Racin’ With Jason: No asterisk needed for Justin Bonsignore’s championship season

Published: 10/15/2020 4:35:15 PM

For several years, Justin Bonsignore was seen as the best driver not to win a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.

The Long Islander picked up race wins in bunches and was in contention for many others. He finally broke through with the 2018 title, and last Sunday, Bonsignore solidified his position as one of the best drivers in NASCAR’s oldest touring division by winning his second championship in three seasons.

Bonsignore, 32, finished fourth in the Sunoco World Series 150 at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park to clinch the championship and lock up his sixth top-three point finish in the last seven seasons. He was the best driver during this pandemic-shortened season, finishing no worse than fifth in nine races.

While it was Craig Lutz who took the checkered flag in the final race of the season, the day belonged to Bonsignore. He finished 40 points ahead of Jon McKennedy, who finished second in the race, and 45 clear of defending and six-time champion Doug Coby, who was involved in an incident and finished 22nd.

When I covered the Tour for the Republican until 2013, Bonsignore was an up-and-comer who was almost always one of the three drivers sent up to the press box after the race for being a top-three finisher, especially in the big races like those at Thompson. He’s owned Monadnock Speedway over the years as well. I’m genuinely happy to see the success he’s had in recent years.

What Bonsignore has that many drivers don’t is consistency with his team. He’s driven Kenneth Massa’s No. 51 for as long as I can remember, and he has built relationships with his crew that are extremely valuable. Phoenix Communications and M-3 Technologies have been his sponsors for years as well.

Some might be quick to put an asterisk on this season because of its unique nature. There were races in places that weren’t on the schedule to start the season, such as White Mountain, Jennerstown and Monadnock, and fewer races wound up happening than originally planned. There was only one race each at New Hampshire and Stafford, and only two at Thompson. There was no South Boston, Icebreaker, Spring Sizzler or Fall Final.

However, Bonsignore made the most of what was put in front of him. It’s no guarantee that if you extrapolate the numbers across a full 14 or 15 races, he would still have put together similar finishes, but he has already shown what he can do over a full season. It’s also likely that Coby could have won a few more, especially an extra race or two at Stafford, where he’s had loads of success over the years. Ron Silk won twice this season and could have added to that total.

But as it does every season, all roads lead to Thompson at the end, and this was Justin Bonsignore’s year. Congratulations, champ

Jason Remillard is a copy editor and page designer at the Recorder. He can be reached at jremillard@recorder.com and followed on Twitter @racinwithjason.

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