Fire Fight: Ron Silk Wins Whelen Mod Tour Opener At New Smyrna Speedway 

Ron Silk celebrates in victory lane after winning the Whelen Modified Tour season opening event Saturday at New Smyrna Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

The 2022 season left an offseason inferno burning in the mind of former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ron Silk. 

In the driver’s seat for the first year Haydt-Yannone Racing team in 2022, Silk had a season most drivers would beg for. He had eight top-five’s and 12 top-10’s over 16 races for a second place finish in the driver standings in 2022. 

But missing was a check mark in the win column for the team. It was a game of close, but not close enough for Silk all season, who had two second place runs and fourth third place finishes, but no victories. 

Saturday at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway the offseason burn got quenched for Silk, but not before a fiery battle in the closing laps with Justin Bonsignore. 

Silk, of Norwalk, came out on top of a bruising final six laps to win the New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau 200 Saturday at New Smyrna Speedway. 

“I knew it was a good chance to get one so I didn’t want to let it slip away,” Silk said. “I had a really good car all of last year and couldn’t find victory lane. So it’s really good for me and all my guys to get that out of the way in the first race this year.” 

Bonsignore, of Holtsville, N.Y., was second and Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa. third. 

It was Silk’s 18th career Whelen Modified Tour victory and first since winning for former team owner Kevin Stuart at Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway Sept. 2021. 

With 10 laps remaining Bonsignore stalked all over Silk’s bumper out front. Bonsignore grabbed the lead away from Silk on lap 196, but it was the tenacious Silk powering back to the front again and for good on lap 197. 

“That was fun racing like that,” Silk said. “I think we were both driving a little bit over our heads, we were going for everything we had. It was aggressive but respectful. … I love New Smyrna Speedway.” 

Said Bonsignore: “We’ve raced against each other for a long time. His spotter is my old spotter so we both know each other’s moves and tricks. I was able to get under him a couple times and get in there and leaned on him a little bit. It just opened the door up there for him to be aggressive. He definitely sailed it in. I went with the cross over move and it didn’t work either time for us to get back to the lead. All in all it was a good run.”

Anthony Sesely of Matawah, N.J. was third and Doug Coby of Milford fourth. 

Jake Johnson, Dave Sapienza, Austin Beers, Anthony Nocella and Tommy Catalano rounded out the top-five respectively. 

The field was set by the 2023 owner’s points after rain stopped qualifying after 30 of 35 cars had taken time. 

It put Coby on the pole and he held onto to that top spot the drop of the green flag. 

The first caution of the evening flew on lap 18 for the spinning cars of Ken Heagy and Brian Robie. 

Coby held off Jon McKennedy on the ensuing lap 23 restart. 

With Coby still out front, caution was back on lap 28 when Tyler Rypkema spun in turn three. 

Under caution most of the leaders headed to pit road to top off on fuel. Coby led the race off pit road with McKennedy in second and Silk in third. 

The shuffle up of cars going to pit road under caution put Eric Goodale out front with Beers in second and Sapienza in third. Coby restarted in 15th. 

On the lap 34 restart it was Beers getting by Goodale for the lead. 

With Beers still out front, a long green flag stretch came to an end with caution flying for the spinning car of J.R. Bertuccio on lap 83. 

With most of the field heading to pit road, some twice, it shuffled Coby back to the lead with Catalano in second, McKennedy in third and Silk in fourth. 

On the lap 92 restart it was Coby holding the top spot with Silk moving to second. 

After another long green flag run, the fourth caution of the event flew on lap 158 for the spinning cars of Craig Lutz and Johnson in turn two. The caution flew with Coby out front, Catalano in second, Beers in third and Silk in fourth. 

The bulk of the field went to pit road under caution. It was Catalano winning the race off of pit road in front of Coby. Hirschman, who went to pit road in 12th, came off in third. A slow pit stop dropped Beers from third to 13th. 

After a fairly calm first three quarters of the event, things got wild following the lap 165 restart. On the restart it was Catalano struggling to stay in line. It allowed Hirschman to jump to second and then get by Coby for the lead.

