Riverhead, NY Sept. 7thBy Bob Finan
It was night for milestones Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in town for the Miller Lite 200 and when it was all said and done Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville became the first driver to win four straight WMT races in the 64 WMT events contested at the demanding quarter mile facility. The hard fought victory was Justin’s 5th of the 2019 campaign and the 25th of his WMT driving career as well his 15th Riverhead Raceway triumph.
Craig Lutz of Miller Place by virtue of winning the Mayhew Tools Pole Award brought the 30 car field to the green but it wouldn’t be long before the race was slowed on lap 3 for Gary McDonald who was making his first WMT start of 2019 suffering right front suspension damage coming to a rest in turn four. When the race resumed to start the 9th lap Justin Bonsignore was scored second by Lutz quickly rallied to the inside to reclaim the lead. Lutz seeking his first career WMT win would lead until the 32nd lap where he’d be passed by track regular Tom Rogers Jr. steering the Danny Watts Racing owned Chevy. During Rogers stint in the lead the race would go for it’s longest extended green flag run with Rogers at times opening a three four car length lead on Timmy Solomito who was now second while at other time Timmy closed up on Rogers rear spoiler. During this run many including the track announcers wondered aloud if Tommy was using up too much of his car in the middle portion of the race.
The first caution in 84 laps would wave on lap 116 when Chris Pasteryak and Rob Summers came together with this yellow flag to be the first of six that would wave during the final half of the Miller Lite 200. On the ensuing restart on lap 125 Rogers spun his tires slightly off turn for with Solomito made a run to the outside to lead the 125th circuit but Rogers would muscle his way back to the lead on lap 126. Rogers and Solomito tussled again on a lap 136 restart with Rogers staying out front. A tangle between Rob Summers and Chris Young drew another caution flag period on lap 138 setting up another restart and this time Solomito took the race lead from Rogers when the race resumed on lap 146. Moments later Justin Bonsignore also made his way by Rogers to come to second.
With some 54 laps remaining in the 200 Solomito and his Flamingo Motorsports team were hoping to take home their first win of 2019 giving them some momentum going into the final three WMT races of the season. However Bonsignore had as per usual strong Ken Massa Motorsports machine under him as he tracked down his former go kart rival. Geting to Solomito was one thing, passing him under green could very well have been another thing for Bonsignore. As the laps clicked off Timmy was hoping not to see the caution flag however those hopes were dashed on lap 184 when Rob Summer, who had a rough night of it and Wade Cole came together in turn two.
When the race went back to green on lap 189 Bonsignore gained the run he needed on the outside to take the race lead with Solomito now moved back to second but the race was quickly slowed on lap 192 when Tom Rogers Jr. rode over the left rear of Ron Silk in the corner giving Silk a left rear flat. Both drivers were in the top five when the incident occurred. That gave Solomito a crack at trying to reclaim the lead on the ensuing restart however when the race resumed on lap 196 Bonsignore stayed out front making Solomito uncomfortable to his outside. As the old adage goes cautions breed cautions and such was the case in the closing laps of the Miller Lite 200 as a four car crash involving Blake Barney, Chris Young, Ron Silk and Michael Rutkoski set up an overtime finish.
Solomito, a 20 time career winner at Riverhead Raceway would have one more shot at scoring his 4th career WMT win at his home track in OT. When the race went back green Bonsignore again ran hard into the corner while Solomito peddled as hard as he could to the outside. In the end Justin Bonsignore and his Phoenix Communications Inc. team would bask in the spoils of victory lane, Justin’s 8th career WMT win at Riverhead moving him to just three behind all time leader Mike Ewanitsko. “Ryan Stone and my guys just give me an amazing car wherever we go but especially here at Riverhead” Justin boasted in victory lane afterwards. As to the late race restarts and how the leader has to race when starting on the inside Bonsignore was very honest with his thoughts, “it’s just a product of how they treat the outside groove here, the only line of defense the car has on the inside is to make the guy alongside of you as uncomfortable as you can. It’s not the way anyone wants to race but you have little choice”.
Timmy Solomito of Islip was runner-up in his Sanderson & MacLeod Inc. Ford and afterwards to a degree he echoed Bonsignore’s remarks, “it’s just how it goes here at Riverhead, they treat the outside but not the inside, I was sent way up the hill but it’s just a product of how it goes here”.
Craig Luz of Miller Place crossed the line third in the Riverhead Building Supply Chevy and admitted afterwards, ” I was kinda hoping the leaders would get together in those final few corners, heck one time I had the car turned so far left I punched myself in the leg”.
Kyle Soper of Manorville was the highest finishing Riverhead Raceway regular as the defending track champion drove the Eastport Feeds Chevy to a fourth place finish after starting tenth. Patrick Emerling of Orchard Park completed the top five in his Sahlen’s Chevrolet.
Chuck Hossfeld of Ransomville was sixth while JB Fortin of Holtsville, JR Bertuccio of Centereach, Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead and John Beatty Jr., of Merrick rounded out the top ten. Afterwards Rogers who led 113 laps disclosed why he chose to run as hard as he did in the middle portion of the race, ” with my car I was better off having those guys chase me rather than me chasing them. Heck we only got two laps of practice as we had a crank trigger go bad, the car will roll into the truck so it was a good night” Rogers surmised.
The 8th place showing for JR Bertuccio impressed many on hand, JR drove a second Gershow Motorsports entry as a teammate to Chuck Hossfeld and after receiving a free pass scored the top ten finish in his first race since 2016, “not too bad, I wasn’t totally comfortable in the car but for my first race in awhile I’ll take it”. JR noted afterwards.
John Beatty Jr. who nearly won the July WMT race didn’t have the race he was hopeful for right from qualifying although ran in the top ten most of the race until some late race shuffling dropped him to 10th. “I got shoved in the wall at the end, run the entire race with little to no contact and them boom” Beatty deadpanned.
Riverhead Raceway regulars Chris Young of Calverton (17th), Michael Rutkoski (21st) and Roger Turbush (25th) were all at one time or another involved in incidents slowing their efforts.
Miller Lite 200: 1. Justin Bonsignore 2. Timmy Solomito 3. Craig Lutz 4. Kyle Soper 5. Patrick Emerling 6. Chuck Hossfeld 7. JB Fortin 8. JR Bertuccio 9. Tom Rogers Jr. 10. John Beatty Jr. 11. Matt Swanson 12. Tommy Catalano 13. Eric Goodale 14. Tommy Catalano 15. Doug Coby 16. Ron Silk 17. Chris Young 18. Wade Cole 19. Rob Summers 20. Blake Barney 21. Michael Rutkoski 22. Chris Pasteryak 23. Dave Sapienza 24. Calvin Carroll 25. Roger Turbush 26. Dave Salzarulo 27. Ken Heagy 28. Sam Rameau 29. Melissa Fiffield 30. Gary McDonald