HOLTSVILLE, N.Y. — A change in his car might be exactly what Justin Bonsignore needs to make a run at the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2018.
Bonsignore and his Kenneth Massa Motorsports team announced last week that they have switched from SPAFCO to LFR Chassis, in addition to hiring former champion crew chief Ryan Stone ahead of the new season.
After a largely positive season, Bonsignore and his crew chief Billy Michael decided the two would go separate ways at the end of last year. Michael had worked with Bonsignore for his near-championship run in 2016 and also worked with him for the second half of last season, but it was time for a change.
“At the level of our sport, we felt that in order to get back to being a title-contending team, we needed a full-time employee. We offered that to Billy, he thought it over and understandably so, he turned it down,” Bonsignore said. “He was understanding of the decision we had to make. There is still a great friendship there. We are happy that he has a great family to go home to at night, but as a race team, we needed something that would definitely make us successful.”
Once Michael decided he wasn’t going to return to the team on a full-time basis, Bonsignore and his team went searching for a new leader. They found Stone, who has plenty of experience with LFR Chassis.
“When we came in the market for a new crew chief, it became evident that some of them only wanted to work with particular brands, so it was the same as in the end of 2013 — we said that the crew chief was most comfortable with LFR, so we made the decision to switch,” added Bonsignore in regards to the decision to hire Stone. “There are no hard feelings with SPAFCO and we are really appreciative of everything they have done for us in the past four years.”
Bonsignore is hoping the switch will help him chase his first career Tour championship in 2018. The relationship he is building with Stone will be crucial to his success.
“I’ve known Ryan for a long time, just being at the races, I have become friendly with him and I think he has a really similar personality to Billy. We have got to talk on the phone and hang out, and I feel like the connection is there already,” Bonsignore said. “I think that is the biggest part — you need a connection — and I feel like the chemistry will just build from there. If you have a friendship and get along, I really think with our experiences, we can get off the bat really good and have a lot of success.”
Bonsignore has 12 wins and 54 top fives in 121 career starts over his 11 years of competition on tour.
He has finished inside the top five in the championship standings in three of the last four years, including a third place finish in 2016, but that third place finish in the standings wasn’t what the team was hoping for.
So what will he need to make a run at the 2018 title?
“You have to have speed, a great team and a great pit crew,” Bonsignore said. “I think we will come out of the gate strong, but you have to have the luck to go along with it. You have to put a whole season together and you have to be really prepared. The pit stops, knowing when or when not to use the option tire … things like that will all be critical.”
Even though there are just over two months before the drop of the green flag at Myrtle Beach Speedway, the Holtsville, N.Y. driver is ready to go.
“I’m really anxious to get back at it,” Bonsignore said. “Every time you have some changes that you think will be successful, it’s great. I’m really amped up and ready to go.”
The 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season kicks off March 17 at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
About the Writer
Kyle Souza is a Journalism major at the Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.
Souza is a freelance reporter for NASCARHomeTracks.com, covering the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, as well as a weekly columnist for Trenton, N.J.-based Area Auto Racing News and the lead New England correspondent for Race Chaser Online, covering everything from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and the PASS North Super Late Models.
When not writing, Souza works at Seekonk Speedway as the track’s Friday public address announcer.
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