Pointed Questions: Mindsets Varied For Whelen Modified Tour Championship Contenders

Doug Coby (left), Justin Bonsignore (center) and Ron Silk (right) (Photos: Jim DuPont and Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

LOUDON, N.H. – With three events remaining, the finish line for the 2019 season is in view for competitors on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. 

For Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore and Ron Silk it’s a finish line that could mean grand celebration when the final checkered flag of the season falls following the Sunoco World Series 150 at Thompson Speedway on Oct. 13. 

Before getting to Thompson competitors first have to get through the second Musket 250 Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and then the NAPA Fall Final 150 at Stafford on Sept. 29. 

Coby, a five-time series champion, leads the standings with a 19-point cushion over reigning series champion Bonsignore. Silk, the 2011 series champion, sits in the darkhorse position at third in the standings, 45 points behind Coby. 

The first order of business for any of the three looking to celebrate once again is getting through the marathon that is the Musket 250. 

Last year’s inaugural event had many around the series shuddering in preparation. Many wondered if equipment could handle the rigors of the 250-lap feature on the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon. Few of the worries many had surfaced. Equipment held up, the racing was competitive and the event came down to a last corner battle for victory. 

“It’s still a wildcard and it still could be a disaster,” Coby said. “I’ve told everybody this from day one, you can’t say that just because last year’s race was amazing and came down to a last lap battle, you can’t say that that’s going to happen this year or any other year. I think last year’s race was a huge success and I think our series proved a lot of things, proved a lot of people wrong about how our equipment and our drivers and our teams would perform. So we proved last year that we could do it. Now we just have to make sure that we don’t regress and we have a good strong race this year.

“Two hundred and fifty laps at Loudon is tough. It’s going to be tough this year, totally independent of whether or not it was tough last year. I hope our guys put on a good show and I hope it does come down to a five lap shootout with three or four cars with good tires that can go after each other. But you never know how these things are going to shake out.” 

Coby held a 47-point lead over Bonsignore after winning the Bud King of Beers 150 on Aug. 14 at Thompson.

Bonsignore scored victory in the next event on Aug. 31 at Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway. Coupled with Coby’s sixth place in the event, Bonsignore cut Coby’s lead from 47 to 37 points. 

Then Bonsignore scored a second consecutive victory in the most previous event, the Miller Lite 200 at Riverhead (N.Y) Raceway on Sept. 7. In that event Coby had rallied from an early spin and was up to seventh on the final lap before a skirmish relegated him to a 15thplace finish. It cut the Coby lead over Bonsignore from 37 to the current 19-point advantage. 

“I was a lot more comfortable when we were 37 points up and 47 points up the last race and two races ago,” Coby said. “I’d still rather be 19 up than 19 down, I look at it that way. We have to go out and perform. Justin is capable of going out and winning the last three races. But then again so are we. We know that and they know that and I think everybody on the else on Tour knows that. 

“Oswego was an acceptable sixth place finish. We can’t control that he won and got some bonus points. Riverhead, we expected him to win, we kind of got roughed up a little bit in the beginning of the race which changed our day. We had fought all the way back to seventh which would have softened the blow of him winning that race from a points standpoint, but then the two guys running eighth and ninth decided to drive down the backstretch through the infield and clobber me coming to the checkered.” 

For Bonsignore the plan is to just keep winning and collecting the all-important five bonus points drivers earn from victory. Drivers also get one bonus point for leading a lap and one for leading the most laps. 

“We really just have to go out and try to win the race,” Bonsignore said. “Obviously 19 [points] is a lot better than where we were a couple weeks ago, but it’s still a lot of points in this format. We’ll just take it one race at time. Just try to outrun him. If we can try to win the race obviously. Those bonus points are going to be more important than ever in these last three [races] for us. That’s really the only game plan we can have at this point.” 

Though Bonsignore said points aren’t something that will be an entire focus when he’s on the track Saturday for the Musket 250. Last year Bonsignore was leading the event going down the backstretch on the final lap. Ryan Preece tried to get under Bonsignore in turn three and both ended up wrecked with Chase Dowling heading to victory lane.  

“This race, there’s so many variables with the pit strategy and everything that’s going into it,” Bonsignore said. “We probably won’t worry about the points until late in the day. If you put yourself in a position that you don’t want to do something stupid, but it’s the Musket [250], this is becoming a big deal in our series, so no matter what the points are, however you look at it, if you have a shot coming for the win down the back straightaway you’re going to go for it I think. I don’t think any driver would not go for it no matter what the circumstances are.” 

Bonsignore said worrying about where Coby is on the track during events isn’t something he will do. 

“I don’t really ever care,” Bonsignore said. “Obviously under caution you can see. If we’re in the same vicinity you know what the other person has got going on. You can peek at the scoreboard every now and then and see. But for the most part you just can’t worry about it. He’s the best team so most likely he’s going to be right up in the front and hopefully we’re there with them. As good as they are, you tend to always be running near each other. But you just have to do your own thing though and run your own race.” 

For Silk, his hopes for a championship depend on disasters for both Coby and Bonsignore. Though Silk considers the fact that the team is in contention at this point in the season as a huge bellwether of success to come for his Kevin Stuart Motorsports team, which is in its first season of running a full schedule.  

“Both of them would have to have some problems for me to get back into it,” Silk said. “… To be honest, I didn’t think we would be in contention this year. The guys have just really done a great job. Really getting better and better. I just want to try and win a couple of these last races. This is all our guys, really the first time they’ve run this whole thing so it doesn’t normally work out where you win it the first year. But I’m proud of what we’ve done.” 

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