Auto Racing: Riverhead 200 goes to Bonsignore

Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville entered an elite group of only five drivers over a 31-year period to sweep a season’s worth of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at Riverhead Raceway when he triumphed Saturday night in the Riverhead 200. He had won the Hoosier Tire 200 in June.

Just past the midway point of the race, a caution flag came out for a minor spin and Bonsignore had the chance he needed to pass the race’s leader, Doug Coby. Driving side by side off a turn four to start Lap 115, Coby appeared to spin his wheel for just a moment and that was all Bonsignore, the 2011 Riverhead Raceway track champion, needed to take the lead.

Despite losing the lead to Bonsignore, Coby stayed with Bonsignore as they danced through lapped traffic. In the final 10 laps of the race, he was all over Bonsignore’s rear bumper. With less than five laps to go, Coby turned up the heat on Bonsignore. Just after the duo took the white flag, a minor spin on a turn saw the race end under a yellow checker.

“This is pretty awesome to win both races here at the track I’ve been coming to and racing at since I was 5 years old,” said Bonsignore.

Looking back at what would become the winning pass, Bonsignore said: “I guess Doug spun the wheels. It’s usually me messing up a restart.”

Coby, of Milford, Conn., lamented the Lap 115 restart. “I’m human,” the runner-up said. “I made a mistake. What can you do?”

One driver turning heads all race long and coming home third was Chase Dowling of Roxbury, Conn.

Donny Lia of Jericho crossed the line fourth. Eric Goodale of Riverhead was fifth. Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead, Woody Pitkat of Stafford, Conn., Ryan Preece of Berlin, Conn., Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, Conn. and Jeffrey Goodale of Riverhead rounded out the top 10.

FIRST FOR 15-YEAR-OLD Under near perfect weather conditions Saturday evening at Riverhead Raceway, three preliminary races were contested prior to the Riverhead 200. Fifteen–year-old Owen Grennan of Glen Cove scored his first career win in the 20-lap Charger main event, Tom Pickerell of Huntington took home his third Blunderbust win and Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills notched his sixth Legend Race Car win.

Grennan is the son of former Riverhead Raceway Super Pro Truck champion Danny Grennan. Following Grennan at the finish were Ray Minieri of Bay Shore and Chris Turbush of Wading River.

Little did Pickerell, the defending Blunderbust champion, realize it at the time, but his last-lap, last-turn pass of Tom Sullivan of Massapequa turned out to be the winning move of the 30-lap race. They were second and third at the time. Over the final three laps, Tim Mulqueen of Levittown held onto the lead and appeared to be the winner. However, postrace inspection found Mulqueen to have offset wheels and he was disqualified. That made Pickerell the winner.

Sullivan finished a close second and Ed Mistretta of Lindenhurst crossed the line third.

Slepian’s march towards the 2015 Legend Race Car championship continued as he took first in a 30-lap event. Slepian won the INEX National Qualifier and with it a starting spot in the US Legend Cars Asphalt Nationals at Anderson, S.C., Speedway in November. Brad Van Houten of Wading River was second and Allan Pedersen of Center Moriches came in third.