Fast Launch: Justin Bonsignore Dominates Whelen Mod Tour Opener At Jennerstown Speedway

Justin Bonsignore celebrates victory in the 2020 Whelen Modified Tour season opener Sunday at Jennerstown Speedway (Photo: Nate Smallwood/NASCAR)

When the 2019 season for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ended last October at Thompson Speedway it was Justin Bonsignore looking back with somber regret to a slow start in the chase for a second consecutive series championship. 

A 12th place finish in the 2019 season opener at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway, followed by a 25th place at South Boston (Va.) Speedway in the second event of the year put Bonsignore immediately in chase mode in the Whelen Modified Tour standings last year. 

Chase as hard as he did all season – recording a series leading six victories in 2019 – ultimately the Holtsville, N.Y. driver ended up second in the standings, eight points behind Doug Coby, who celebrated his sixth series title. 

Sunday at Jennerstown Speedway Bosignore made sure there would be no lamenting a slow start out of the gate when the 2020 season is over. 

Bonsignore won the pole and led every lap on the way to victory in the Whelen Modified Tour season opening Wade Cole Memorial 133 presented by Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer at Jennerstown Speedway Sunday. 

Bonsignore had never turned a lap on the .522-mile oval before practice on Sunday.

“We learned from our mistakes last year at the start of the season,” Bonsignore told RaceDayCT. “A little nervous coming into a new race track. Never been here before and only was going to get 40 minutes of practice and we had a lot to accomplish in that run. Right away the car unloaded great and [crew chief] Ryan Stone brought another unbelievable race car. It just helps the learning curve at the beginning of the day and we were able to get up to speed quick.

“It’s nice to get off on the right foot. Especially knowing that more than likely it’s going to be a shorter season than we anticipated. It’s going to probably be more important to have all good races. You’re probably not going to be able to have one bad one.”

The event was added to the schedule due to COVID-19 global pandemic shutdowns wreaking havoc on the originally scheduled 17-race 2020 slate for the Whelen Modified Tour. The series was originally scheduled to start the season on March 21 at South Boston, but that event was postponed, along with most of the early season events on the series schedule. The series had originally been slated to run its first event at Jennerstown since 2006 on May 23. That event will now be run on Aug. 22. 

“It was an unbelievable day today,” Bonsignore said. “To come out and get the pole and lead every lap … that’s a good way to come out. … Hopefully this was the first of many this year.” 

Craig Lutz of Miller, Place, N,Y. was second and Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford, Mass. third on Sunday.

It marked the 27th career Whelen Modified Tour win for Bonsignore, who was making his first series start at the track. 

“The car was just really good,” Bonsignore said. “Ryan Stone did an amazing job preparing the car. Obviously I want to dedicate this win to Wade Cole, a fixture on the series for longer than I was alive. We’re going to miss him dearly. He was a really good guy. No matter what he was smiling and he wished you luck.”

Bonsignore hadn’t even made a start yet on the Whelen Modified Tour when the series last visited Jennerstown in 2006. But his M3 Racing team had him ready for the brief practice time allotted.

“We were fortunate enough on the second run of [practice] we went to the top of the board,” Bonsignore said. “That just makes your confidence go sky high. You can learn real quick on what you do and don’t need in the race car and we weren’t really chasing the race car we were just trying to get my up to speed. That’s a huge asset when you can have a fast race car off the truck.”

Lutz came in sixth for the mandatory pit stop for all teams following a lap 72 caution. 

On the restart he quickly marched toward the front of the field and by lap 106 he was up to second, but by then Bonsignore had checked out at the front. McKennedy had a flat tire to bring out the caution on lap 72, but then rallied back up through the field. With 16 laps left McKennedy went by Coby for fifth, then moved to fourth by Matt Hirschman two laps later followed by a pass of Matt Swanson for third with 13 laps left. 

In 2019 Coby won his sixth series title overall and his fifth title in six seasons with Mike Smeriglio Racing. Not long after the season ended team owner Mike Smeriglio III announced he was shutting down his operation. Coby announced the formation of his new team – Doug Coby Racing – in late February. Coby qualified second to Bonsignore and spent much of Sunday’s race near the front of the field, but faded to seventh place late. 

