The Champ Trail: Whelen Mods At Thompson, Stafford, Riverhead & So Much More

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Due to impending weather, NASCAR and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park officials postponed Wednesday evening’s Thompson 125 until Thursday, June 14. Somewhat threatening skies kept the crowd down on Thursday night but it didn’t hinder the determination of Justin Bonsignore who made it three out of five in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour wins for 2018. Bonsignore led a contingent of Long Island Gang members which included Dave Sapienza, 5th, Timmy Solomito, 6th, Craig Lutz, 7th, Eric Goodale, 11th and Shawn Solomito, 12th.

Bonsignore started fourth on the grid passed early leader Doug Coby between turns three and four on lap 8 before giving way to Coby who passed him on the front chute just prior to completing 24 laps. Coby set a torrid pace for 74 laps before the first caution of the night flew on lap 92 for a spin in turn 3 by Joe DeGracia. Coby along with Bonsignore, Ryan Preece, Rowan Pennink and Rob Summers to name a few. Quick work by Bonsignore’s crew got him out of the pits first which gave him a big break. When the green flag was displayed on lap 98 Bonsignore jumped out in from leading Coby, Timmy Solomito, Rowan Pennink and Preece. Solomito lost his third spot on lap 103 when he went high in turn 2, allowing Pennink and Preece to shoot by. One final caution flew on lap 107 when Walter Sutcliff Jr spun on the back chute. The field restarted on lap 112. Bonsignore continued to lead while Coby slipped and allowed Pennink to take over the runner-up spot. At the finish it was Bonsignore over Pennink, Coby, Preece, Sapienza, Timmy Solomito, Lutz, Summers, Matt Dowling and Matt Swanson.

Bonsignore holds a 19-point advantage in the championship standings over Chase Dowling, while Craig Lutz is third, 29 points back. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, this coming Saturday night on June 23. This event will be televised on a taped-delayed basis on Thurs, June 28 at 7:00pm on the NBC Sports Net.

In other action at Thompson on Thursday night, the Sunoco Modifieds began the action with a 30-lap feature that pitted two of the best against each other with Ryan Preece and Keith Rocco seeking glory in the third race of the season for the division. Preece had the advantage of starting up front and led the first ten laps before Rocco worked his way to the lead. Preece would not be denied however, putting his bumper to Rocco’s until the caution waved with ten laps remaining setting up a sprint to the finish between two of the most iconic names on the local racing circuit.
The final ten laps were more of the same with Rocco leading and Preece utilizing every trick in his arsenal to try and take the win. Preece made one final move on lap 29 but was unable to seal the deal as Rocco performed the hat trick winning all three Sunoco Modified events of the season so far at the Big-T. Preece settled for second and was followed by Todd Owen, Steve Masse and Troy Talman.

Wayne Burroughs beat out Eric Bourgeois for the Mini-Stock win, Dan Cugini was the NEMA Lite winner, Ryan Waterman staged a spirited battle with Shawn Monahan for the Limited Sportsman win and Mark Janison beat out Woody Pitkat for the Late Model win.

On a note of constructive criticism, the Thompson Motorsports Park is a great facility which provides great competition. While much has been spent on the sports car course the grandstand area has become somewhat run down as the grandstands are badly in need of a coat of fresh paint.

The Stafford Motor Speedway has been the scene of many emotional wins, last Friday night will be one to be remembered. It was a night of milestones for the two premier divisions as Michael Christopher, Jr. scored his first career SK Modified® win by outdueling Ryan Preece in his Uncle Ted’s car. The second milestone was Tom Fearn setting a Stafford Speedway track record for consecutive Late Model wins by winning his fifth consecutive race of the 2018 season. Other feature wins were scored by Andrew Molleur in the SK Light feature, Duane Provost in the Limited Late Model feature, and Trace Beyer in the Street Stock division.

Christopher and Ryan Preece went wheel to wheel on a late restart with Preece falling into line behind Christopher coming to the white flag. Preeece made one las run coming to the checkered flag but Christopher held him off to score his first career SK Modified® victory. Keith Rocco finished third with Todd Owen and Matt Galko rounding out the top-5.

Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Todd Owen outran Rob Janovic to win the 40 lap SK Modified feature. Dylan Izzo was third. Jonathan Puleo made it three for three in SK Lite competition. Charles Canfield was the Mini-Stock winner and Jon Porter was the Sportsman winner. The American-Canadian Tour was on hand for a 150 lapper. Scott Payea took the win. Local winner Ryan Morgan finished a solid seventh.

