Bonsignore Claims Record Fifth Straight Whelen Modified Win at Thompson
Story By: Kyle Souza/TSMP
Photos By: Getty Images/NASCAR
The 45th Annual Icebreaker weekend continued at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Sunday, April 7 with six divisions and series taking to the track to conclude the unofficial kickoff of racing season in New England. In addition to four of Thompson’s five track divisions the Big-T also hosted a Pro All Star Series (PASS) feature as well as the third event of the 2019 Whelen Modified Series season, the Icebreaker 150, featuring the biggest stars in modified racing as the afternoon’s main event.
Coming into the afternoon several big names on the Modified tour sought to continue their early momentum while defending champion Justin Bonsignore, who swept all four series races at Thompson in 2018, looked to continue that streak after a slow start at Myrtle Beach and South Boston. Bonsignore qualified on the outside pole next to pole sitter Doug Coby, who has built his own impressive Thompson resumé over the past few years.
It would be those two drivers fighting for the lead throughout much of the event as they sought to gain an edge lap after lap. Coby held strong for two-thirds of the race until a caution slowed the field on lap 99. Most of the field veered to pit road and while Coby came out first an equipment penalty for running over a hose put a damper on his dominating day. Bonsignore inherited the lead on the restart and never looked back surviving a green-white-checker finish to earn his first win of the season and his fifth consecutive Whelen Modified victory at Thompson, a track record for the tour modifieds. Ron Silk, Eric Goodale, Patrick Emerling, and Doug Coby rounded out the top five.
“We had to put together a full race and execute. We had a little bit of luck. Doug (Coby) and I were pretty even. You need a little luck to go your way and we finally got some,” Bonsignore said. “I think I could have beat (Coby), but I can’t say that as a guarantee. It would have been a great finish I’ll say that.”
About his record fifth consecutive Thompson win in the Whelen Modified Series Bonsignore said it’s a neat stat, but nothing he lets go to his head. “Stuff like that is pretty cool. I mean it’s stuff you’ll think about when you’re done racing and you’re able to brag about it,” Bonsignore said. “It’s stuff that will be cool in the future to look back on and appreciate. We’re still living in the moment. I’m already thinking ahead for the summer and what we’re going to need to do to come back here and get six in a row.”
Earlier in the afternoon the drivers of the Pro All Star Series (PASS) took to the track for a 75-lap feature with series regulars Derek Griffith and DJ Shaw battling it out for the top spot for most of the race. Griffith led early on but by lap 25 Shaw had begun to put pressure on the leader and eventually took the lead with 30 laps remaining. A caution a few laps later provided an opportunity for Griffith who opened a significant lead in the closing laps. Shaw refused to give in however, pulling up to Griffith’s bumper with five to go. After working the bottom groove for most of the race, Shaw changed his line in the final laps passing Griffith on the outside to take the win.
“That was awesome. That’s what you dream of as a racer. Finally, we check Thompson off. We’ve been so close. To finally get one here is pretty sweet. I wish it was a little less dramatic, but it’s still a win,” Shaw said. “I was running the bottom the whole race there and (Griffith) was running the top – Fortunately for me he blocked the bottom before I got there somewhat and right then I knew I couldn’t try that lane. I had to try the top and make it work.”
The Sunoco Modified Division kicked off the afternoon with a 30-lap feature and Keith Rocco seeking his fourth consecutive title in the division at Thompson. Rocco picked up right where he left off starting up front and leading most of the race. However, it wasn’t the dominant win fans are used to seeing from Rocco as Todd Owen, who finished second to Rocco in the points last year, presented a consistent challenge for the champ all race long. Owen even stole the lead on a restart four laps into the event with an impressive crossover move, but even after falling to second two laps later he stayed on Rocco’s bumper rarely more than a car length away. Rocco survived a few cautions with ten laps to go and a late race charge by Owen to score his first win of the season at the Big-T.
“Todd (Owen) is good. He’s a fierce competitor and he’s going to run you hard. I knew he was going to pressure us the whole race. He wasn’t going to fall off. That’s pretty much how it worked. Last year I know I had to pass him for the win, and it was fun to at least have him pass me then pass him back. It made for fun racing other than just defending him,” Rocco said after the win. “I set my expectations high and the Icebreaker is the one that gets your momentum going. Winning the first race of the season is good and it set the bar.”
