Story By: KYLE SOUZA / NASCAR – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Racing is known to be a family affair.
And on Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway, one family was celebrating two different accomplishments at the end of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour NAPA Fall Final 150.
Kyle Bonsignore, in just his 11th career start, rolled by Doug Coby on Lap 146 to capture his first career Whelen Modified Tour victory. The Bay Shore, New York, driver celebrated in Victory Lane after leading just four laps, and even though he may not have been the odds-on favorite going into the race, a pit strategy unlike some others had him on offense in the final circuits.
“This is the biggest race win of my career,” Kyle said. “This is huge. When we come anywhere up here (to the Northeast), we are an underdog. This is only our fifth race this year, and these guys race almost every week. They know their cars a lot better than we do because they race more often on different tracks.”
While Kyle was taking photos in Victory Lane, he was quickly approached by a ecstatic cousin, Justin Bonsignore, who was waiting for the victory platform to clear, oddly enough. After a 12th place result, Justin was ready to celebrate his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship, and he had the opportunity to congratulate his cousin.
Talk about a family memory.
“It makes it even sweeter that I am able to be here to watch Justin clinch the championship,” Kyle said. “He has been like a brother my whole life. We grew up racing everything together. Everything worked out perfectly today.”
You Can Call Justin Bonsignore Champion
Seven wins in 15 races was enough for Justin Bonsignore to clinch his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title at Stafford, with one race still remaining on the championship points schedule.
“I don’t know yet,” Justin said when asked what it meant to him. “The first thing that sticks out is Ken and Janine Massa (the team owners) sticking behind me all of those years when things weren’t going well. There were other people that could have been better in that seat, but they stuck behind me.”
In his ninth full-time season, Bonsignore switched from SPAFCO to LFR Chassis, brought Ryan Stone to the team as crew chief, and unloaded at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway to open the season with plenty of unknowns.
Six months later, all of his questions have been answered.
“Bringing Ryan Stone on-board and switching to LFR and re-investing in the race team, it goes back to the Massa’s and Phoenix Communications,” Justin Bonsignore said. “We’ve had a fairly comfortable lead for much of the summer, and we were able to race hard because of it.”
Chassis Switch Works Out For Lutz
Craig Lutz scored his best career finish in Sunday’s NAPA Fall Final 150 with a second-place effort. And even though he wanted to capture his first win, Lutz was pleased with the effort, especially because the team completed a major swap just a few days before the race.
The No. 46 Goodie Motorsports team switched from Troyer to LFR Chassis, put the car together up until the final hours, and unloaded with plenty of speed. The LFR Chassis department has been to Victory Lane in 10 of 15 events, and Lutz was ready to join the operation.
“That’s all you can ask for, this is a huge jump for our team,” Lutz said. “This was a last minute deal, we put it all together on Tuesday.”
In his first full-time season driving for the team, Lutz has nine finishes inside the top-10, including two second-place finishes. He made the move from his family-owned operation to the Goodie Motorsports team just after the halfway point in 2017.
Sunday, he started eighth, ran just inside, or just outside the top five for much of the race and pounced at the end, taking second and mounting a charge towards Doug Coby in his attempt to win. But, while Kyle Bonsignore moved by, he followed him around Coby and had to settle for second after a slightly different pit strategy.
“I don’t think it would have mattered either way,” Lutz said when asked if he had anything for Bonsignore. “We were hanging on and getting everything we could on old tires. We got beat by new tires.”
Coby’s Title Reign Officially Ends
After four straight championships, and five in the last six years, Doug Coby officially was eliminated from NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship contention on Sunday.
The Milford, Connecticut, driver finished third after leading 13 laps and now sits third in the championship standings, 109 points from the top. Coby does have one victory (at Stafford in August) and 10 top-10 finishes this season, but will come up short of another title.
“Justin has put in his dues, Justin is very similar to me when I won my first championship. I had tried so long to be part of the tour, and Justin almost won a couple of years ago,” Coby said. “He’s been through numerous chassis, numerous crew chiefs.
“They have a great pit crew, and that is where it starts. They put the pieces together with the LFR Chassis and Ryan Stone coming on-board.”
Coby, who has 15 wins in the last five years, isn’t satisfied with the season. He wants to win, and he wants to score the ultimate prize. But, he will have to wait until 2019 to have another shot at it.
“I don’t want to say that I’m happy we didn’t win it, but it proves that you just have to keep working,” Coby said. “You have to remind yourself to keep that hunger. It’s bittersweet because we feel like the championship is ours, but it just proves that you have to work really hard to win a championship.”
NAPA Fall Final 150 Quick Notes:
Chase Dowling, who started from the outside pole, didn’t waste any time getting to the point. He led Lap 1, and went on to lead a total 131 laps, but finished fourth. While others dashed to pit road for fresh tires, Dowling didn’t, led much of the race, but faded when others with new tires found their way to the front.
Also in a brand new LFR Chassis, Dave Sapienza qualified third, and scored a seventh-place finish. The effort was his third finish inside the top seven in the last five races.
Chris Pasteryak captured his best finish of the season (eighth), and continued periodical improvement at the half-mile. He finished 18th at the NAPA Spring Sizzler in April, 10th in the Starrett Tools 150 at August, and eighth on Sunday.
There is just one race remaining on the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule. The Sunoco World Series 150 will take place on Sunday, October 14, where Justin Bonsignore will officially celebrate his championship.