Setting The Scene: Kyle Bonsignore Hoping To Lean On Previous South Boston Experience

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)
Kyle Bonsignore celebrates in victory lane following the Whelen Modified Tour NAPA Fall Final 150 last October at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

Kyle Bonsignore might be one of the favorites when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to South Boston Speedway this weekend.

For the first time since 2001, NASCAR’s modified stars will take to the .4-mile Virginia oval looking to capture the victory as part of the second of a two-race southern swing to begin the newest season.

And Bonsignore, unlike many others in the field, has previous experience at the track that he is hoping he can lean on. Bonsignore competed at South Boston in three races during NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour action, including the final two races the series had at the oval in 2016.

In those last two starts, Bonsignore qualified inside the top five and finished fourth and second — coming up just short of rolling into Victory Lane.

RACING-REFERENCE: Kyle Bonsignore Career Stats

“I’d like to think that it does give us a slight advantage, but the big monkey wrench in all of it is that they repaved the track. We didn’t get a chance to test and a lot of the other guys did, but I know some of the places you can pass and the way you need to set people up. The track didn’t change shape, so I do know the line as well, which helps,” Kyle Bonsignore said. “I’m really excited for this race.

“I loved the track before they paved it and now that they did it, the tire fall off seems minimal. It doesn’t seem like the track is slowing down. The last time that I went there was with a totally different chassis and we only lost by a few car lengths. but I know what the car felt like there, and it should feel really close to that.”

Even though he’s been around in modifieds just a short time, Bonsignore has already made a splash. He carries the Bonsignore name — a name that has already seen championship glory last season, when his cousin Justin hoisted the title trophy.

When Justin clinched the title last year at Stafford Motor Speedway, the afternoon of the NAPA Fall Final was historic for the Bonsignore family — but it ended up being a celebration in more ways than just one.

Kyle used some late race moves up to the front to carry the checkered flag for the first time in just his 11th career Whelen Modified Tour start in the NAPA Fall Final 150.

But the path to get to winning glory wasn’t one he takes for granted, and it wasn’t something that happened in the blink of an eye either.

Before running modifieds, Bonsignore competed in the Pro All Star Series in the southeast, driving Super Late Models, after having a tenure in some open-wheel action with USAC.

“I’ve kinda run a little bit of everything in my career,” Bonsignore said. “The first time I ran a Modified was on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The atmosphere in Super Late Model racing was changing, when Kyle Busch was putting together his team, and costs were going up and it just wasn’t working for us. We’ve always been around Modifieds — growing up on Long Island and being that close to Riverhead — and Justin racing Modifieds — I really wanted to, but I just didn’t have the ability at the time. When I sold my Super Late Model, I was deciding what I wanted to do, and the furthest Southern Tour track away was about three hours, so it made sense for us to try it out.”

In 2016, a season that proved to be the final of the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Bonsignore ran the entire 11-race slate and finished seventh in the championship standings with a best finish of second, which came at South Boston. Once that season ended, it was time to make a move to racing up north if he wanted to continue in the modified ranks.

“It was a huge learning curve for us. We were in completely different suspension types in the Super Late Model and with a different body and everything, we went for a 180 and took a way different setup with a way different race,” Bonsignore said. “There were almost no races with pit stops in the Super Late Model, and the fact that you can change a tire, or swap tires in a modified race, there were a lot of things different for us. About halfway through the first year we started to pick it up and we qualified better and it made the race a lot easier.”

It wasn’t long before Bonsignore decided it was time to take his talent to the newly-formed unified Whelen Modified Tour, and he made his first start with the series at Myrtle Beach to open the 2017 season. The opener didn’t start well — with a 19th place finish — but Bonsignore ran three more races that year and finished third at Langley Speedway in May.

Once 2018 rolled around, it was time for him to increase his schedule — which eventually included seven of the 16 races — and he showed speed right from the beginning. But, the move from the south to the north brought some additional challenges with it.

RELATED: Kyle Bonsignore Wins & Justin Bonsignore Clinches Championship at Stafford

“That first race, it was a complete eye-opening experience. unlike a lot of the southern tracks where tires don’t last long, when you go up to Stafford and Thompson and those types of tracks, you can run really hard for a really long time. It’s a huge difference mentally as a driver to adjust to that,” Bonsignore said. “Down south, the green flag comes out and you run 60 percent, and you come in and get your tire then you run to the end. In the north, the first 15 laps seem like qualifying laps. We didn’t have experience with the pit strategy either, so that was a huge learning curve racing against guys that do it all year every year. The drivers race differently, you definitely have to earn the respect of them.”

“Every inch is earned, and it can be rough, but I love the racing. That’s why I keep going.”

Fast-forward to last September and the NAPA Fall Final at Stafford, it was time for him to showcase his talent on one of the biggest stages that the series offers. A historic track, on a day where his cousin was clinching the championship.

“We’ve always run well there in the race before and haven’t had the best luck every time, but we learn so much each time on how to make the car better. I knew we had a good car after practice, and honestly, we were under the radar for much of the race until the pit stops started cycling through,” Bonsignore recalled.

