By: Ashley McCubbin
Another year of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series competition is in the books, with Justin Bonsignore hoisting the crown once again. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.
Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.
GOOD: Justin Bonsignore is certainly writing his own chapter in the series history book that could easily get him into the NASCAR Hall of Fame down the road. Two championships, along with 17 victories in his last 41 starts now, and welcome to witnessing history as we go here.
BAD: Thompson Speedway has grown a rep as being one of the best places to race, but it’s worth nothing passing is at a premium at times, with the high line being the dominant grooves and runs underneath not always being there. You also did not want to be on the inside for a restart, as the line wouldn’t go, resulting in a bunch of lost track position. It made some chaotic restarts when drivers on older tires stayed out, but it kept the fans on their toes.
GOOD: A battle of the heavyweights at the front of the field in the Thompson 150 in September made for the some of the most exciting final 30 laps of a race this season, as they all tried to out-battle each car with a combination of wits and control.
Ryan Preece had played his cards perfectly, saving his stuff and making the right adjustment at the halfway break to climb from 11th to the top-four just as things got interesting with a late-race caution stretch. He also out-witted Ron Silk in looking low a couple times, forcing the No. 85 down there, only to go around on the outside. It seemed the NASCAR Cup Series star was headed to yet another victory, when the fuel cell ran dry due to a pit miscue.
This opened the door wide open for Silk to capitalize, and he did en route to scoring the checkered. While seeming like a gift, he did not have it easy himself getting into position to win. He was only able to secure that spot thanks to a back-and-forth crossover battle with Justin Bonsignore in a five lap stretch just before Preece was able to take advantage.
GOOD: Chris Pasteryak certainly should not be overlooked, shining some light his way with a stellar rebound at Thompson in September. After going around for a spin, he took the wavearound to get his lap back, before taking his three tires 25 laps later than the rest of the field. It worked in his favor, as each final restart he was able to gain some spots and come home fourth.
GOOD/BAD: The Monadnock Speedway may be uniquely shaped with two different turns, but it isn’t the easiest place to pass on. As a result, for much of the event, the drivers ran in single-file formation through the top-10 with a couple battles sprinkled out. The ability to make moves was there, though, as evident by competitors like Bonsignore and Doug Coby. If you could get capitalize on the car ahead of you mishandling or get a run underneath into the corner, then you were golden.
Experience paid off in that regard for Bonsignore, as he was smart through the first half in saving his tires while doing enough to keep himself within the top-three. Then when the time came in the final 50 to make his move, it paid off.
The battle between himself and Silk was beautiful to watch, as they went pulled the crossover on each other a couple times, each determined to come out on top. Despite Silk’s efforts, it wasn’t enough to contend with Bonsignore as he got the lead and drove away en route to the checkered.
BAD: Matt Hirschman is normally someone that you see with the front runners, but instead he found himself getting a lot of camera time for another reason at Monadnock. On two separate occasions, he made contact with Pasteryak, with the latter getting the worst of it.
In a battle that started for sixth, Pasteryak came down slightly into Hirschman, resulting in a spin and collecting several others in the process. Then with four laps to go as they met together on the track, Hirschman got up into Pasteryak off the corner, resulting in heavy right side contact with the frontstretch wall this time around for the No. 75.
Praised for clean tough racing, you have to question Hirschman’s motives in the final run to the checkered and wonder if Pasteryak will have something to say about it in the events moving forward.
GOOD: Coby’s gamble in going out on his own as car owner paid off this year with a solid third-place finish in points, highlighted by a win at White Mountain Motorsports Park.
While Bonsignore has put up the numbers lately, Coby can never be overlooked, given the fact he has won the championship six times with no finishes outside the top-five since the 2011 campaign. There’s also those 29 career victories to place him sixth on the all-time tour list.
GOOD: White Mountain Motorsports Park hosted two events this year for the tour, and both times has been able to deliver a show. The tight bull ring saw battles throughout the night for various positions through the top-10 as drivers worked at setting each up for passes. While mostly a one-groove oval, some were able to utilizing a diamonding effect off the corner while running a lane up to make up ground.
GOOD: Jennerstown also showcased why it should host racing, with battles around the track for position throughout the day and a wide track allowing to be done so without crowding each other. Certainly watching the battle for fourth on back with everybody right on top of each other, able to get runs off the corner in the late stages was the icing on the cake.