LOUDON, N.H. – When NASCAR announced the lineup recently for its inaugural Modified Tour Whelen All-Star Shootout exhibition event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, many fans of the series turned to social media to express their disdain for the inclusion of Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman in the event.
Those fans were left with plenty more to complain about Friday afternoon.
Newman came out on top of a final circuit battle with Justin Bonsignore to win the 37-lap event Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Bonsignore, of Holtsville, N.Y. was second and Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I. third.
The race was shortened from its scheduled 40-lap distance because of schedule constraints.
Newman, of South Bend, Ind., fit the qualifying criteria for inclusion to the race based on his four career victories in Whelen Modified Tour events.
Two of those four victories came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2010, a track where Newman also has three Sprint Cup Series wins.
“There’s something about it here,” said Newman, who was a running a Gary Putnam Racing entry. “It’s always been a good track for me. Obviously the guys build a fast Modified, I can’t do it without that. … It’s not the raciest track we go to, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be in victory lane at the end of the day.”
The top-10 was inverted after the completion of 20 laps, putting Newman fifth for the restart after the “halfway” break. On the ensuing restart, Stefanik went from third to the lead with Newman following him to second. A lap later Newman went by Stefanik for the lead.
On the final restart of the day, Bonsignore jumped from fourth to second on lap 36. On the final lap Bonsignore got by Newman for the lead going into turn one, but Newman was able to regain the top spot going into turn three.
“Once he slid by I knew I was going to get some kind of tow off of him but I didn’t know if I was going to have somebody pushing me, or who was going to shove me into turn three way faster than I wanted to go or what it was going to turn out to be,” Newman said. “It turned out good. I thought he would be closer coming back to the line. … We weren’t great in the race, but obviously we were good enough.”
Said Bonsignore: “We locked onto [Newmans] bumper on that last [restart] and we were able to get out in front of [Stefanik]. I really haven’t been in position to win a race up here yet. I figured the best way to not tear up a bunch of cars would be to try to take the lead going into [turn] one. I kind of assumed Newman would get back by me. I tried to throw the block down the backstretch but he had a good head of steam. … All in all it was a good day. We weren’t even supposed to run this event.”
Stefanik, a seven-time series champion and the division’s all-time winningest driver, was making a special appearance in the event. The 56-year old retired from full-time competition with the series after last season.
“We had a really great car, I was able to drive up through and just team up with some other good cars and play the drafting game and get yourself in position,” Stefanik said. “… The last restart, [Bobby Santos III] I was hoping would push me all the way down and he just gave me one big shot and shoved me out there but he couldn’t catch back up. [Bonsignore] locked onto [Newman] and pushed him along. … I had a lot of fun. I’ve been missing out on this. It was a good time.”