The Limited Sportsman Series was next up with a 20-lap feature and two-time defending champion Shawn Monahan debuting a new look for his #55 car, a station wagon he has christened the “Swaggin’ Wagon”. Monahan said he knew the change would make defending a title difficult, but he wanted to give the fans a cool and unique car they could enjoy on the track. While Mohahan tried something unique for the fans the door has been opened for a new champion to take control and the first step in that goal was a good finish in the divisions first event of the year. Ryan Waterman, a two-time winner in the Limited Sportsman in 2018, turned in a dominant performance leading most of the race and scoring the season opener win for the Limited Sportsman. “I can’t even put it into words,” Waterman said after the race. “We finally (won the Icebreaker). Now we’re going for another championship.”
The Mini Stocks are guaranteed to have a new champion in 2019 with defending title-holder Eric Bourgeois stepping away from driving duties to allow his son, Evan, to carry the family name in the division. A favorite for the title last year, Wayne Burroughs, didn’t enter the first event of the season making it anybody’s guess who will take the championship by year’s end. Early on it looked like Doug Curry and Glynn Roy would be the first to make their marks jostling for the lead for twelve laps. However, the tables turned in a big way when the two made contact on lap-12 in turn two sending both leaders to the back of the field. The ensuing chaos allowed Steve Michalski to rocket to the lead giving him a win in the Mini Stocks at the Icebreaker. Finally, in the Late Models, the closing event of the evening, last year’s runner up in the standings Tom Carey, III outran William Wall to earn his first win the 25-lap feature.
Next up for Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park the track divisions take center stage, specifically the Limited Sportsman with the division’s long-distance race to accompany the Sunoco Modifieds, Late Models, Mini Stocks and SK Light Modifieds®. The pre-Memorial Day event will also salute active military members and veterans who can enjoy the races for free with a military ID. It all takes place On Sunday May 19.
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR ICEBREAKER 150 FINISH TOP-10: 1. Justin Bonsignore; 2. Ron Silk; 3. Eric Goodale; 4. Patrick Emerling; 5. Doug Coby; 6. Burt Myers; 7. Matt Swanson; 8. Woody Pitkat; 9. Chris Pasteryak; 10. Jimmy Blewett
PASS FINISH TOP-10: 1. DJ Shaw (Center Conway, NH); 2. Derek Griffith (Hudson, NH); 3. Ray Christian, III (Uncasville, CT); 4. Johnny Clark; 5. Jake Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 6. Garrett Hall (Scarborough, ME); 7. Gabe Brown (Center Conway, NH); 8. Travis Benjamin (Belfast, ME); 9. Nick Sweet (Barre, VT); 10. Devin O’ Connell
SUNOCO MODIFIED FINISH TOP-10: 1. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 2. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 3. Woody Pitkat (Bellingham, MA); 4. Mike Christopher, Jr. (Wolcott, CT); 5. Glen Reen (Belchertown, MA); 6. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 7. Kyle James (Westerly, RI); 8. Eddie Fatscher (East Northport, NY); 9. Kyler Cofro (Willimantic, CT); 10. Adam Gada (Bozrah, CT)
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FINISH TOP-10: 1. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 2. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 3. Corey Fanning (Mapleville, RI); 4. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 5. Meghan Fuller (Auburn, MA); 6. Jeff VanPelt (Pawtucket, RI); 7. Shawn Monahan (Waterford, CT); 8. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA); 9. Ryan Morgan (Franklin, CT); 10. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT)
MINI STOCK FINISH TOP-10: 1. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 2. Ian Brew (Woodriver Junction, RI); 3. Dave Trudeau, Jr. (Mansfield, CT); 4. Scott Mihalski (Danielson, CT); 5. Evan Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 6. Jared Roy (Sterling, CT); 7. Tom Silva (Gales, Ferry, CT); 8. Russ Barboza (Griswold, CT); 9. Doug Curry (Norwich, CT); 10. Keith Ballou (Pascoag, RI)
LATE MODELS DINISH TOP-10: 1. Tom Carey, III (Warwick, MA); 2. William Wall (Millbury, MA); 3. Woody Pitkat (Bellingham, CT); 4. Rick Gentes (Harrisville, Ri); 5. Matt Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 6. Mark Jenison (Warwick, RI); 7. Derek Gluchacki (Darmouth, MA); 8. Ryan Morgan (Franklin, CT); 9. Ryan Linehan (Hope Valley, RI); 10. Buddy Charette (Woodstock, CT)