Across the big pond on Long Island, Ryan Preece went back to basics in the set-up of his Eddie & Connie Partridge Tour Type Modified Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway and did it ever pay off as he won the 2nd annual Islip 300 worth $7,000 to the winning team. For Preece a two-time winner on the Xfinity Series of NASCAR it was his 16th career win at the historic quarter mile oval.
Preece would pit for his change tires just after the 200-lap mark of the race moving John Fortin Sr. to the race lead on lap 215. However, armed with three new tires Preece’s car was again on rails and he wasted little time taking back the race lead from Fortin on lap 222. However, during a long green flag run after taking back the lead Ryan’s car seemed to level off allowing not only Fortin to pressure the leader but also John Beatty Jr. who with 40-laps remaining got by Fortin and set sail for Preece. Beatty was able to stay right in the tire tracks of Preece and on occasion tried to cross the leader over off the corners but Ryan was able to inch away each time.

John Beatty Jr. was the runner-up in the MSM Elite Motorsports Chevy sending praise the race winners way, “hats off to Ryan and his team, they had a great car. So did we, his was just that much better”. John Fortin Sr. was third. Kyle Soper crossed the line fourth while Dave Brigati completed the top five.

It has been announced that the Riverhead Raceway will host a mid-week racing program. On Wednesday July 11th Riverhead host a NASCAR Whelen All American Series program for the NASCAR Modifieds, Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modifieds, Super Pro Trucks, INEX Legend Race Cars, 8-Cylinder Enduro and a School Bus Figure Eight race. These features will be regular distance and carry championship track and WAAS points! General admission for fans will be $20.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jonathan Brown won the first 50-lap Modified race Saturday night, and Lee Jeffreys picked a win in the second 50-lapper Saturday night. In the first race, Randy Butner started on the pole, but points leader Burt Myers had passed Butner on the start. Myers led until the 38th lap, but on the restart after a caution, Brown rolled past Myers with 10 laps to go.Another caution brought out he restart cone, and Brown started inside. Myers went to the outside in hopes of passing Brown with eight laps left. Brown held off Myers for the next three laps, but another caution happened with five laps left. Brown won the race and picked up his fourth win of the season. Myers was second, Jason Myers, Burt’s brother, was third and John Smith was fourth.

In the second 50-lap Modified race, Darin Redmon started on the pole, but Jeffreys took control on the 20th lap. Jeffreys was able to hold off Myers and picked up his second win in as many weeks, and his 21st overall in his career.

On a sad note, Arthur “AJ” James Vogel, age 58, died unexpectedly at UMass Memorial on June 12, 2018 from complications arising from a heart attack. Born in Hartford on January 28, 1960 and raised in Fabyan, AJ studied Engineering at Thames Valley State University before dedicating 23 proud years of service to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. Restless in retirement, he rejoined the work force as the town of Killingly’s transportation supervisor for seven years. His final years were his happiest, as he passionately pursued his dream of officiating for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He wore many hats and loved each one.

On the speedway stock market scene this week, all three speedway stocks had positive week endings. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 1.00 to 44.15. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.20 to 17.53 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.05 to 2.15. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage went up 0.95 to 56.43, while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.24 to 25.07 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 0.58 to 18.49. The car manufacturers were all down for the week. Ford dropped 0.22 to 11.88, General Motors dropped 0.35 to 43.90 and Toyota dropped 1.42 to 135.79. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 2.22 to 200.55 while Lowes dropped 1.05 to 99.17. In the area of big teams sponsors stocks, McDonalds dropped 2.47 to 166.44, Coca-Cola went up 4.48 to 134.18, Target Department Stores dropped 0.79 to 77.23, Dow-Dupont dropped 1.74 to 67.75 and Fedex went up 4.40 to 264.55.

On the tube this week:

Thursday, June 21
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBC Sports Net
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, Fox Sports 1
6:00 PM, NASCAR The Decades – 1980s, NBCSN

Friday, June 22
2:30 PM, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sonoma practice, FS1
5:30 PM, MENCS Sonoma final practice, FS1
7:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub Weekend Edition, FS1
7:30 PM, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Gateway final practice, Fox Sports 2

Saturday, June 23
2:30 PM, MENCS Sonoma qualifying, FS1
7:00 PM, NCWTS Gateway qualifying, FS1
8:00 PM, NASCAR RaceDay: NCWTS, FS1
8:30 PM, NCWTS Gateway race, FS1

Sunday, June 24
1:30 PM, MENCS Sonoma race, FS1
3:00 PM, MENCS Sonoma race, FS1
11:00 PM, MENCS Sonoma race re-air, FS1