Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Now in his 11th full-time season as a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver, Justin Bonsignore and his #51 Phoenix Communications, Inc. team have established themselves as perennial front runners.
Bonsignore has amassed 29 career wins and he has finished in the top-3 of the points standings for the last 4 years in a row, including a championship run in 2018. One track that has been a nemesis for Bonsignore over the years has been Stafford Speedway.
Bonsignore has 37 career starts at the Connecticut half-mile track and he has yet to post a victory. Bonsignore’s best Stafford finish has been second place, which he has achieved four times. As he and the #51 team prepare for this Saturday’s NAPA Auto Parts 150, Bonsignore is looking to put an end to that winless streak.
“I saw something posted from Stafford that said I was 0-for-37 there and I didn’t know I had that many races at Stafford,” said Bonsignore. “It’s always on the mind of if and when we can break through. I think we were the closest we’ve ever been last season at Stafford and we were really looking forward to having 3 shots at winning there this season. We were really excited with how we ran at Stafford last season to get back there this year and possibly get our first win. Especially the Sizzler, I would love to win that race but the NAPA 150 is also a prestigious race and we’re happy and thankful we’re able to get back to Stafford in 2020 even if it’s only for one race. I’m really optimistic that we’ll have a shot at winning this race as long as we have the right strategy.”
In 7 starts this season, Bonsignore has recorded 3 wins, 2 second place finishes, and 2 fifth place finishes. Dating back to the 2019 season, Bonsignore and the #51 team have recorded 13 consecutive top-5 finishes. Bonsignore has also completed all 1,247 laps that have been run this season to date and he leads the Whelen Modified Tour field with 390 laps led this season. Looking at Bonsignore’s 2020 performance, he would have to be ranked among the favorites to win the NAPA 150.
“This season has definitely been tough for all of us but our season has been really good,” said Bonsignore. “We started off with back to back wins and we’ve had some good top-5 finishes. Every race has been a top-5 finish for us so it’s been really successful and we feel like there have been a couple races that we let slip away. It’s been great to be as competitive as we have been and it just shows how hard Ryan Stone and my entire team work and it’s a pleasure to be able to drive cars that are this good. Going back to last year, knock on wood we’re on a pretty good top-5 streak. The goal is always to win or finish in the top-3 every week knowing how good our team is and the potential we have but to not have any issues or an off day where maybe you finish 6th or 7th, it’s a pretty cool stat to have and we’re really proud of that. If you can be in the top-5 every week you’re going to put yourself into a position to do some really good things.”
Normally when the Whelen Modified Tour rolls into Stafford in September, it’s the third Stafford event of the season. With the NAPA Auto Parts 150 serving as the one and only NWMT Stafford race this season, teams won’t have any notes from earlier races to fall back on and with a new tire compound and pit stop rule, Bonsignore says fans could be in for a treat when it comes to pit strategy changing up the running order through the NAPA Auto Parts 150.
“This race is going to be different for sure,” said Bonsignore. “We have different rules this year for pit stops with the tires where we can only take 2 tires per caution period, so that’s kind of a big unknown for everybody and with not running at Stafford yet we don’t know how things will play out but we’ll all watch everything unfold live on Saturday. We’re also running a different tire compound with a softer tire which I think might open up some different strategy options and it could jumble track position during the race. I think it’s going to be a crazy race with strategy and we’ll have to make sure we get that right on race day.”
As always, time trials for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 will be important for teams to get the best starting position possible, but Bonsignore says that practice could also play an important role in determining who will be among the front runners once the green flag drops.
“Qualifying will be important to start up front but practice is also going to be important,” said Bonsignore. “Our pit stalls are determined from our practice speeds so you want to have a strong practice run to possibly get that first pit stall, which will definitely help you out during the race. We definitely want to try to start on the pole if possible and if we can’t be on pole we want to at least be somewhere in the top-5 to start the race so we can be up front and get into a nice position and not have to race our way through the field and burn up the tires. As always at Stafford, if you can start up front it can be a huge advantage for how your race is going to play out.”
Bonsignore and the Whelen Modified Tour field will be joined in feature action for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 by Stafford’s SK Lights and Limited Late Models along with the Vintage All-Stars. General Admission tickets for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 have met the State mandated capacity, but there are still a limited amount of paddock passes available for purchase online through www.staffordspeedway.com. Tickets will not be sold day of show.