“Without pit stops, we went from 14th to fifth and the car was great. We got up to second and rode there for a while and we were counting on a late race caution. When we had crashed out back at the NAPA Spring Sizzler in April , we watched Ryan Preece wait to take his tires and we were just holding out. When the caution came out, we came in, took the last two tires, and everything worked out perfectly. The cautions fell exactly how I needed them to fall. It was definitely the highlight of my career, but it was really great because it’s so hard to win these races. Even if everything works out right, you still have to have the luck. To pass the cars we did on the way back to the front, you are passing people who are usually the ones who are winning all the races.”

Over the most recent offseason, even though he won at Stafford, Bonsignore has updated his operation with some changes to his chassis, suspension, and a life change that comes outside of the race car.

Bonsignore has made a move away from near the race shop, across multiple states — and is preparing to celebrate a marriage in the next month. He’s been relying on his dad, friends, and additional family members to help prepare the cars for battle, and he just flies into the nearest airport for the races.

“It’s tough, but so far it’s been a lot of work for them,” Bonsignore said. “You have to have a lot of trust in them. They’ve done a good job. It’s very different compared to what I am used to having for sure.”

Looking ahead, Bonsignore is really open to be able to showcase his talent over the course of the entire 16-race championship points schedule this season. But, for now, he’s definitely committed to the first four races — which includes the opener at Myrtle Beach, where he finished 17th because of a tire strategy that didn’t fall his way. Up next: South Boston, Thompson and Stafford.

“We try and make the best out of every single one. I own the car so I can only do what I can afford,” he said. “I had planned the first four races because they are tracks that I really like, but when we were at Myrtle Beach, I got a call from Doug Dunleavy and he actually came onboard as a sponsor for the first four. The more help that we can get, the more we will be able to race. I want to run the full season.”

Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes:

  • Multiple teams who are competing in the South Boston 150 tested over the course of the last three weeks, including multiple drivers inside the LFR Chassis camp, who tested all at once.
  • Chase Dowling, who finished second in the championship standings last season, will begin his part-time schedule driving for veteran Jamie Tomaino. Dowling has one career win, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but cut his teeth racing Modifieds at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut.
  • As the second race of the season, South Boston could prove to be the place where the eventual champion breaks out into title form. In two out of the last three years, the eventual series champion won the second race of the season.
  • Ron Silk, Tommy Catalano and Timmy Solomito, three drivers who finished outside the top 20 in the opener at Myrtle Beach, will look to turn their seasons around and pick up crucial momentum before the series returns to New England and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the 45th annual Icebreaker weekend, April 5-7.

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  1. Was I not paying attention last year or are these NWMT press releases getting a lot better?
    Down South they run a 60% until they get their tire then run to the end. Yuck! They’re all possums down there sounds like. That can’t be right.
    Why isn’t Kyle mentioned more as a threat in races?
    Tomaino a swing and a miss at Mrytle. Chase is on deck. Can he produce on the optimism he exuded when he came on board or is he in for a disappointment as well? I’m not optimistic.
    Tommy Catalano may not have had a good opener but he showed in New Smyrna and Myrtle he’s got winning speed.
    Coby in his interview couldn’t be more flattering toward South Boston’s overall facility, the racing surface or his optimism about his prospects. He’ll run up front. He doesn’t have to win to continue to be the man. Bet he doesn’t get a nail in his tire.
    If South Boston is as professional in virtually every facet a race facility is judged according to Coby it follows the announcing with be nothing short of first rate.
    No Hirschman? Apparently it’s not worth updating your site when you don’t have a good finish. Licking his wounds no doubt and plotting his next move looking for easier pickings and a chance to get back in the win column. He’ll be back.
    33 cars entered including James Civali. His first NWMT race since 2015? Interesting. Local guy at one time wasn’t he? SK’s?
    Is testing unfair to those that don’t get a chance at a new track? That never even crossed my mind until someone mentioned it. This is the NASCAR sanctioned premier modified series isn’t it? People that do their home work usually get better grades don’t they?
    Did I read that right. Advance tickets $10 and race day $15. Oh man am I’m envious.
    Place your bets everyone. Coby to win in spite of his bull ring rep and Catalano as the dark horse surprise.

  2. NH MOD CHASER says

    Doug,I am pretty sure Matt is running the Tour Type show at Richmond on the same day.

  3. Thanks CHASER!
    Any favorite for the NWMT race?

  4. Unrelated but news worthy. Star Speedway welcomed back Nascar last week. Hearing rumors about 2020. Rumors about the return of a certain regional touring series.

  5. Fast Eddie says

    JD, if you’re hinting at what I THINK you’re hinting at… Another Modified race at Star would be very VERY COOL!! I do hope you’re right!

  6. Doug;
    Speed 51 did a piece on Matt on the 26th of March. Matt stated he is headed to Richmond. Also stated this is his last road trip until late spring early summer. May do some local mod dates like Evergreen in his home state during that time.
    For me, as for sobo, I’m hoping to see some life out of Solimito and co. There has to be some more competition for the crown, I would hope, than just Bonsignore and Coby. Not taking away anything from either of them, as both teams do tremendous work. But given the amount if part timers in the series this year, including the loss of Santos (I know part time last year too) I’d like to see some more competition at the top. Makes for great entertainment!

