Riverhead, NY Aug. 29th
.By Bob Finan
Photo Michael Jaworecki/Myracenews
For reining NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville there truly is no place like home where racing is concerned as he’ll carry a three race WMT win streak into Saturday nights Miller Lite 200 at Riverhead Raceway. In fact Bonsignore’s has dominated victory lane at the demanding quarter mile facility having won 6 of the past 9 races contested at the track where he won the 2011 NASCAR Whelen All American Series Modified title.
Justin’s most recent Riverhead triumph in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet 200 on July 6th did not come easy nor without some late race drama having to outgun track regular John Beatty Jr. of Merrick on the first attempt at an overtime finish. Beatty had come within three green flag laps of becoming the first weekly Riverhead driver to win a WMT since Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr. turned the trick on June 24th, 1995. However a late race yellow for a Blake Barney incident changed the complexion of the race with a classic short track dash for the cash unfolding for the win during the green, white, checker finish. Beatty has he had all race long chose the outside for the final restart leaving Bonsignore the bottom and the rest as they say is history with Justin taking the win while John settled for second. The hard fought win was Justin’s 7th WMT victory at Riverhead putting him within four of Mike Ewantisko’s track leading 11 WMT wins.
The only other driver to visit victory lane since Bonsignore’s 6 for 9 streak started in June of 2015 has been Timmy Solomito who has won three times over the past nine races including sweeping the 2017 WMT Riverhead races. Solomito who was third in July at Riverhead is hoping to return to victory lane in front of family and friends at the conclusion of the Miller Lite 200. To find a driver with the name other than Justin or Timmy who last won a 200-lapper at Riverhead you’d have to look back to June 28th, 2014 when Eric Goodale of Riverhead scored his first career victory. There would be no better place for Eric to make a triumphant return to the winners circle coming off a 8th place finish in the July Riverhead contest. If you are looking for the last non Long island resident to have won a WMT at the tight bullring you’d have to travel back to 2013 when Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct. swept the two 200-lap races.
Current championship leader and five time WMT champion Doug Coby of Milford, Ct. recently snapped Bonsignore’s 6 race win streak at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and would be more than obliging to end Justin’s three race run at Riverhead in the Miller Lite 200. Doug has never won at Riverhead. Drivers who had a solid showing in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet 200 in July hoping to end Bonsignore’s run include Ron Silk of Norwalk, Ct., Craig Lutz of Miller Place, Patrick Emerling of Orchard Park, NY and Tommy Catalano of Ontario, NY.
Perhaps no driver is looking forward to the Miller Lite 200 more than Dave Sapienza of Riverhead who’ll make his first WMT start since back injuries suffered in May at Wall Stadium put him on the sidelines. “Sap” has been running recent Riverhead Raceway WAAS NASCAR Modified races getting ready for what will be his one and only start for the remainder of the 2019 WMT campaign. Bobby Santos will run the final three races of the year in the Sapienza entry. Long Island based WMT teams hoping for success Saturday include impressive rookie JB Fortin of Holtsville, Ken Heagy of Riverhead and Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead.
John Beatty Jr. has been waiting for the Miller Lite 200 for exactly two months and a day since the checker waved on the first WMT race at Riverhead as he seeks to avenge his late race loss to Justin Bonsignore that left him shaking his head while stating, “I have been second in these races so many times, I just want to win one”. Another Riverhead regular licking his chops in anticipation of the Miller Lite 200 is Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead who earlier this week was tabbed by WMT car owner Danny Watts to drive his car after he & driver Woody Pitkat parted ways. Rogers, a 55-time NASCAR Modified winner at Riverhead going into Labor day weekend action could very well net Watts his second win of ’19. Another Riverhead regular who impressed in July was Chris Young who held the Mayhew Tools Pole award until the final two cars, Bonsignore and Coby dropped the rising star to a third place starting berth for the race. Chris hopes to improve on his race performance in the Miller Lite 200 after contact slowed his efforts in the first race.