On the following lap it was Silk getting by Hirschman to take over the top spot, with Bonsignore moving to second. On lap 168 Bonsignore got by Silk for the lead, but Silk fought back to retake the top spot on lap 169. In turn two on lap 169 it was contact between Bonsignore and Coby sending both cars toward the wall and ultimately collecting a number of other cars including Lutz, Goodale and Jimmy Blewett in a pileup to bring the caution back out. Coby and Bonsignore were both able to drive away from the mess and keep their spots near the front. 

It left Silk in the lead with Hirschman in second and Coby third. 

On the restart it was Sesely moving to third behind Silk and Hirschman. As Coby faded Bonsignore quickly clawed back and moved past Hirschman for second on lap 182. Bonsignore made his way to Silk’s bumper by lap 190 to set up the wild closing laps between the two. 


  1. A shame about the wreck toward the end taking out some contenders. Was yelling at Coby for a bonehead move but turns out it was more a racing deal then anything he did with the 51 stumbling a bit. Nice call by Coss. Picked the 51 in our Pick 6 contest but was rooting like crazy for Silk I just love that guy to pieces and he delivered. Pulling away after some really hard nosed racing from two of the best was a surprise. We always want to see a few drivers over perform and Sesely, Beers and Sapienza can you believe it did that for sure perhaps Johnson in the 3 as well.
    That announcing trio gave me goose bumps. Coss for my money is the top modified announcer these days. Dodge’s return very emotional. The cherry on the this deal was Jerry Cook the lone surviving modified driver in the Nascar Hall of Fame. What a get and he was good, really good. A living icon that in my view does not get the attention he deserves. Maybe it’s because he dominated before most of us were racing aware, maybe because he did not suffer a premature death. In any event it was nice to hear from him and hopefully there will be a repeat in some future race this year.
    Great race, great start to 2023. Now the 5 day, 5 feature grind begins and who knows who will rise and surprise in those races.

  2. Not a bad race – just wish these guys could race each other instead of dive bombing and washing up into the guy outside, watching side by side racing is so much better

  3. Proved to me, the punk in the 51 can’t win unless his cousin in the 22 or the Riverhead hack in the 34 don’t block the leader for him

  4. Steve, seems like the only way to pass nowadays here and at Thompson

  5. 2 grooves = racing, sorry Stafford says

    Questioning the passing? Sure if you’re a clueless Stafford fan who thinks that 1 rail track is anything close to racing. Thank God the Tour does not Waste 4 races there any longer…… New Smyrna race had a ton of cars, plenty of passing and a Full crowd…… and Still Undisputed Champ.

  6. I thought race was ok lots of overdriving at the front, but if they allow it then do it. Surprised how fast some guys got lapped, even hirchman was in leaders cross hairs before that yellow.

  7. Pretty good race, very little stupid. Good coverage. Jerry Cook was fantastic! A voice of a real racer. Awesome!!!!

    Good racing at the end. Either driver could have taken the other (most likely each other) out. But I’m sure Silk and JBon did not want to see Hirschman win.

    Good to see Sap place well, and stay out of trouble.

    The accident that involved/took out top cars was a racing deal… JBon rode hard, got loose on exit, backed off and the 7NY accordioned in behind, then yadayadayada. Hard racing, it happens.

    But here is what you need to pay attention to… when the top competitive cars falter, look who is right there to fill in. There are about 6 cars ready to pounce. If those cars would step it up, there could be 12-15 cars running hard and close through the race. But then, attrition does take a toll.

    So when you do your picks, you almost kinda have to figure out that maybe 1-3 top cars will falter and what other cars will fill in. Makes it even tougher.

    Regarding the dive bomb move… THAT’S SHORT TRACK RACING!!!!!! And it became a bigger part of short track racing when the SPEC engine became the de facto standard. Who has the guts to go deeper?

    So what about the 01… 62 laps.

  8. I watched the last 15 laps of the 602 mod race last night – side by side racing for the lead right to the checkers even on smaller tires – the tour guys should take note.

  9. Yeah, okay…

    What the hell are we gonna do between now and Richmond?

  10. I remember the days when the Coby/Bonsignore incident would have triggered a “Coby can’t drive in traffic” comment.

  11. Well, careful review shows Dug Kolby got some help, so it wasn’t all his fault. Like I said earlier, it was a racing deal, the dreaded accordion. I’m giving him some slack here, appreciate it.

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