LOUDON, N.H. — Early in Saturday’s Mohegan Sun 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers were racing against Mother Nature as much as each other. The rain arrived and caused a long delay before the event resumed, at which point darkness became a third factor racers had to fight.
Justin Bonsignore defeated all three, and he did so in breathtaking fashion.
After a slow pit stop with 25 laps to go sent the three-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion back to 10th, he battled his way through the field and found himself jostling with Doug Coby and Ron Silk in the closing laps for the race win.
On the final corner, Bonsignore dove low to block Silk and drifted back high to cover Coby, who attempted a cross-over move. Holding firm on the outside of Coby, Bonsignore beat his rival to the finish line in a near-photo finish.
RELATED: Complete results from New Hampshire
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The victory marked Bonsignore’s second at New Hampshire, which on an annual basis hosts what many consider the biggest Modified Tour race of the year. His other New Hampshire victory came in 2016.
“I knew all week that if I was leading at the white I was going to come off [Turn] 2 and do what I did,” Bonsignore said. ‘But I didn’t anticipate either thing that happened, of Doug staying on the outside of me and Ron having enough room to go inside of me.
“I hung a good left to continue the block, and you get down to [Turn 3] and you’ve got no angle in the corner, and Doug was able to cross me over. He was really clean about it where he didn’t just [run me into the wall], and Ron backed out of it. … That’s the respect I think we all have for each other.
“And then the drag race off of [Turn] 4, kind of had to give [Coby] a bit of a bar to kind of slow his momentum. I could tell I was building a little gap to the checkered. It was awesome.”
Bonsignore earlier Saturday evening had hoped to claim the victory when inclement weather red flagged the race on Lap 69. Bonsignore, who started on the Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole after recording the best lap in Friday’s qualifying session, had built a hefty lead over second-place Tyler Rypkema by the time the race’s first caution flew for rain.
The passing shower was quick, though, and track officials were able to get the surface dried before darkness fell over the Magic Mile.
“Obviously we would have been pretty happy if it would have just ended with the rain delay,” Bonsignore said. “I was nervous we just wouldn’t be able to get ourselves back out away from the pack.”
But he did just that just in time for the closing laps.
While Bonsignore was celebrating in Victory Lane, Coby walked by and gave his friend/rival a playful shove. When asked about the exchange, Bonsignore said it was all in fun. He expanded and explained how the racing to the checkered flag Saturday night was all about respect.
“We’re really good friends,” Bonsignore said of Coby. “I can’t wait to see the texts between [Ryan] Preece, him and I. There’s a lot of respect between us. He could have just got back underneath me and throttled up and went straight into the fence off of [Turn 4] and just got rid of me. He chose to drag race me.
“That’s something you’ll remember the next time you’re here. Even next week if the roles are reversed. As much as he wanted to win, he did it the clean way, and that’s very commendable.
“There’s talk about where the respect’s at in this series, but I think among the top guys — sometimes we take it to the limit, but we all respect each other.”
Beyond the caution and eventual red flag for rain, there would be only one more yellow in Saturday’s race; Bobby Santos III smacked the wall hard on Lap 83.
Silk finished third behind Coby. Austin Beers and Patrick Emerling finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Anthony Sesely, Corey LaJoie, Matt Swanson, Andy Seuss and Jake Johnson rounded out the top 10.
A condensed broadcast of the Mohegan Sun 100 at New Hampshire will air on CNBC on Saturday, July 22 starting at 10 a.m. ET.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour takes a couple weeks off before returning to action Saturday, July 29 for the Clash at Claremont 150 at New Hampshire’s Claremont Motorsports Park. The race will start at 8:30 p.m. ET with live coverage on FloRacing.