The Whelen Modified Tour returns to action on July 4 with the series making its first visit ever to White Mountain Motorsports Park in Woodstock, N.H. The event at White Mountain was added to the schedule last week. 


  1. Fastest car starts on the pole and leads every lap…. so exciting. This Friday at Stafford the two most exciting Modified division will put on a show

  2. wmass0101. says

    OK STEVE I take you didn’t watch the race!!!,yes jbon dominated the lead but several other cars made many passes, 46, 7ny 25 yes the 25!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, I thought lots of good action for a 8 month layoff at a track most never been too.

  3. I watched the race on the NBCSN app and the race coverage exceeded my expectations, especially compared to the race at Mahoning last week. I’m leaning toward keeping it for a few months after the trial expires next week.

    However, I do expect major penalties to handed out after the race for drivers and team members not wearing masks after a thorough frame-by-frame Zapruder-style review by NASCAR’S world renowned DaRealCOVID19Expert…

  4. True that. The race for the lead didn’t exist. As for being a good race in my view it was outstanding. We were watching Summers in particular who made it to sixth before fading. Dowling was up and down as was Solomito. Coby was fast until he wasn’t and Lutz charged up to everything but the lead. Ronnie Williams was doing great in his new/old Sanderson machine before being turned by Rameau. Hirshman moved up, Silk as well and Calvin Carrol 25 to 5th. Are you kidding me? It was and outstanding race and even without hot pit stops..
    This is not the place to push PPV with all the visceralists that think it isn’t racing unless you are at the track but you’re definitely behind on this one. A great race, video quality was outstanding and the race was a perfect complement to a beer and pizza fathers day celebration. May have turned one or two people to watching the race next Friday if Stafford can make good on that PPV teaser Paul Arute threw out in cyberspace.

  5. Unbiased says

    For a race with no lead changes still plenty of good racing. Hard to believe 51 team might be longest intact owner driver duo aside from the 58 out there. Seems they are cementing their place in modified team history. Coby was fine, and with word of a second top notch car will be there all year. Fun to see the young guys having good runs, Lutz and the 25 were especially impressive. It seems overdue that Mckennedy could get a full race out of 7ny with out some sort of mechanical issue, hard not to root for him he is a good clean racer that has won in a lot of different equipment. Overall just nice to see modifieds back on the track and car count was great.

  6. You are correct there wasn’t much of a race for the lead. Bonsignore kind of stunk up the show. When Nascar goes to these mandatory half way pit stop breaks it takes all the pit strategy out of the race. Everyone come in at the same time changes tires no one has an advantage and there isnt a lot of coming and going through the field. You might as well not allow tire changes (unless there is a cut tire) to save the teams some money. I was impressed with NBC coverage online. The announcer seemed to know about the tour drivers a lot more than in races past. Nice field of cars for a race outside of the tour type geographical area.

    I just went to Staffords website they are sold out for Friday. So I guess I wont be in attendance. I was waiting on couple of friends to get back to me and order all our tickets together and gave them a deadline on Monday. I figured they are probably doing assigned seeting to ensure social distancing and lump them all together. Maybe we will get together for a cookout. Watch the WOO races on Dirtvision. I looked and I cant find anything further on Stafford PPV.

  7. Biggest surprise for me? Calvin carrol, dogged by bad luck last year. Great finish, and has to be a morale booster for team Others on this site stated last year “dont be so hard, great family, great racers”, when it wasnt going good for him. (Describing calvin wrecks/trouble) great first race. i now believe, thank you last year posters, ….could You be correct on calvin, ? Great story if you are……
    Great showing first time out this year. Nice if not flash in the pan. Hope not.

    7 ny. Great come back late. Hope for consistency. We will c.
    Coby? Not much of a safety net. His stuff, His $$$$$. I get it. Gonna take time to settle out. Describe his race? stay consistent, stay out of trouble. It will get there.
    Disappointed ole blue dropped back at end. Sentimental. Love “ole blue”.
    Look behind you justin….,,,lutz.
    Hey, just the first race.
    Tough day catalanos. Too bad
    Could red 60 have caught the 51? Be fun to know….

