Redemption: Justin Bonsignore Shooting For Musket 250 Victory At NHMS In 2019

Justin Bonsignore (left) and his crew chief Ryan Stone (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

In 2018 Justin Bonsignore had one of the greatest seasons ever witnessed on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. 

The driver from Holtsville, N.Y. won eight of 16 events, had 12 top-five’s and 15 top-10’s on the way to his first series championship. He also won the exhibition Whelen All-Star Shootout at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

But it’s the one that got away that still sticks in the mind of Bonsignore to this day. 

Bonsignore looked to be on the way to victory in the inaugural Whelen Modified Tour Musket 250 at the first Full Throttle Weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last September. 

On the final lap second place running Ryan Preece made a diving move in turn three to get under Bonsignore in a battle for the lead. Contact between the two cars sent both to the wall allowing Chase Dowling to grab his first series victory. Bonsignore limped across the line with his battered car in sixth place. 

“I play it back in my head a lot,” Bonsignore said. “I wouldn’t take any move back. I think I made the right decision for the circumstance. I think Ryan still made his best decision for the circumstance. I try not to watch the replay because it still does aggravate me, just that we both wrecked more than anything. It’s just so tough. People say I threw a block, but that was my line. I came off the corner and went right to the bottom. He was never next to me at any point. But, you’ve got to shrug it off before the next time you go back. You can’t not make that move again if you’re in the same situation.”

Said Bonsignore’s crew chief Ryan Stone: “To come that close. Not only not win, but tear up a race car, but that’s just Loudon. You know going there that you’ve got to do certain things to win that race. The guys behind you have to do certain things to win that race. Really, that’s the crazy part about that long event is you’re still racing to get off of turn two on the very last lap. The whole rest of it is just positioning and keeping yourself to just be in those first two or three cars off of turn two on the white flag lap. That’s kind of where the race is won and lost. It didn’t work out for us and it didn’t work out for Ryan. And Chase [Dowling] has a career day. That’s just Modified racing.”

For Bonsignore – who won in a 100-lap Whelen Modified Tour race at NHMS in September 2016 – the memory of the first Musket 250 only intensifies his drive for victory in this year’s second running of the event on September 21. 

“Obviously it’s cool we’ve won there, and we’ve won the All-Star race, but [the Musket 250] is the biggest thing on our series right now,” Bonsignore said. “I hope we can go back and have the cars that we had last year and just be in position. There’s so much in a 100-lapper that you have to do to get yourself in position. The way that long race plays out with pit stops and fuel and just everything that goes into it, it felt like a bigger deal to be that close. It still hurts.” 

Bonsignore, who grew up racing on the quarter-mile bullring of Riverhead Raceway, made his first start at NHMS as a Whelen Modified Tour rookie in June 2010. 

Justin Bonsignore hugs the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion’s trophy after clinching his first series title last September at Stafford Speedway Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

“It was definitely intimidating going there and trying to pick up on how you’re going to learn how to draft and wondering if anyone is going to want to work with you,” said Bonsignore, who finished 12thin his NHMS debut. “… We had a pretty decent day. But thinking back, it was definitely an intimidating experience to go there to … run against all those guys back in those years and just hope that you can compete and not make a fool of yourself.” 

Since 2010 he’s made 19 starts in Whelen Modified Tour points events with six top-five finishes and nine top-10’s. He’s also started all-five exhibition Whelen All-Star Shootouts in Loudon with three top-five finishes. 

“Since we won there in [2016] I feel a lot more comfortable going there,” Bonsignore said. “We definitely hit on something the last few years. Last year our cars were really really fast. To be able to have a car that can control the race, and control the lines and control the lead, it just gives you so much confidence. Now when we go there you know what you’re looking for in the car. You know what you need by yourself. You know what you need to draft with somebody in practice. What kind of balance you’re looking for in the race car. I just have a lot of confidence when I go there now because of that.”

But no matter how good the car, Bonsignore knows well strategizing for the last lap of any Whelen Modified Tour event at NHMS is key.

“It’s tough to sit back and wonder what’s going to be the right move on the last lap,” Bonsignore said. “We’ve been on both sides of that now a few times. It’s something you can never have a definitive yes or no on, what is the right move on the last lap. 

“It’s so circumstantial. When I won there in [2016], [Ron] Silk got really loose in [turns] one and two and I really didn’t have to do anything. I just ran my normal line. It’s just really so circumstantial. It’s never going to be the same thing I don’t think that will happen twice. The deal with Ryan [Preece] would have worked out if we hit bumper-to-bumper, but he hit the nerf bar with the tire and it just wrecked us both. So it’s just tough.” 

Despite his disappointment with the outcome, Bonsignore saw the inaugural Musket 250 and Full Throttle Weekend as a huge victory for the Whelen Modified Tour and short track racing in the Northeast. 

