Whelen Modified Tour Notebook: Like Many, Justin Bonsignore Surprised By Flamingo Motorsports News

Timmy Solomito (16) and Justin Bonsignore (51) in action at Riverhead Raceway during the Whelen Modified Tour Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200 earlier this year (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

THOMPSON – As the 2019 season rolled toward conclusion, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Justin Bonsignore figured there might be some change coming when it came to the Flamingo Motorsports team and his friend and competitor Timmy Solomito, who drove for the Eric Sanderson owned organization. 

But like many around the series, Bonsignore was surprised to hear the change was actually that the team would be shutting down. 

“I was little taken back,” said Bonsignore, the 2018 Whelen Modified Tour champion. “Everybody assumes what might happen to other teams. I kind of thought maybe they’d make a change, maybe driver or crew chief. Just things weren’t working. Something had to give I think. I think it caught a lot of us off guard that they were going to shut down.” 

Driver Timmy Solomito revealed late Saturday that team owner Eric Sanderson, who had been on the series since 1995, would be shutting the team down following Sunday’s season ending Sunoco World Series 150 at Thompson Speedway. 

Sanderson said told RaceDayCT Sunday morning of the decision: “It was just a long time coming. I’m going to be 70 next year. I’m still running two businesses. It was just getting to be a bit much. I struggled with the decision for quite a while. I talked to my family and they really didn’t want me to do it, but they’re happy.”

Said Bonsignore: “Eric has been doing this for 25 or so years. He has that right to do what he wants.” 

Bonsignore said he’ll continue to be a pillar of support for Solomito. The two Long Island drivers have been friends since childhood. 

Solomito replaced Ryan Preece with the Flamingo Motorsports team prior to the 2015 season. He had four victories and finished third in the standings in 2016 and backed that up with a five-win season in 2017 that saw him finish second in the standings. 

But the team went winless the last two seasons with four top-five finishes over 16 events each of the last two years. Solomito ended up seventh in the final standings this year. 

Bonsignore said he can relate to what Solomito is going through. After winning nine races over three seasons, including a four-win campaign in 2016, Bonsignore went winless in 2017 with just six top-five finishes in 16 events. He bounced back from the down year to win his first series title in 2018, recording one of the most dominant seasons in series history with eight wins and 12 top-five’s in 16 events. 

“He’s been struggling for two years and I don’t know what happened or what changed from [2017] to ’18 and ’19, but they’ve really struggled,” Bonsignore said. “I went through that in [2017] before we made our switch. He would text me and he’d always be down and out and I’d always try to be like ‘Look what I went through, it can come back.’ … I look forward to Timmy getting a good ride for next year hopefully. It is tough. It’s a good team that we’re going to lose off this series and it’s disappointing when you lose top teams like that.” 

Coby Campaigns For Thompson 300 Return
Doug Coby and his team celebrate winning the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship on Sunoco World Series 150 Sunday at Thompson Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

Longtime Thompson Speedway owner Don Hoenig annually hosts the Whelen Modified Tour championship winning team in the clubhouse following the Sunoco World Series 150. 

It’s a party that six-time series champion Doug Coby has become quite used to attending. 

Sunday night in the banquet hall at Thompson the conversation between Coby and Hoenig centered around the thought of a grand return to Thompson. 

Hoening brought up the old Thompson 300 Whelen Modified Tour event at the track and it was an idea that perked up Coby, who wants to see the race come back. 

Stay tuned on that one …

After six championships, Coby knows well playing the role of series ambassador and – dare it be said – elder statesman. During his championship celebration on the track Sunday he addressed his fans, and those who aren’t his fans. 

“All my friends in the stands, you guys who root for me, I really appreciate it,” Coby said. “And I also appreciate you guys, those of you fans that don’t root for me. Rivalries in this series between me and Justin [Bonsignore] and Ryan Preece and Timmy [Solomito], so if you guys like those guys, I appreciate you too. This is what makes Modified racing great, 40 cars, a packed house at Thompson Speedway. We’re the best NASCAR series in the country and we put on the best show. That’s something that no matter what happens with all alignments and different stuff, the Modifieds are still the best. Nobody can take that away.” 

Rameau Leads Rookies
Sammy Rameau in the garage during Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco World Series 150 practice Saturday at Thompson Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

Seventeen year old Sammy Rameau celebrated winning the Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year title following the Sunoco World Series 150. 

Rameau had three top-10’s and finished 14th in the series standings in 2019. 

“Well, exactly a year ago from this past weekend me and my race team decided we were going to go racing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour,” Rameau posted on Facebook. “What a year. Everything from buying a new race shop. New race cars. New motors. New crew members. And a huge learning curve. These guys who I call my pit crew are like no other. They have my back like crazy. … So here we are a year later with so many lessons learned and so many accomplishments checked off. I can’t thank all of my guys, sponsors, family, friends, and fans for pushing me to do what I love everyday of my life. Thank you. Onto 2020. See y’all next year!” 

Testing Time

The chase for a 2020 Whelen Modified Tour championship began Monday for many teams with the series. 

And Coby will get a bit of a jumpstart on his competitors with those preparations. 

The Whelen Modified Tour will visit Iowa Speedway for the first time in 2020 with the running of the July 31, 2020 Iowa 150 in Newtown, Ia.

Coby will get the division’s first taste of the.857-mile tri-oval facility when he participates in a Hoosier tire test at the track on Oct. 22. 

Date Swap?

Multiple sources have indicated that the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Riverhead Raceway will swap their fall dates in 2020.

The third Musket 250 is expected to move up a week to Sept. 12, 2020. The September Riverhead event will then move back a week to Sept. 19, 2020.

South Boston (Va.) Speedway has confirmed that they will host the Whelen Modified Tour once again on March 21, 2020.

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  1. Nothing like giving the 6x champ the advantage of a tire test at Iowa. I’ll go ahead and pencil him in as the winner now.

    Thompson 300 would be cool but not a week before the Musket 250.

    I figured the September dates would move around given Labor Day is late next year. Of course, Star just scheduled classic weekend that same date. Star may want to adjust. More than likely they won’t though. I’d like to see NHMS and the other NH short tracks work together a little bit more to benefit all.

    Sizzler date is confirmed as well.

  2. I’ve been wondering how much longer. The owner is almost 70 years old, results the past few seasons have not been that great. Not many owners stay in this game that long. Seriously, how much longer did y’all expect him to keep running?

    If I recall correctly, the 2 tested at Myrtle Beach, and that worked out rather well.

    The Thompson 300 was awesome. Please don’t let this infringe on the Musket 250. Thompson is the right track for a race like this. No gimmicks, no competition cautions, no stages. If this were the last race of the season and there are a couple cars in the championship hunt, this could be very interesting.

  3. Bobby Santos III has run many laps at Iowa with USAC. I know the Siler Crown cars are different, but it’s still track time. I too thought it was strange that the #2 Team gets to go and test tires there. Not very fair to the other teams. Can’t NASCAR find a retired driver to do the testing with a rented car?

  4. Timmy will learn from Justin when his career was pathetic and do what he did. Call LFR.

  5. Old Observer says

    Not a Coby fan, but who better to test tires for next years race. He is experienced, takes care of his equipment, his team has the resources, & he provides good feedback. I know it is an advantage but it may be best for Hoosier & the tour.

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