More than 65 drivers took the green flag in at least one NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race in 2021. In the end, Justin Bonsignore picked up his third series championship, becoming just the fourth driver in the history of the tour to accomplish that feat.
Bonsignore also won three other special awards for his efforts during the season. Likewise, two other drivers ended 2021 with hardware.
Below are the special award winners for the 2021 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season.
Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award: Justin Bonsignore
The Holtsville, New York, native may have only won twice this year en route to the series championship, but Bonsignore started off at the front of the field more often than any of his competitors.
Bonsignore won the Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award pole five times in 2021, tying his total from 2018, when he also won the series title.
His pole at Jennerstown Speedway on Memorial Day weekend ended with his leading 136 of 150 laps and taking the checkered flag. The other four poles ended with finishes of third, third, second and 24th (DNF, mechanical failure).
Bonsignore boosted his career total to 19 poles, which places him 12th on the all-time list for the series.
Mayhew Tools, founded in 1856, is the oldest punch and chisel manufacturer in the United States, growing their extensive professional grade, American made product line to include pry bars, pneumatics, cable ties and more. In 2020, the company extended its product line to a complete line of dual drive and socket bits and sets.
Serving the industrial, automotive, hardware and construction industries, Mayhew’s premium hand tools are sold globally through an extensive distributor network. Mayhew Tools started sponsoring the Whelen Modified Tour pole award in 2019 and has continued the partnership ever since. Mayhew also sponsors six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby.
Beyond Bonsignore, Ryan Preece won two pole awards in 2021, while Matt Swanson, Max McLaughlin, Jon McKennedy, Matt Hirschman, Ron Silk, Tom Rogers Jr. and Anthony Nocella each picked up one.
Phil Kurze Mid-Race Leader presented by Josten’s: Justin Bonsignore
Bonsignore also earned a special award in honor of former Whelen Engineering vice president of motorsports Phil Kurze.
The late Kurze, who was recently honored at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a plaque in the Whelen Hall of Champions, was a strong advocate for short-track racing. He helped elevate the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour prior to his passing in 2018.
Yesterday, a plaque was unveiled in the @NASCARHall’s Whelen Hall of Champions in honor of longtime Whelen executive and short track racing advocate Phil Kurze.@WhelenMTRS | @WhelenEng pic.twitter.com/swgwQs7DK1
— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) November 10, 2021
This year’s award, given to the driver who led at the halfway point of the most races, went to Bonsignore. He was in the lead at the halfway lap in four of 14 events during the 2021 season, with only Preece (twice) joining him on the list of drivers who did so more than once.
Josten’s, the official provider of the NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy, the Daytona 500 championship ring, the Indy 500 championship ring and more, coins itself as the Most Trusted Partner in Celebrating Moments That Matter and is a proud supporter of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Hoosier Tire Lap Leader Award: Justin Bonsignore (Owner: Ken Massa)
Hoosier Tire supplies racing tires for the ground-pounding modifieds each year on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and it also sponsors the Hoosier Tire Lap Leader Award.
Given to the car owner of the driver who leads the most laps in a race the most times during the season, the award honors the team that was the dominant force at the front of the field.
In 2021, it was Bonsignore. Driving the Ken Massa Motorsports/Phoenix Communications No. 51 Chevrolet, Bonsignore led 643 laps this season, including at least one in 11 of 14 races.
He was at the front for the most laps in three races, edging Matt Hirschman and Preece, who did it in two events.
Hoosier Tire Most Improved Award: Dylan Slepian
Hoosier Tire also supplies the Most Improved Award for each NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event, including the season-ending special award. In 2021, Dylan Slepian earned the honors.
The Dix Hills, New York, native competed in three races during the season and scored two top-10 finishes, both at his home-track, Riverhead Raceway.
In the only other event he ran, Slepian finished 11th at Riverhead in September. His finishes of ninth, ninth and 11th were the best three of his Whelen Modified Tour career.
Slepian, a regular in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series at Riverhead, also finished second in the track weekly points championship standings this year.
Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award and Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race Award: Patrick Emerling
Patrick Emerling did not get the championship year he wanted in 2021, but he collected his fair share of hardware over the course of 14 races.
For his success, Emerling earned both the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger and Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race Awards from the season.
The Hard Charger award is given to the driver who advances the most positions during a race. The postseason award is given to the driver who earns the award in the most races compared to his competitors throughout the season.
This year, Emerling was on top of his game, winning three times — in Stafford Motor Speedway’s NAPA Spring Sizzler, the tour’s debut at New York International (Lancaster) Speedway and the finale of three events at Riverhead Raceway.
With his three victories — tied for the most in the series in 2021 — Emerling also captured the Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race award.
Outside of Emerling, current NASCAR Cup Series driver and 2013 Whelen Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece also won three races in 2021. The tiebreaker was the driver who finished higher in the championship standings, and Emerling, as the Orchard Park, New York, native, was the runner-up to Bonsignore.
Behind Emerling and Preece, Bonsignore, Coby and Ron Silk won twice in 2021. Eric Goodale and Matt Hirschman scored single victories.