By: Kyle Souza / Photo: Tom Morris/My Race News
Two-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore.
Ask the Holtsville, New York, driver 12 years ago and he would have said that phrase was a dream. Ask him now and the dream is reality.
Bonsignore and his Kenneth Massa Motorsports team clinched their second Whelen Modified Tour title at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, marking their second crown in the last three years. He did it with a fourth-place finish in the season-finale — scoring his ninth top-five finish in the nine races run in 2020. Due to COVID-19, the original schedule was cut down to just nine, with a few new tracks on the schedule. But it was a return to one of Bonsignore’s favorite tracks, Thompson, that helped him seal the crown.
The Long Island kid celebrates again.
“Ryan Stone, Ken Massa, and everybody, top to bottom, to our sponsors, product sponsors, the team, families of the team, it’s everything together,” Bonsignore said of the success. “Ryan Stone just doesn’t let us fail. He works his guts out every night at the shop, no matter if we are racing or not. Ken and Ryan talk hours everyday on what we can do to get better. We just work hard.”
Bonsignore, team owner Ken Massa, and the entire No. 51 Phoenix Communications team have been on fire since the start of 2018 — a year which also marked the start of their new journey with Ryan Stone as crew chief. Since then, they have won 17 of 41 races on the Whelen Modified Tour, finished in the top-five in 31 of 41 and have been a contender to win nearly all of them with the speed they’ve shown unloading off the truck.
The reality: they could be building the next dynasty in NASCAR’s regional touring series.
Names like Evans, Stefanik and Coby had to start somewhere, right? Doug Coby, a six-time Whelen Modified Tour champion, who finished third in the standings this year, won his first title when he was 33. That sparked a tenure at the top of the series with six titles in nine years. Bonsignore is the only driver to beat him in that span, other than NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece.
Bonsignore, who is 32-years-old, is in his 14th year of competition. It took him more years driving to win his first crown than it took Coby, but it might pay off for him in the long run. While Coby switches over to become an owner/driver, and the tour continues to become more top-heavy — with only five or six cars, if that, in true title contention each year — the blocks are building towards Bonsignore and Massa creating the next dynasty.
Bonsignore’s second career title and 29 career wins further cements his legacy as one of the best of the era to compete on the Whelen Modified Tour. It’s clear his goals are to continue to win races, and championships, for many years to come. And the relationship he has with Massa, Stone and his team is going to make it tough for most to match.
“Ken and I have been together a long time, my parents don’t live close to me anymore, but Ken and his wife are my second parents,” Bonsignore said. “I hope we can continue this relationship as long as Ken wants to race. I’m going to race as long as I’m competitive and as long as I have Ryan Stone in my corner. Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik raced into their 50s… as long as I have an opportunity like I have now, I’m going to continue to race.”
“The emotion is insane,” Ken Massa, who took a slight break from taking photos with countless family and friends, said. “What I go through on a day-to-day basis with Ryan, it’s just unexplainable. I’ve never been through it with a crew chief and I love it on a one-to-one level. The respect we have for each other, and the friendship we’ve built because of it is special.”
Bonsignore, one of the more humble drivers in the Whelen Modified Tour garage, isn’t ready to discuss his legacy yet — with him planning to race for many years to come — he hopes at this winning level.
“It’s not my place to really say,” Bonsignore said of what he thinks of his second title cementing himself as a top contender. “I don’t get to make the decision for what people of think of me, but I know that as a team, we want to go out there and drive out butt off. We just want to go out and win.”
Massa is already thinking of ways to improve the team for 2021, and beyond. They will open as early favorites when NASCAR releases a schedule for the new year.
“Dynasty is something that you always strive to build… I always had that faith in Justin and I never gave him what he needed as a car owner,” Massa said. “For the last three years, I’ve given him what he needed. The eight points last year was… just eight points. It was hard to swallow. But that’s exactly what I want to build of this team.. a dynasty.”