Justin Bonsignore Claims Thompson Sweep to Close Out Championship Season
Story By: Taylor Therrien/TSMP
Photos By: Ruby Wallau/NASCAR
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park concluded the 56th Annual World Series of Speedway Racing weekend on Sunday, Oct. 14 crowning three track division champions and the ISMA Supermodified champion as well as hosting the weekend’s main event, the final race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series Tour season.
Coming into Tour race Justin Bonsignore had already clinched the title, the first time that feat has been accomplished since Donny Lia earned the title prior to the end of the 2007 season. That said Bonsignore still had something to fight for at Thompson having won the first three races for the tour at the Big-T in 2018 looking to accomplish the “Thompson Grand Slam” and win all four events at the track in the same season.
Bonsignore started strong in third but it was Ryan Preece who led the event early on. The 2013 tour champion raced in potentially his final Whelen Modified Series race after being promoted to the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series for the 2019. Preece started second and led most of the first 81 laps until a caution slowed the field and brought the leaders to the pits. A miscue forced Preece down pit road a second time while Bonsignore inheriting the lead on the restart.
Bonsignore never looked back capping off an impressive season and surviving several more restarts to lead the field all the way to the finish earning the “Thompson Grand Slam” on World Series weekend with victories in all four Thompson races on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule in 2018. Bonsignore spoke about his accomplishments after the race.
“You can’t even script this. I just owe it to the pit crew again. That’s two out of four this year where they literally won us the race,” Bonsignore said. “I can’t think of a better way to end the season. We said all week we were going to race hard and be aggressive with our strategy and everything played out perfectly.”
Bonsignore joins the elite company of Steve Park, Mike Stefanik and Doug Coby as the only drivers in the current era to win all of Thompson’s tour races in the same year. He said adding to that legacy was an important accomplishment to cap off a championship season. “I know what we’ve been accomplishing, but we can’t take that for granted,” Bonsignore said. “It’s huge. It’s important. Those are two of the biggest names of the past and one is current right now. It’s elite company and I’m just really proud of it.”
Jon McKennedy, Ron Silk, Ryan Preece and Burt Myers rounded out the top five in the final race of the Whelen Modified Tour season.
The Thompson Sunoco Modifed division title went to Keith Rocco for the third year in a row after a season that included four wins. Unfortunately, Rocco was unable to finish the race after an incident on lap 16. Up front the race for the lead was competitive all the way through with several drivers trading the lead over the course of 30 laps. The battle came down to Todd Owen and Ryan Preece in the final six laps as a caution set up a wild finish with Owen coming out on top. Owen’s victory was his third of the World Series weekend, two as a driver and one as a car owner, completing what he called a “dream weekend”.
“That was a fun race. (Preece) was definitely a gentleman out there. It was a lot of fun,” Owen said about the closing laps. “We’re a hungry bunch. We work hard on our cars and it was awesome – You couldn’t ask for a better script, being around great people and great equipment you get the results that you need.”
While he couldn’t finish the race, Sunoco Modified champion Keith Rocco still found solace in being able to celebrate his third consecutive title in seven years. “We’ve had really good success here. Ever since the first time I drove a modified here I fell in love with the place, the high banks and the speeds,” Rocco said. “It’s still fun. We didn’t have the speed we wanted today but that makes us want to work harder and come back stronger next year.”
Thompson’s Limited Sportsman division saw a repeat champion in Shawn Monahan who won the title in a very different manner than in 2017 when he claimed the championship in a winless season. In 2018 Monahan scored four victories and placed in the top five in every event clinching the title over Chris Meyers and Larry Barnett. Monahan said he was proud of his team and their effort all season helping him remain the man to beat in Thompson’s Limited Sportsmen cars. “I really wanted to be (out front) but in hindsight I think it was good to be in fourth place at that point. It’s been a blessing this year. A lot of guys have helped me out,” Moahan said in victory lane.
The race win went to Corey Fanning who had to survive several restarts and defend against Ryan Waterman in the final lap of the race which ended in a three-wide battle across the finish line between Fanning, Waterman and Brent Gleason with Fanning taking the final division victory of the 2018 season in a photo finish.
“That was probably one of the wildest finishes I’ve been in and I’ve been in a few wild ones this year. It’s awesome to come out on top,” Fanning said. “When (Waterman) got to the door I said I’m just going to hang here as long as we can. Luckily the start-finish line was in the right spot for me.”
