Race Weekend Central

Justin Bonsignore Brings Out the Broom at Riverhead Raceway

Finally, the weather held up at Riverhead Raceway for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. On a gorgeous day on Eastern Long Island, the series gathered together for the final race with Barbara and Jim Cromarty as the owners of the well-known 1/4-mile track, with Ed Partridge purchasing Riverhead Raceway a few weeks ago.

Justin Bonsignore, who won at Riverhead in late June, returned to victory lane on Saturday evening earning his second Whelen Modified Tour triumph of 2015. Exiting his car with a broomstrick in hand, the Long Island native rebounded after finishing 25th at Bristol, to put himself back inside the top 10 in the championship standings.

“We came here for a few years and there was a stretch where we would run second with Preece winning every time it seemed,” Bonsignore said following his win. “We struck on something here last September when it rained out, and we carried forward with that setup. We were not perfect tonight, but we were good enough to win the race and that’s all you need to be at the end of the day.

(Photo: Joseph Wolkin)
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour field posed by the finish line on  Saturday evening prior to the Riverhead 200 to thank Barbara and Jim Cromary for all that they have done for Riverhead Raceway for over 30 years. (Photo: Joseph Wolkin)

“The championship has been out of the window since we were here in June. We had so many DNFs to start and a few since. When we do finish races this year, our worst finish is eighth.”

Holding off two-time Whelen champion Doug Coby in a 21-lap battle to the finish, Bonsignore captured his eighth career victory in his 85th start. He now has three victories at Riverhead, putting him one win behind Ryan Preece and Ted Christopher’s mark for the most by an active driver.

“I was just thanking them for everything they have done,” said Bonsignore, who won the track championship at Riverhead in 2011. “I haven’t been here much the last couple of years because I can’t line anything up to race weekly. I was thankful that I won the last one before the sale, and I wasn’t sure if the new owners took over or not when we got here [this weekend]. It’s just really special to win for the Cromarty family and thankful for everything they have done for everybody on Long Island.”

Preece continues to hold the championship lead after finishing eighth at Riverhead in his No. 6 car. However, the gap is now just a single point ahead of Woody Pitkat. The 2013 champion has four victories in his first season driving for the TS Haulers team and has finished inside of the top 10 in each of the 12 races this season.

Rookie Chase Dowling finished a career-best third on Saturday evening at Riverhead. The 17-year-old piloted his No. 9 car inside of the top five throughout the race, finishing third after contending with Bonsignore and Coby for the victory.

“This team has worked really hard all year,” Dowling said. “We really clicked as a team this year. Jamie Tomaino gave me an awesome opportunity to drive his Troyer racecar. We tried getting good finishes, and it seemed like we could get qualifying down. We finally hit the spot with some little changes. We’re basically a rookie team with Jamie Tomaino’s background. We came a long ways, and hopefully we’ll have some more good finishes.”

Former Camping World Truck Series winner Donny Lia finished fourth at Riverhead in the No. 8 car, earning his third straight top five. Riverhead native Eric Goodale finished fifth on Saturday evening, moving him into fifth in the championship standings for the third time this year.

Pole sitter Tom Rogers, Jr. led 33 laps in Joe Ambrose’s No. 0 car. The pole marked the second in his Modified Tour career with both coming this season at Riverhead. He finished sixth as he looks to win the weekly track championship at Riverhead.

Riverhead regular Kyle Ellwood finished 16th at Riverhead in his third Whelen Modified Tour race at the track and his sixth overall Tour start. James Civali ran the No. 13 in place of Christopher, who had been driving the Our Motorsports No. 22 for the past two events at Thompson and Bristol. Christopher missed his first race since Riverhead in Aug. 1999 at Monadnock, where reigning Southern Modified Tour champion Andy Seuss replaced him.

With three races left on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule, Preece looks to win his second championship. He is running the No. 98 Cup Series car at Loudon in a combined effort between Tommy Baldwin Racing and Phil Parsons Racing as he will also run the No. 41 Chevrolet for Hillman Racing in the K&N Pro Series East at Richmond.

Notables from Saturday evening at Riverhead:

  • Dylan Slepian captured his sixth INEX Legends victory of the season in the No. 63 car. He holds a 62-point lead over Vinny Delaney for the track title.
  • Tom Pickerell won his third Blunderbust race of the year, extending his championship lead to 38 points.
  • Owen Grennan was victorious for the first time in his No. 38 car. He sits ninth in points with Eric Zeh holding an eight-point lead over Ray Minieri.
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