“It exceeded my expectations and I hope it can keep living up to that,” Bonsignore said. “Obviously the finish made it more exciting for the fans. But I think as a driver it was a lot of fun and I think it’s cool to do something different. 

“I think it’s huge. It’s great for us to be the headline division. I honestly think they could maybe bring in some different divisions and really pack the place out with locals fans. I think they did a great job with the series’ they bring in, but I think they could make it even bigger. I think for the first year, inaugural year, I think they did a really good job. I think they’re going to learn a few things they can do better as a track. I’m not saying they did anything wrong, but I think they can learn to make it better on their side and I think the teams will learn how to make it a better event on our side too. NASCAR has already adjusted some rules to make the thing a little more exciting. I think it’s something that can grow and hopefully they can stick with it because it would be a shame to lose the second date there.” 

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  1. Is Bonsignor a dirty driver? Never thought so. Then again how much of him have we actually seen.
    This year is kind of different with more eyeballs able to see the NWMT races with it being covered on Fanschoice and all.
    I submit that block he threw at the Musket last year was iffy at best. Preece was coming, his line clear and Bonsignor raced him purely with his rear view mirror. My view driving Beatty up the track at Riverhead this year was a dirty move by a champion that shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff. He was at it again last Saturday taking Santos out with a completely unnecessary move given the circumstances.
    Many say it’s not dirty if the driver isn’t penalized for it. It’s hard to disagree with that. On the other hand the notion that Bonsignor is a special kind of driver escapes me.
    It’s fair to say Coby is the 51’s main competition this year or most years for that matter over a season. This year Coby for various reasons has spent a lot of time coming from the rear and not making a lot of enemies in the process. At least that’s my recollection.
    My conclusion. Justin Bonsignor is no Doug Coby. JB is fine at the front with a great car. Under adversity he’s not very special at all as far as I can see.

  2. Let’s hope for much cooler weather.

  3. Doug, this is the second year of Bonsignore driving like this. My guess, it is because he thinks he wasn’t aggressive enough in 2017 and thinks if he was more aggressive he would have won. I think he believes he has to drive like this in order to beat Coby and win the championship. He use to be the biggest complainer about lack of respect on the tour and now he drives with the least amount of respect. This year it is between three teams, 2,85,51. My guess is you will see it between the 2 and 85 because the 51 isn’t making any friends out there and someone is going to return the favor.

  4. OK then I may be on the right track. Thanks Kj!

  5. KJ and Doug here is the reason Justin will NEVER have a season like that again. Fuller was on a mission to prove a point with the 51 team last season. Fact. Paying Stone to crew chief the car, assembling their cars in house and going above and beyond for that group in general to showcase what a team could accomplish with a swap to LFR after a complete embarrassment the year before. Now that they have smacked Fuller in the face, Fuller is helping Troyer and every LFR car get better and it’s showing with obvious results lately. The 51 will stay idle while everyone around them gets better. Sit back and watch it happen. That team now has a black eye because of the driver over driving trying to repeat what happened last season while running into other competitors. Karma is a you know what. With their crew chief now selling parts on the side because the Fuller funding is no longer there, this will obviously be a distraction and take from the team. There are only so many hours in a day. Grab the bucket of pop corn and watch the story unfold.

  6. Owen wrote, “Now that they have smacked Fuller in the face, Fuller is helping Troyer and every LFR car get better and it’s showing with obvious results lately. ”

    Please list these “obvious results” that you speak of. I’m still not seeing better lap times or lap records.

    Coby has 3 wins, Silk has 2 wins, and JBon has 3 wins.

    So tell us what cars has Fuller been helping, and that it is obviously showing. I’m not seeing it. Is Fuller helping Silk?

  7. Thanks Owen. You really put your cards on the table with some pretty unequivocal statements and I’ll be interested to see if your predictions play out.
    I obviously agree with the over driving part. What I didn’t mention was that whole Fury/LFR dust up that Massa instigated. I know we as fans can’t know the details. What we see however is the joyous celebration with LFR at the end of last season completely reversed and they now have amnesia regarding the LFR contribution to their success last year. It’s petty. Pure grade school stuff. Will it cost the 51 team in the future being on the outs with the unquestioned force in the series as you predict will remain to be seen. But in the meantime it just is a bad image that when combined with Bonsignor’s questionable decision making in the drivers seat leads me to conclude this is a team struggling to stay at the top of their game.

  8. dareal, you keep talking about lap times and lap records. It’s more about if the driver feels more comfortable with the car. If driver does, then maybe they can make those moves where in the past they wouldn’t try.

  9. Dareal do you have selective hearing ,Emerling thanked Fuller after his win on Fri. Thought you would have been on your soap box since it was a Troyer. Oops forgot, owned by fuller and sounds like some help from Fuller. Bet you can’t wait for all those Fury cars to show up

  10. Hasn’t lutz and sapienza switched to lfr in the last 2 years as well, or am I wrong about that? For some reason, the 36 and 46 have really shown improvements….

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