DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo — NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship contender Justin Bonsignore will look to make the most of lost opportunities by taking advantage of those that could be ahead of him this week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Just four tallies behind points leader Doug Coby with the season winding down, Bonsignore lost a valuable opportunity to make a push for the lead when last week’s event at Riverhead Raceway was cancelled due to rain. Bonsignore possessed a decided statistical advantage on Coby at the Long Island bullring – his home track where he posted his first Whelen Modified Tour win and raced to a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track title just three years ago.
But at the tight quarter-mile where a good day can go bad quickly, Bonsignore is taking a glass-half-full approach to the cancellation.
“On paper you would think that we maybe would have had a slight advantage to gain some points on Doug [Coby] there, but Riverhead is a place that something can happen – get caught up in accidents – real easily,” Bonsignore said. “So as excited and hopeful as we were to get to Riverhead, it’s a wash, and we didn’t lose anything.”
The focus now switches to this Saturday’s F.W. Webb 100 at the “Magic Mile,” where at first glance, the roles would appear to be reversed from Riverhead. Coby has posted a pair of wins in recent seasons at NHMS, a place where his main title threat has yet to reach Victory Lane, but Bonsignore has been in contention more than once at the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, New Hampshire.
Bonsignore posted top fives in both 2011 New Hampshire dates. The 2012 and 2013 seasons proved to be forgettable for Bonsignore and the No. 51 chem3.com Chevrolet team there, but this past July they finished sixth in the 100-lap points race and nearly won the 40-lap non-points event.
“Our finish didn’t show how good I felt we ran in the first [points] race there, so I’m hopeful when we go back that we’ll be just as good and get a better result,” Bonsignore said. “We’ve run really good in the past at Loudon. A few years ago we were in the mix almost every time we went. We’ve kind of struggled the last couple of years, but in the all-star race it felt good to be in contention late.”
Bonsignore took the lead heading into Turn 1 of the white flag lap in July’s inaugural Whelen All-Star Shootout, but was overcome by Ryan Newman half a mile short of the finish line and settled for second place in the non-points event.
Bonsignore can take what he learned from the experience of contending for the checkered flag, and he hopes to apply that knowledge this week if the opportunity presents itself.
“That was totally on me – I made my move way too early,” Bonsignore said. “I definitely learned what not to do on the last lap at Loudon, and I think our team is strong enough that we can contend when we go back this week.”
The Race: The F.W. Webb 100 will be the 11th of 13 points races on the 2014 schedule and the second of two visits to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 38 cars, including provisionals. The first 33 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 100 laps (105.8 miles) and will have a five minute break at or near the conclusion of Lap 50.
The Track: NHMS, a 1.058-mile slightly-banked asphalt oval, is the largest track the Whelen Modified Tour races at. NHMS has played host to the Whelen Modified Tour 60 times previously, the most of any facility outside of Connecticut.
Race Winners: There have been 19 different race winners at NHMS, led by Mike Stefanik with eight victories. Todd Szegedy is the defending winner of the F.W. Webb 100 while Bobby Santos earned the victory in July’s Sunoco 100.
Pole Winners: There have been 25 different pole winners at NHMS, led by Jan Leaty’s six. Ted Christopher is the active poles leader with five. Ryan Newman earned the pole for this event last year and Ron Silk was the fastest qualifier there in July. Mike Ewanitsko holds the qualifying record at 28.693 seconds (132.743 mph), set in 2001.
New Hampshire Race Notes:
The Recent NHMS Success of Coby, MSIII Racing: If the last four NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway are any indication, this week’s F.W. Webb 100 figures to be a great opportunity for a victory from Doug Coby and the No. 2 Mike Smeriglio III Racing team. Coby drove to Victory Lane in the September 2012 race as well as the July 2013 event, and the No. 2 Chevrolet team won the September 2013 race with Todd Szegedy behind the wheel. Coby and MSIII Racing then combined forces for 2014 and posted a runner-up finish in July’s Sunoco 100.
First-Time Winners: Three of the 10 races this year have featured first-time winners. Eric Goodale nabbed his first at Riverhead Raceway in June, Woody Pitkat followed in the August race at Stafford Motor Speedway, and Tommy Barrett Jr. was victorious in the most-recent outing at Bristol Motor Speedway. A fourth in any one of the three remaining dates would be the most since there were five in 2002. The last time a driver earned his first Whelen Modified Tour win at NHMS was Ryan Newman in 2010, and the last full-time tour competitor to accomplish the feat was Chuck Hossfeld in 2002.
Szegedy Hopes to Resuscitate Rough Season: Although he’s had only four opportunities, perhaps no driver has had worse luck in 2014 than Szegedy, the defending F.W. Webb 100 winner. Relegated to a part-time schedule this year, the 2003 champion has been able to finish only one of his previous four races. Fortunately for Szegedy, NHMS is next on the schedule. Although one of those DNFs came in the July race at Loudon, Szegedy led 15 laps in that event before suffering a blown engine. Szegedy has three NHMS wins to his credit, and his 9.8 average finish across 24 starts at the “Magic Mile” is the best among all active drivers.
July NHMS Race a History-Maker: July’s Sunoco 100, which was extended to 110 laps due to two green-white-checkered flag attempts, featured the most official lead changes in the 30-year history of Whelen Modified Tour competition. The 35 lead changes, recorded at the start-finish line, were five more than the previous record, also set at NHMS in a 100-lap event in 2000.
Christopher, Stefanik Share Track Wins Record: In the 25-year history of NHMS, two drivers stand together atop the track’s all-time NASCAR wins list: Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik with 10 apiece. Christopher’s 10 have been evenly divided between Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East triumphs while Stefanik’s tour record eight wins are complemented by a pair of K&N East victories. Both are looking for their first win in 2014.
Tour TV Time: Following three previous race broadcasts this year, fans now have two opportunities left this season to catch Whelen Modified Tour action on their televisions: Saturday’s F.W. Webb 100 and the season finale at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. The tour’s second visit to the “Magic Mile” will debut on Fox Sports 1 on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 10 a.m.
Last Time Out: Riverhead
The 11th race of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season was to be the Riverhead 200 on Sept. 13 at New York’s Riverhead Raceway, however rain moved over the Long Island quarter-mile on raceday and forced the cancellation of the event.
Next Time Out: Stafford
Following the F.W. Webb 100, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will head to Stafford Motor Speedway for the fourth and final time in 2014 with the NAPA Fall Final 150 on Sunday, Sept. 28. Donny Lia is the defending winner of the Fall Final, the traditional season-ending race weekend for the famed Connecticut half-mile. Bobby Santos, Doug Coby and Woody Pitkat have reached Victory Lane in the first three Stafford races this year.