  7. Thanks Bob. Great interview with Hirschman on the Morning Bullring just after Speedweeks as well as the article. Explains everything he does an why. The upshot, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The Hirschman/PeeDee Motorsports Modified Touring Series will continue as before.
    Interesting pick Solomito. Recalling things can be dangerously inaccurate but hasn’t he been a train wreck starting at the World Series last year, then Speedweeks and continuing at Myrtle. Always fast, frequently a leader at some point only to have some mishap. He used to be one of the top tier guys wasn’t he and now a win would be surprise. That can’t be viewed as a good thing.
    Agreed, new blood in the top tier. Everyone wants it. Tommy Catalano. There’s your next big surprise.

  8. Some LFR cars went testing at Myrtle Beach and South Boston, so expect them to have a better showing. They will have tire management and set up advantages the rest of the field won’t be able to figure out in a practice session.

  9. Fast Eddie says

    Fully agree about Solomito, he should be in the championship hunt based on 2016 & 2017 performances, but 2018 seemed to be a bust. Hopefully that will change. I’m hoping the 21 runs the whole season; if so they can be in the hunt. I think Blewett was a good driver and his time on dirt made him better by a bunch. I think if Baldwin and McKennedy can find more funding to go to most events, they would also be in the hunt. My “almost there” picks; 58, 64, 36, & 75. Goodale has steadily improved the last couple of years. Summers is way overdue for a bullring win. Sapienza & Pasteryak have the skills and will both be moving up the food chain with their equipment upgrades. I think Pasteryak in particular has a lot more talent than anyone gives him credit for.

  10. Doug;
    Agreed on tommy catalano. In fact, the whole family impresses me. Been following Tommy and Amy for a while now in ROC.
    In Fla, year after year, they have been back markers. Then this year, wow! What a turn around! No one surprised me more than Amy herself! Some bad luck at the end, but what a run for her! Good for you mum!
    Tommy has been steadily improving in leaps and bounds the last 2 years.
    Whether you are a fan of these guys or not, these guys seem to make most all Roc dates plus a few others! You have to admire their dedication running 2 , and now with Timmy, sometimes 3 teams on a given weekend. While all teams sacrifice, some more than others, the raw dedication of this family at the very least, I can’t help but admire, and follow! The fact that Tommy is now becoming more of a threat, makes it more fun. I wish them all , the best of luck! Hard for me to argue with picking Tommy as a dark horse. My only criticism to him right now, is he appears to “use it up” a little early. Hopefully, he learns a little more patience. Jmo

  11. Credit TBR in part for the Catalano clan jump in performance.
    Nice to see mom Amy get a “you go girl” in this forum. Would love to see her in a NWMT race.
    It’s been said that the tiers that exist are pretty reliable in terms of predicting who will compete for wins. I just think this year it might produce more surprises then in the recent past. Hope so anyway.
    My only gripe is all the drivers seem so professional and likable. Might be nice to have a some big personality loose cannon to root against. Who do we have? Blewett maybe when he runs someone up the track. Hirschman for invading and doing well. Weak. I want all of them to do well at some point.
    This NWMT racing on Fanschoice deal really is something to look forward to. Especially before there’s racing locally.

  12. Fast eddie;
    Intriguing almost picks. Out of your picks, the one I favor is the 36. New chassis, and some late season “flashes” last year. I really see him more in the hunt this year.
    You know, when baldwin first announced he was running last year, and named jon as his driver, I thought, “watch out”! Loved watching jon in his 29, particularly in the opens. Always a threat, not to mention a supermodified champ as well. Right out of the box with tom, make a statement and win the first race. Then, it’s kind of like, where did it go? Run out of fuel, a few bad pit calls, and for me, just not the “super group” team I envisioned them to be. I know how tough it is, I just thought they would be more consistent when they run. It’s probably me, but I just think there is something just a little off there, or a missing piece. I do love seeing that 7ny on the track though. I can almost see tiger tom wheeling it all those years.

  13. NH MOD CHASER says

    A Tour race at Star would be Epic !!! Love that place.. Shawn have you herd any rumors about this ??? or is this more BS..

  14. NH Mod Chaser,
    I think with getting the NASCAR sanction anything is possible.

  15. wmass01013 says

    Any track that wants a WMT race as long as they pay the fee to hold the event and have a suitable date in mind should be able to schedule a race if they feel they can make a profit as the cost I am sure has gone up every yr

  16. To clarify, it’s a legit rumor. It would take a solid event sponsor to get it done because Star isn’t rolling in cash. A lot of things have to happen for them to actually get on the schedule but the fact that there is interest is encouraging.

    Monadnock could get a date too if Mr. Wrenn wants to go in that direction. That place was packed for the WMT races a few years ago. Not sure what their goals are for that place. Fingers crossed.

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