  8. Anarchy 2020 says

    Good to see the improvement of the 01 since last season.

  9. Have you people ever seen a race before? Rarely is there a race for first place. Some car is usually checked out unless there are many cautions and the cars get bunched up a few times. Often, second place is not even competitive. But third place and back is usually where the action is and this race was no exception. In the last few laps, plenty of cars moved up and plenty faded back. It was pretty exciting, as usual.

    With all the experience MH had at Jennerstown on the ROC series, I expected more from him.

    Great video coverage by NBCSN. Very knowledgeable announcer. Respect. ✊

    Good to see the 7NY ran as good as the owner’s mouth 👄. Hopefully it runs like that all season. The car that is. McKennedy deserves a decent car.

    The 51 nailed the setup. Great call by the crew chief.

    We’ll have to see how well the 10 can do without the 7-post chassis tune sessions and private track rentals.

  10. Dagoodfella says:

    With all the experience MH had at Jennerstown on the ROC series, I expected more from him.

    I don’t follow the RoC more than loosely, is Jennerstown a regular track for that series?

  11. 🌺🌺🌺 Liz Cherokee 🌺🌺🌺 says

    Melissa did great 😀, especially considering it was her first time out this year and first time out on a new track. Hey she even beat a whole family which is certainly more than many of you keyboard cowboys did today. Bottoms up boys! 🍺🍺

  12. Jennerstown is not a regular stop for ROC. At least not in the last ten years. The track was closed altogether for a couple of seasons. I think it was last year that they reopened.

    CARS tour at Jennerstown pays $20,OOO to win in a couple of weeks. Interesting.

  13. Phil A, I don’t follow the RoC series closely either, but the announcer mentioned MH’s experience at Jennerstown. MH won a RoC race at JTown in 2017.

    Liz, great to see you.

    Social distance, wear a mask, wash you hands often.

  14. I looked it up. ROC did run J Town in 2017. Before that, the last race ROC ran there was 2006. TC won that one in 2006.

    I recall Ed Flemke Jr saying once that Jennerstown was his favorite track. Hopefully the facility can be a regular stop in coming years.

  15. Do the Catalanos ever have a good day?

    I don’t understand all the buzz about the Catalanos.

    Pretty cars. Look nice, don’t run as well as they look.

    They might look good, but it’s a miracle when one of them finishes a race.

  16. Anarchy 2020 says

    Where is that announcer from anyway? He seemed to know his stuff. Couple mistakes here and there but but did a fine job. Is he the same guy that did New Smyrna this year?

  17. thanks for the information on RoC at JTown

    unfortunately, i wasnt able to watch the race yesterday.
    always like the place, attended a couple modified races there in the 90’s, i liked the place alot!

  18. Congrats to Justin and the #51 team.
    The answer to my last trivia question, what did Greg Sacks crew do to ensure he’d start the race on Sunday after hurting his motor Saturday.
    They poured a bottle of Moroso ceramic seal into the cooling system. Not only did it band aid the problem later found to be a cracked head, but Sacks won the race.

  19. Loved the four-wide parade lap!!!!!!

    That always looks impressive.

  20. JD posted, “I looked it up.”

    Why is that so funny?

    🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣

  21. Anarchy 2020 says

    The buzz about the Catalanos is simple. It’s a racing family. There’s three of them on the track. And one’s a woman.

  22. David Fisher says

    Hated the 4-wide salute. Big dirt fan here, seen it start for the major crown jewel races, then filter down to where local tracks do it for regional events. Just got bored with it. Now the mod tour has to copy it? Come on, try something original.

  23. The Catalano’s are a family story for sure. You have to think it’s not about winning so much as enjoying the sport as a family. Do the math. What do three cars cost? And there are more cars for other series and another Catalono racing. If winning was the goal they’d put everything into one car. Just seeing one family field three cars is a story.
    Timmy was a sad case with 6 DNF’s but Tommy only two.
    I wish they could give mom the best car for one NWMT race.

  24. I agree with you Doug, the Catalanos seem to be about family, and having fun. But, couldn’t you have the same amount of fun for a whole lot less money at the local short track? The important thing is they’re out there, trying, which is more than I can say for any of us.