The Mini Stocks started off the afternoon with Eric Bourgeois seeking his third division title at Thompson. Bourgeois had been a model of consistency with six top five in as many races on the year and two wins. The final race would be his only finish outside the top ten as he came home sixth. Defending champion Wayne Burroughs, Jr., who was eliminated from the title chase after missing a race in the spring, went on to win the race for his fifth win of the season.
“This is about as big as it gets. This is awesome. Easily one of my best wins here,” Burroughs said. “I want to congratulate Eric Bourgeois on a good season. After we missed a race we won five in a row. That’s about all we could do. He didn’t have that one mistake we needed so congrats to those guys. Five wins and second in point, I’ll take that.”
Eric Bourgeois celebrated his title with burnouts and donuts on the front stretch confirming that his third title in the division would be his last as he turns over the family legacy to his son Evan. “I’ll be back running a show here or there just to help out my kid, but points wise I’m going to concentrate on (Evan) from here on out so this is my last full-time season,” Bourgeois said. “My crew works hard all the time – They make sure we’re a hundred percent. It’s a good way to go out.”
The ISMA Supermodifieds raced 50 laps in their season finale at Thompson with the league’s points race coming down to the wire between Dan Bowes and Kyle Edwards both seeking their first ISMA wins at the track. Bowes was able to hold off Edwards by a slim two points to take his first ISMA Supermodified title. “This is amazing,” Bowes said after the race. “Two points. I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s two or a hundred. The fact is we got it so it’s awesome.” Ben Seitz dominated the race up front to claim his first ISMA Supermodified win of the season.
Finally, the NEMA Lites also held a 20-lap feature, the second half of the duel Shane Hammond Memorial race events on World Series weekend following Sunday’s NEMA Midget race. The penultimate race of the season saw Danny Cugini looking to extend his points lead in his bid to repeat as champion. Jim Chambers took home the feature win, his third of the season while Cugini extended his points advantage on Randy Carbal with a top five finish.
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED SERIES FINALE FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Justin Bonsignore; 2. Jon McKennedy; 3. Ron Silk; 4. Ryan Preece; 5. Burt Myers; 6. Doug Coby; 7. Matt Swanson; 8. Bobby Santos, III; 9. Chris Pasteryak; 10. Eric Goodale
SUNOCO MODIFIED FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 2. Ryan Preece (Broad Brook, CT); 3. Andrew Molleur (Shelton, CT); 4. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 5. Kyle James (Ashaway, R.I.); 6. Adam Gada (Bozrah, CT); 7. Kyler Cafro (Chaplin, CT); 8. Jacob Perry; 9. Michael Gervais; 10. Jimmy Blewett (Howell, N.J.)
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Corey Fanning (Mapleville, R.I.)) 2. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 3. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 4. Shawn Monahan (Waterford, CT); 5. Meghan Fuller (Auburn, MA); 6. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 7. Chris Meyer (North Franklin, CT); 8. Kyle Gero (Baltic, CT); 9. Brandon Plemmons; 10. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA)
MINI STOCKS FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 2. Chris Taylor (East Lyme, CT); 3. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 4. Mark Panaroni; 5. Dave Trudeau, Jr. (Mansfield, CT); 6. Eric Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 7. Jared Roy (Sterling, CT); 8. Andrew Krzeminski (Haddem, CT); 9. Alex Christiansen; 10. Keith Ballou (Pascoag, R.I.)
NEMA LITE SHANE HAMMOND MEMORIAL FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Jim Chambers (Atkinson, NH); 2. Todd Bertrand (Danielson, CT); 3. Avery Stoehr (Lakeville, MA); 4. Kyle Valeir (Monument Beach, ME); 5. Dan Cugini (Marshfield, MA); 6. Matt Janisch (Nazareht, PA); 7. Jeffrey Battle; 8. Christopher Vose (Gloverville, NY); 9. Ryan Locke (Raymond, NH); 10. Seth Carlson (Brimfield, MA)
ISMA SUPERMODIFIED FEATURE: 1. Ben Seitz (Bourne, MA); 2. Kyle Edwards (Bartlett, TN); 3. Michael Barnes (Mexico, NY); 4. Dan Bowes (Epping, NH); 5. Tyler Thompson (Fulton, NY): 6. Jim Pallier; 7. Timmy Jedrzejek (Independence, OH); 8. Mike McVetta (Wellington, OH); 9. Jamie Timmons (North Andover, MA); 10. Dave Duggan (Milford, NH)