The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour made its first stop in Riverhead Saturday night for the Buzz Chew Auto Group 200 as Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville continued his hot start with his fourth victory of the season after a fierce battle with Ryan Preece of Berlin, Conn.
It was his 12th career win for Bonsignore at his home track.
With only three cautions for 21 laps, the race was completed in just over 49 minutes, making it one of the fastest races in the 33 years the Whelen Modified Tour has been contested in Riverhead.
“What a race,” Bonsignore said as he exited his car. “Ryan and I just race each other so well. We did it at the last race at Langely [Speedway] and now here tonight. I had a blast.”
Bonsignore posted the fastest qualifying lap as he began the race alongside Timmy Solomito and the two former go-kart rivals traded positions early in the race along with Preece, who emerged as the leader on Lap 19.
The final caution of the race occurred on Lap 101 and when racing resumed on Lap 111, Bonsignore made his way back out front of Preece, setting up a two-man race for the victory.
With an 89-lap green flag run to the end, the two drivers more often than not found themselves amid lapped traffic as a high speed game of cat and mouse emerged with the drivers ducking under or racing around the traffic that surrounded them.
On Lap 139, Preece raced down the backstretch and used the lapped traffic to his advantage by executing a daring move to pass Bonsignore for the lead to start the next lap. Preece set the pace until the 171st circuit when Bonsignore raced in front for the lead for the final time. He maintained the pace for the final 29 laps to earn the victory.
Preece settled for second and he ran over toward Bonsignore as soon as the race ended to recap how it all unfolded.
“There is such a mutual respect between Justin and I that allows us to race each other as hard as we do,” Preece said. “I hope the fans enjoyed it.”
Doug Coby of Midford, Conn. earned a spot on the podium with a third-place finish. Dave Sapienza of Riverhead made a late charge to finish fourth and Solomito rounded out the top five. The race featured seven lead changes among three drivers.
The Whelen Modified Tour moves to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. next for a race July 20. The tour is scheduled to return to Riverhead Sept. 8.
Photo caption: Justin Bonsignore celebrates his victory Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway. (Credit: Fran Lawlor/NASCAR)