  25. Ole Timer Trivia
    We all think of BRE as being a one off team, however back in the day there was another Boehler car racing. Who was the driver? What was the number?

  26. Luke Warmwater says

    Bruce ‘Gomer’ Taylor 03

  27. It was a pretty good season opener, especially since it was at a track that almost all participants have little to no experience. There were only 4 caution flags, and one of those was the intermission. So given all that, it was pretty good. Season openers are usually demolition derbies. Many of them still can’t outrun bad luck. JBon & Stone are picking up where they left off, and still rising. The rest of the field are running for second place.

    Watching the live testimony of Federal health officials and they are preparing to ramp up COVID-19 testing dramatically for the fall. The magnitude of testing they say will be necessary dwarfs what we have done so far.

    Current USA COVID-19 deaths: 122,750

    The number of KNOWN infections continues to rise at an alarming rate. That we are testing such a small percentage of the population infers that there are far more infections out there. Even Texas can no longer deny the severity of the magnitude of their problem anymore. Some regions are, or may be, shutting down again and going back to stay-at-home conditions.

    Social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands often, keep your hands off your face.


  28. Luke warm water had the correct answer with goner Taylor #03, which if you saw the car you’d swear was ole blue with a 0 stuck in front of the 3.

  29. Ole Timer Trivia
    Who had the most modified wins at Riverside Speedway overall?

  30. Anarchy 2020 says

    News flash. In the fall testing will be ramping up. News flash. In the fall positive cases will be ramping up. News flash. In the fall dacaptainobvious will claim. I was right! I’m right again! I’m always right! 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😅😅😅😅😅😅

  31. I love Dr. Scott Gottlieb who has been making the rounds everywhere with observations on the pandemic. He’s a cool cat not cajoling or demeaning any state or population for however they are dealing with their outbreaks. He just tells it the way it is. The virus is gaining momentum in certain places because the populations their have been complacent and not taken it seriously. That being the case this is what could happen.
    Speaking strictly politically I just think Trump blew a golden opportunity with the virus. He should have taken a war posture, embraced every part of the fight against it like a shooting war and put himself out there as the one man using every resource at hand to beat it back. Embracing it fully right up to the election and telling people we’re in it for the long haul. All working together, fighting the good fight his approval could have been easily over 60%. Instead he’s tried to wish it away and it is just not working at all.
    The way it is working now the Trump administration is signaling safety protocols are for pussies and it’s all pretty much over. What happens on the ground is right wing talk media picks up on those themes and spread it to every corner of the country mocking the pandemic and safety protocols. The upshot is the guy trying to push past a Walmart employee insisting the store has no right to make him wear a mask and another standing in line at the Arizona rally saying masks are a slippery slope of people ceding their Constitutional rights perpetrated by the liberal media.
    It is the reality now and calling people names and ranting about will do no good. The areas that flaunt safety will see cases rise, they’ll learn and fall in line exactly like we in the Northeast have.
    I’ll call the shot now. It’s over for Trump. He picked his strategy, it was the wrong one and now he’s on not only the wrong side of history from an economic standpoint but a pervasive virus. Instead of leading the charge to build virus defenses for a resurgence in the fall he’s promoting the conditions that will make it worse. Visiting the southern physical wall when he should be building a virus wall. Wrong wall, wrong time.
    There could be time to save it if he reversed course right now and became the Winston Churchill of fighting the pandemic in America. He’s got the army and media outlets for sure. He’s just leading them in the wrong direction against the wrong enemy..
    So how does this have anything to do with racing? A lot. Short track racing America is Trumps America. Being painfully scrupulous about adhering to safety protocols would give racing the best chance to make it deep into the fall uninterrupted. Instead racing American will follow a leader they have a great deal of respect for in a direction that fosters the spread of a virus that until the vaccine is available cannot be wished away.

  32. Folks, do not be surprised if the season gets cut short by risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Look at Texas… they denied the pandemic early on and are paying the price now. All that is going on in the south and southwest can make it back here, where we went through this in a bad way and are on the road to recovery. But we can’t get lax, let our guard down, or get complacent.

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