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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour




Thompson Speedway
Motorsports Park
Polly Reid

Returning to the track where he won the season opener, the day was not unfolding to likely repeat that scenario. But it is never over until the checkered flag waves and at the line it was Justin Bonsignore in the Ken Massa, chem3.com modified who held off the field in a dramatic green white checker finish to indeed repeat - the Holtsville, NY driver earning the victory in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Budweiser King of Beers 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

“My guys don’t give up. We didn’t have the best of cars to start the race, we pitted early for an adjustment and that was probably the winning move for us. We got the car back to a good enough spot for the pit stop,” said Bonsignore. “A lot of changes this off season, I can’t believe we’re standing here again tonight.” Winner of the Icebreaker at Thompson in April, the Budweiser 150 marks Bonsignore’s sixth career win, his third of the season.

Matt Hirschman finished second, point leader Doug Coby third, Ryan Preece fourth and Ron Silk fifth.

Donny Lia who had set fast time earlier in the evening led the 25 car field to green with Ron Yuhas, Jr, Tommy Barrett Jr, Doug Coby and Timmy Solomito the top five, Bonsignore qualified ninth. It was easy to see that Lia in the Garbarino Mystic Missile was the car to beat as the Jericho, NY driver set a solid pace pulling from the pack taking Barrett with him.

Bobby Santos, the defending winner of this race, had a tire go down, his night ending after contact with the turn one outside wall bringing out the first caution on lap 13.

On the restart, Lia, Barrett, Yuhas, Preece and Coby the top five came around for the restart and from there, green flag racing ruled until a yellow for debris on lap 39. This caution was timely for Bonsignore who came down pit row for an adjustment, a call crew chief Bill Michael made on the fly.

The yellow did not deter Lia who once again nailed a solid restart with Preece, Barrett, Coby and Patrick Emerling the top five. Bonsignore was back out but deep in the field at 15th. Running hard, Preece caught a piece of the front stretch wall bringing out the next yellow on lap 50. Three trips down pit row kept Preece on the lead lap but to be a factor, Preece was going to have to work his way through the field.

Meanwhile, a yellow just before half way mark for Emerling with a right front flat brought the leaders down pit row for a needed tire change.

Enter Ron Silk whose TS Haulers team got the Eddie Partridge machine out second just behind Solomito with Lia, Barrett, Coby, Hirschman and Bonsignore lining up behind the cars that did not pit including Glen Reen who led the way to green. Silk on fresh tires, passed Reen to become the third leader of the night on lap 83.

Silk was being chased down by Barrett in second and Lia third. Coby, fourth, Hirschman fifth and Bonsignore sixth- the field settled into another green flag stretch, passing the 50 to go mark under green. The 30 to go mark, still under green then with 27 to go, a lap car went around in turns one and two- the incident unfortunately collected up Barrett in second and Lia third - their night over.

The game changer incident put Coby in second behind Silk for the restart, Bonsignore third, Hirschman and Preece now the top five. A caution on the restart kept the field close but once the green waved, Coby moved low under Silk to become the third leader of the night on lap 134.

Two circuits later, it was Bonsignore passing Coby low into turn three and four for the lead. Bonsignore did not get a chance to pull away as the red flag came out for Yuhas and Eric Goodale who tangled racing for a top five. Both OK, however their night ended like several others, behind the wall.

One more caution with seven to go involving Keith Rocco and Todd Szegedy set the stage for a green, white, checker. Bonsignore did not miss a mark as he came around for the restart with Coby, Silk, Hirschman, Solomito and Preece behind.

Bonsignore brought the chem3.com modified across for the win with Hirschman, Coby, Preece, Silk, Solomito, Ted Christopher, Szegedy, Reen and Spencer Davis the top ten.

“It’s unfortunate the leaders got caught up in lap cars- wrecked like that,” said Bonsignore about Barrett and Lia’s night ending. “Sometimes, you’re on the other side, sometimes it goes your way.”

“We didn’t have the winning car,” said Hirschman on the podium. “The 51 was definitely better. The goal is now that we have a car that can win at the World Series. I thought we had that last year- hopefully we can take what we learned there and what we learned tonight and contend. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year, the World Series- I definitely want to have a car that we can win with.” Hirschman’s first year back on the NWMT, he has combined forces with car owner Wayne Darling splitting the season with his own car and that of Darling’s. “It has its advantages where right now, they’re preparing for Bristol where I’m here racing tonight. It has its disadvantages because we’ve run a half season together where as everyone else a full one. It would be nice to step up and move forward on the chart.”
“I’m happy we survived, it didn’t look like we were going to for a while there,” said Coby. “Happy with a third, we keep plugging away.”

“This one is unbelievable,” said car owner Ken Massa. “We have this saying in the shop, this really big poster on the wall and it says, ‘Refuse to Lose’. Through the course of this whole race, that’s all I was thinking, refuse to lose, refuse to lose. Everyone one of these guys on this team has the same attitude. I think that’s what made it happen. There was no doubt the car was crap at the beginning of the race. It was an awesome call by Bill (Michael) to bring the car down pit row early and make adjustments to see what we had before we changed tires. Obviously it improved the car and Justin raced it back to a top ten, pitted, came out ninth or tenth and he raced the car.” Points talk is not the focus of the 51 team, at least not until after Bristol. “The main goal going into Bristol is to win.”

Yes, Massa has changed his motor program, that gets them through the race, however, Massa credits his crew chief and his attitude around the shop and with Justin as a key to their success. “Bill Michael is amazing- first time crew chief on the Tour, three wins, it’s absolutely amazing.”

“Strategy was to wing it,” said winning crew chief Bill Michael. “We didn’t plan to pit that early, but we were too free, we needed some drive up off. We figured under the pit stop we wouldn’t have time to do what we needed so we called him in early, made some adjustments- tried to make the car better.” it seemed to get a little better then under the pit stop when everyone came in, we made a few more little adjustments, then it was off in Justin’s hands. We have a good group of guys here, they do real well.” The same car they’ve used all year, the Spafco chassis, it is referred to as the Green Machine. “Ever since the beginning of the year, Justin fell in love with this car and with my background working with Spafco, I know the car pretty well myself and we just stick with it.” The Green Machine will go to Bristol. “Luckily the driver kept it in one piece and that always helps when all you’re doing is cleaning off the water from the celebration,” smiled Michael who added yes, there are changes they will be making before the next race. “We have a great driver, he did what he had to do - it was a great race.”

Bonsignore’s win narrowed the point gap, Coby now leading by two points with five events left on the schedule.
“It’s still early,” said Coby. “We have five races left. We’ll just keep ticking them off, that’s all we can do. We’ll take it and go to Bristol.”
“Points, it’s too early to talk about points,” said Bonsignore. “The best way to look at the points is to win the race. We got max points tonight so we’ll go to Bristol. The 2 has not missed a beat all year and we don’t plan on it either.”

Teams lost a day with the Budweiser 150 delayed one day due to weather creating a sense of urgency in the pit area as the NWMT packs up and heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Busch’s Beans 150 next Wednesday August 27th.

Coby mentioned to the fans while on the podium to keep the Blewett family and Baldwin family in their thoughts tonight. “It’s been seven years since we lost John, ten since we lost Tom, obviously it’s been a tough week in racing across the country and in our own circle, that’s still tough here.” There is not one of us in our racing community who does not think of them and their families, especially this time of year- we will never forget.

Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: August 16, 2014

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