressure because we came out and we were fastest in practice, won time trials now you want to go out and win the race, do the best you can,” said Pitkat. “We tightened it up just a little bit too much when we pitted– that’s what we’re here to do is to learn, we’re a new team. I can’t thank these guys enough, they had a phenomenal pit stop, we came out and gained some positions and I drove my butt off, we were just a little bit too snug. Obviously it was a little frustrating when you come here and you win practice, win time trials and you get a little added extra pressure on you to try and win. I was a little antsy after the pit stop to get back up there and run with those guys. It is what it is, it’s a great start. The car is in one piece we can work on it and make it faster. We led some laps, we did prove I could run up front and qualify which everyone says I don’t do well at. I shouldn’t be down because it was a great start to the season and a great finish. I can’t thank Buzz and Bryan Chew enough for giving me the opportunity. We’ll go to Stafford and see what we can do there. Congrats to Justin and those guys, they had a stout piece.”

“I’m really happy with this car,” said Coby about his new ride in the Mike Smeriglio owned, Dunleavy’s Repair/A&J Romano Construction sponsored modified. “These guys worked hard all weekend I mean we didn’t have the best car in practice, we kept working at it, we kept communicating, of course this is new for us. I’m really proud of my guys. This is my best finish ever in the Icebreaker. This was a huge deal for us. Obviously it is a huge deal for Woody as well the two of us being with new teams. We’re going to Stafford with a lot of confidence.”

“I think it feels good to back up what we did in Florida,” said Bonsignore’s car owner Ken Massa referring to their two wins at New Smyrna Speedway in February including the Richie Evans Memorial 100. “Not to take away anything from those guys but this is Tour, it’s the big league, so for us, it makes us feel good. We made three big changes for this year- number one, crew chief, Bill Michael. Two, the SPAFCO Chassis and three, the Yates Motors. Two out of the three were easy to change- the engine and the crew chief. With the crew chief change, Bill suggested SPAFCO and I said, why not?”

Ken Barry who is helping the team confirmed the last time a SPAFCO chassis won a NWMT race was ‘somewhere around 2003 or 2004 with Mike Stefanik.’

Taking over as crew chief this year, Bill Michael could not be happier for his team. “It’s great getting our first Tour win. I was out in the infield pacing back and forth for a while there, I figured after Florida it wouldn’t be so bad. It’s a great feeling, it really is.”

“Woody had a great car all day, the 4 car and Rowan were great too, they just had some bad luck,” said Michael. “Then it was between us and Woody. We just had to tell Justin to be patient over the radio and pick a spot for him to make his pass and make sure when we did it that it was clean. Fortunately the car was right and he was able to do that.”

Michael is not new to the team, he started working for Massa last year full time just not as the crew chief. “This year he gave me the opportunity to be the crew chief and so far, so good. We had a lot of guys step up this year, we’ve been practicing pit stops in the shop and they’ve been non-stop working on the car. We can’t do this without those guys.”

Michael used to work for SPAFCO thus the chassis connection. “This is actually my car. I started to build it - I got to the frame and a little past the frame point of it and I just couldn’t do it on my own so it actually sat on jack stands the last year and a half then finally I talked to Ken. He was thankful to give it a try -I would build it during the nights and Kenny (Barry) would give me a hand. So far, I think Ken is happy about it, hopefully we’ll do the same thing at Stafford.”

“We’ve got a great team,” said Massa. “It’s our fifth year on the Tour. If we want to win the championship, we have to put it all on the line.”
The NWMT action will continue on Sunday April 27th for the NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Thank you to The Chrome Horn’s Denise DuPont for her reporting additions here of the Icebreaker.

Timmy Solomito
Solomito of Islip, NY started 12th and finished fourth, the top finishing rookie.

“We had a good day and really everything went as planned. You do not have many days like that. Our deal was to get out there and get the best track position that we could. We came in and did just a two tire stop to keep our track position or to maintain it. We tightened the car up a little bit too much for the second run. The stagger did not open up. It was a great car all day. There are awesome guys on the crew and I could not do it without them. It was a pretty smooth race. You do not realize how rough that it does get up front until you are up there. When those guys start going in harder you start going in harder, and if you don’t you get run over. It is definitely a big learning curve for someone like me. I think this is only my fifth start on the Tour here at Thompson. It was pretty wild and I am happy to come out of here with a fourth. That way we can build on it and we will be at Stafford for the Sizzler now.”

“I would love to run the full season, but we are really focused on running Riverhead which is our home track. As of now we are going to do the full season there. But whatever does not conflict with Riverhead we will be at as long as sponsorship prevails. It is tough though. Right now I am running my family car and I also drive for Wayne Anderson. And we can always use sponsors. Hopefully someone out there sees that and gives us a hand.”

Where some of the incidents starting happening up front what went through your mind?

“You just hope that does not happen to you. They do not know you. They do not know how you drive. And they are not afraid to push you around. I think that I gained some respect today and that is a big part of racing, I think that they have seen that we can run with them. Hopefully this carries some momentum for us to Stafford and I have only been there twice. So that is another learning curve. But I gained respect from these guys today and that is the main part so I am really happy about that. You learn so much racing up front with the experienced Tour drivers. It was just cool to be up there with them.”

Eric Goodale
Goodale of Riverhead, NY crossed the line fifth after taking the green tenth.

“We had a really good car but we just could not get in the right lane all day. We had probably a third place car today. And I am really happy that we came out of here, the first race of the year in a fifth place finish. It was our best finish ever for the first race in the year. So we will keep our heads high and we will get ready to go to Stafford in a couple of weeks.”
“There were multiple chances for today’s accidents to be right around where I was so I was real happy that they were not right in front of me.”

Ron Yuhas. Jr.
Yuhas, Jr of Groton, CT held his own qualifying thirteenth and strong at the end of the Icebreaker running in the top three was held up in the final two restarts, finishing sixth.

“We really needed this. It is a great pick me up for the whole crew. They worked hard to get this car ready. Two weeks ago it was a bare chassis sitting there. We actually were not going to bring this car. We were going to bring the car that we ran last year. And then the decision was made to get this car together after practice was rained out. The guys worked really hard to get it swapped over and ready for today. I am just excited on how the car handled and just reacted to everything we did to it.”

“Racing today was typical Thompson racing. You get the guys run down in the corner and drive it in or to break the guys momentum on the outside. It is normal for here so you kind of know that it is going to happen. So you just hope that they do not get too bad and you get caught up in somebody else’s mess.”

Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: April 8, 2014

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