Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – NASCAR XFINITY Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck & NASCAR Regional, International and Local Champions will be honored in Charlotte, North Carolina this coming weekend.
Justin Bonsignore rolled to his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in his ninth full-time season of competition, winning eight of 16 events and finishing inside the top-10 in all but one race. Bonsignore clinched the championship with one race remaining on the schedule, but celebrated his first trophy by completing a sweep of the four events at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in the season-finale.
Bonsignore’s path to the championship may have seemed easy if you look at the statistics he put together, but with competition on the Whelen Modified Tour, at an all-time high, it certainly wasn’t an easy task. Over the course of 16 races, at nine different tracks, a total of 61 different drivers took the green flag. Of them, eight different drivers visited Victory Lane, and the average car count per race was just under 30, the best the Whelen Modified Tour has seen since 2015.
Among the special awards will be the series Rookie of the Year presentation. With 14 different Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders hitting the track, the battle went right to the wire, with Tommy Catalano and Blake Barney battling it out at the season finale. It was Catalano who sealed that crown, after only anticipating running just a few select races.
Without a doubt, the best race of the season was the one that put the series on the ultimate stage. As part of the inaugural Full Throttle Weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September, the Whelen Modified Tour drivers competed in the longest race in history — a 250-lap, $25,000 to win event on the 1.058-mile oval. In a battle to the final turn, where the two leaders wrecked, 20-year-old Chase Dowling escaped the chaos to score his first career win.
Valenti Modified Racing Series Champion Woody Pitkat was feted this past Friday. The series title is Pitkat’s second, his first was in 2015. The battle for the series championship went right down to the final race with Pitkat, winner of the Lee USA Speedway race in October, amassing 463 points, 2017 champ Anthony Nocella, victorious at Monadnock and Lee totaling 456 points, and Mike Willis Jr, only two points back with 454. Veteran driver Richard Savary, the Stafford Speedway victor, finished fourth, with 2018 Rookie of the Year Jacob Perry rounding out the top five.
Pitkat recognized car owners Dan Stebbins, Stan Mertz, and Todd Patnode noting if it were not for them the championship would not have been attainable. Mertz and Patnode stepped up late season when Stebbins discontinued his 2018 campaign. Pitkat also recognized drivers, Anthony Nocella, Sammy Rameau, and Mike Willis Jr.
Pitkat was also the recipient of the Hoosier Tire East Award presented by Rob Summers, and the New England Race Fuel Award from John Holland.
A.D.N. Motorsports (Anthony Nocella) won the Owners Points Title over Mike Willis Jr, Sammy Kramer, Stebbins, and long-time car owner Norm Perry. Achievement Awards were presented to the following: Rookie of the Year – Jacob Perry, Most Improved Driver – Cameron Sontag, Tough Luck award – CJ Bolton, Sportsmanship Award – Derek Robbie and Dedication To Racing – Roy Seidell. Seidell called it a career in October after 44- years of competition.
Pitkat joins Jon McKennedy (4) Kirk Alexander (3) Chris Pasteryak (2) Dwight Jarvis, Rowan Pennink, Justin Bonsignore, and Anthony Nocella, as Series Champions. Anthony Nocella topped the Car Owners category besting Mike Willis by two points 756-754.
Series owner Jack Bateman released a 16-race schedule that will include five events at Connecticut short tracks. The series gets the green for its 2019 season at the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway on April 4 and will end its season at the Sunoco World Series at Thompson on Oct. 12.
The series will make just one stop at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Aug. 30. Two events are scheduled for the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. The first one will be on May 11 and the second on Aug. 17 as part of the track’s annual Wings and Wheels program.
For the third year in a row the series will anchor the New England Short Track showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 23. Other stops in the Granite state include four visits to Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H. (May 4, June 8, July 6 and Aug. 24). Lee USA Speedway in Lee, N.H. will hold three Modified Racing Series events for 2019 (May 19, July 12 and Oct. 6). The VMRS will also make visits to Speedway 51 in Groveton, N.H. (July 27), Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Me. (Aug. 3) and Claremont (N.H.) Speedway (Aug. 9).
Between the Whelen Modified Tour, VMRS, Stafford, & Thunder Road open races (maybe a Tri Track Open Modified Series race?) schedules, it looks like 28 tour mod events in New England, with only one date conflict.
It looks like all systems are Go at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 2019 as General Manager Mike Serluca has indicated. Thru Internet site RacedayCt, Serluca announced a 22-event schedule for their weekly racing divisions for the 2019 season.
The Speedbowl drops the green for its 2019 season with the Budweiser Blast Off on May 11-12.
The Blast Off event will feature the first of two events at the track for the Modified Racing Series. The division will return to the track for the annual Wings And Wheels event in Aug. 17.
The Speedbowl will also host the American Modified Tour three times for that division’s inaugural season. The American Modified Tour will compete at the track June 8, Sept. 7 and as part of the tracks finale weekend Oct. 18-20 (feature Oct. 20).
The track will host it’s Full Fendered Throwdown presented by Belltown Motors Tire Service Center of East Hampton on May 25 featuring the Granite State Pro Stock Series.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series will also compete at the track on Aug. 3 and as part of Finale Weekend on Oct. 19.
The NEMA Midgets and NEMA Lites will also make multiple appearances at the track in 2019.
Special events include Military Appreciation Night on May 18, Youth Sports Night on June 1, the Waterford 300 on July 6, Scout Night on July 20, Nostalgia Night on July 27 and the Bubby Brouwer Memorial on 14.
The popular Hometown Nights are also returning to the schedule. On Jun 22, fans who reside in towns that start with the letter A-to-M will be admitted to the grandstand for half price. In June 29, fans who live in towns beginning with the letters N to Z will receive half price grandstand admission.
Wild ‘n’ Wacky Wednesday kicks off its 2019 season on May 22 and will continue until Sept. 4. All weekly shows will include the Legends, the Super-X Cars, the X-Cars and the Bandoleros.
Located in close proximity to the Connecticut shoreline, the Speedbowl has been in operation since 1951. The 1/3 mile asphalt oval provides some of the best competition in the northeast
On the speedway stock market scene all three speedway stocks were down for the week. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.85 to 42 34 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.31 to 17.38 and Dover Entertainment dropped 0.03 to 1.95. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage went up 2.36 to 59.68 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.62 to 23.16 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 0.34 to 14.57. The auto manufacturers were all on the up side for the week. General Motor led the way as they went up 2.02 to 37.95. Toyota went up 1.77 to 121.48 and Ford went up 0.28 to 9.41. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 11.37 to 180.32 and Lowes went up 7.06 to 94.37. In the area of big team sponsor’s stocks, McDonalds went up 6.58 to 188.51, Coca-Cola went up 2.74 to 212.52, Target Department Stores went up 3.61 to 70.96, Dow-Dupont went up 1.42 to 57.85, Fedex went up 5.60 to 229.00 and Porter Cable-Stanley Works went up 4.91 to 130.85.
On the tube this week:
Thursday, December 6
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub – Radioactive, FS1
Friday, December 7
3:00 AM, NASCAR Race Hub – Radioactive, FS1
Monday, December 10
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub – Season Recap, FS1