Back to News

June 22, 2024

Justin Bonsignore delivers for Modified racing world in Xfinity Series debut

LOUDON, N.H. — A future version of Justin Bonsignore will beam with pride when he reflects upon what he accomplished at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 22, 2024.

He’ll recall tying the late Ted Christopher for third on the all-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win list with a victory in the Mohegan Sun 100, then following the triumph with a statement performance in his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut. He’ll value the fact that he did it all literally surrounded by family and figuratively upheld by the entire Modified racing community.

But that’s not the version of Justin Bonsignore that climbed out of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after Saturday’s Sci Aps 200. That one had no idea how to feel.

RELATED: What to watch Sunday at New Hampshire

Justin Bonsignore
(Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

The three-time Modified Tour champion backed up his Saturday-morning win with a 22nd-place Xfinity finish that was not indicative of the race he ran at the Magic Mile. Such a result left the 36-year-old disappointed on a day that represented a celebration of Modified racers and short-track competitors as a whole.

“I don’t like to get emotional, but it is emotional to accomplish what we did today,” Bonsignore said. “I’m a race-car driver, though. I wanted to win. I don’t know if we had the driver to win today.”

Many presumed the Holtsville, New York, native would make the Modified racing community proud in his Xfinity debut, especially given the quality of his equipment under the JGR banner. Few could have predicted Bonsignore’s assessment would be incorrect: The team did, in fact, field a driver capable of winning.

Bonsignore, who entered Saturday with minimal simulation time and virtually no on-track experience in the Xfinity car, started 25th and carefully advanced a few positions before a strategy call during an early caution catapulted him to the front row. He proceeded to lead three laps before settling for competitive spots inside the top five. His lap times were consistent with those of his JGR teammates, including NASCAR Cup Series driver and eventual race winner Christopher Bell.

Bonsignore said he learned more about the car with each lap, though uninformed observers might have assumed a teacher and not a student was driving.

Including Saturday morning’s race, Bonsignore has three wins in 26 Modified Tour starts at New Hampshire. Beyond his familiarity with the track’s 1.058-mile layout, that experience did little to prepare him for Saturday afternoon’s challenges. He explained the difference in the Xfinity car’s handling compared to his Modified as tire wear becomes a factor; the Xfinity cars rapidly burn up right-front tires, and Mods take a toll on right rears.

Inexperience did not cost Bonsignore what might have been a top-10 finish in his debut. Chaos was the culprit.

Justin Bonsignore
Justin Bonsignore (No. 19) leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series SciAps 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 22, 2024. (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Sammy Smith on a late restart made what appeared to be incidental contact with Bonsignore’s rear bumper, sending the No. 19 spinning into a multi-car pileup. Bonsignore’s recollection of the incident was pointed: “My rear tires weren’t on the race track. I know that much.”

He proceeded with minimal damage, but without the track position that aided his attempt at a single-digit finish, he opted against pushing JGR’s car to a slightly better result in the closing laps.

Perhaps subconsciously, Bonsignore knew he had done what he came to New Hampshire to do.

Bell, for example, understood his teammate for the day made a substantial impact: “I hope and pray we have more elite short-track racers like that coming to the NASCAR [national] series.”

JGR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. expressed a similar sentiment Saturday morning when asked about Bonsignore’s Xfinity debut: “It’s huge, and it’s really special. This place has put a lot of people on the map.”

The Modified and Northeastern short-track racing communities stood behind Bonsignore on Saturday in ways that were both obvious (shaking his hand and wishing him luck) and subtle (sticking around after the Modified Tour race to watch his Xfinity effort). And he repaid their support with both his impressive run his post-race reminder that the Modified Tour is rich with talent.

“Anything you can accomplish there, you’re beating the best guys in our area,” he said. “You could put any of these guys in these cars. Ron Silk would come out here and would have done the same thing today.”

Justin Bonsignore
(Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

Bonsignore was adamant about his desire to take another shot at an Xfinity Series win. He was surprised by how much information he was able to absorb Saturday, reinforcing the experience-is-the-best-teacher mantra. He believes more laps would result in a better finish, and he’s looking forward to testing that theory if another opportunity arises.

Beyond his time at the front of the field Saturday — “that was kind of cool for a little bit,” he said — Bonsignore did not let himself pause to soak in the moments that made June 22 a new pillar of his career. There were plenty from which to choose.

He was recognized early Saturday morning for his 200th Modified Tour start, which occurred last July at New Jersey’s Wall Stadium Speedway.

He won his 42nd Modified Tour race by beating his cousin, Kyle Bonsignore, in a last-lap dash to the finish. His dad said Justin and Kyle were 8 years old the last time he can remember the cousins racing each other for a win without crashing.

For the second time, he was joined in Victory Lane by his 7-month-old son.

The roar of the crowd that followed the announcement of his name during Xfinity Series driver intros was among the loudest Saturday.

He competed for a victory in a car he’d never raced against some of stock-car racing’s best competitors. His final driver rating was 99.3, the fifth best in the field.

And afterwards, even through the downer that was his place in the final running order, he smiled.

“I’m just really proud of the effort we put in,” he said. “Hopefully I made some people proud in this area.”

The future version of Justin Bonsignore won’t need to question whether he did.