When the schedule was first released for the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, and everyone rolled out their list of preseason favorites, Doug Coby was at the top of that lengthy list. The five-time and reigning series champion entered the new campaign seeking his fifth straight title, however, for the second straight year, Coby hasn’t started off as well as he would have hoped.
Instead, three different winners have captured the checkered flag, and a run of success for some of the upcoming rising stars of the modified ranks have brought new storylines to the forefront as the series sits in the middle of an entire month off.
Bonsignore, Stone Spark Early Success
In the first three races of the season, Justin Bonsignore has put himself at the top of the class as the early favorite to run for the championship. The Holtsville, New York, driver started the year with a fifth at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway after leading 26 laps, then returned to Victory Lane in the Icebreaker at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park to start the month of April. At Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, after running inside the top five for part of the race, he was able to score an eighth place finish in his No. 51 Phoenix Communications Chevrolet.
Although it’s early, a new combination between Bonsignore, LFR Chassis, and crew chief Ryan Stone has sparked plenty of success. Stone, who has worked in the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage prior to joining the Whelen Modified Tour operation, is getting an opportunity to bring the Ken Massa Motorsports team back to the top of the class.
“Ryan and I get along great, we gel just as much as Billy (Michael, prior crew chief) and I did right away,” Bonsignore said following his Icebreaker win. “We have a lot of fun together, he fits right in with the team. He calls a great race. This is honestly his first shot at the big time with his own team.”
With three races down, Bonsignore finds his modified at the top of the championship standings.
Dowling Comes Laps From Victory
In the first three races, Roxbury, Connecticut, driver Chase Dowling has proven he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In his new deal with Rob Fuller and LFR Chassis, Dowling joins Bonsignore as a driver with top 10 finishes in the first three races.
At Thompson, Dowling was leading in the final stages of the race before a restart violation forced him to the tail of the field. He finished eighth on the Thompson high-banks, but followed that up by leading 69 laps and finishing second in the NAPA Spring Sizzler at his home track, Stafford.
With three races down, and only a one-point deficit in the championship standings, Dowling is quickly showing that probably is going to nail down his first career win before long. The combination with LFR Chassis has bolstered the former Sunoco Rookie of the Year to the point where he could be a serious threat to end Coby’s title reign.
Solomito Hanging On
After winning a career best five races last year, many thought Timmy Solomito might be the one to take Coby off the top in 2018. But, in the first three races, the Islip, New York driver has slid right under the radar.
In three events, Solomito has finishes of 12th, 10th and ninth, and has only led 10 laps, but his consistency has him sixth in the championship standings, just 21 points from the top. In the past two years, Solomito has been in the winner’s circle at least once at the next four tracks on the schedule — including last year at Langley.
In the last few weeks, NASCAR and Bristol Motor Speedway officials announced a schedule change for the Whelen Modified Tour. The annual Bush’s Beans 150 in August has been moved from Wednesday to Thursday, August 16, and will once again be run as a combination night with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Even though it’s a 16-race points schedule this season, the month of May is the lone month to have no races on the track. The next time the Whelen Modified Tour hits the racing surface, it will be at Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts on June 2. Teams returned to Seekonk in 2016 for the first time in a decade, and Timmy Solomito celebrated the return in Victory Lane. Last year, Doug Coby dominated the Seekonk 150 to score his first and only win of his latest championship run.
With the move from August to June, Seekonk begins a month that will see three events, including stops at Thompson Speedway on June 13 and Langley Speedway in Virginia on June 23.
Read more Short Track Scene:
- CARS Tour owner Jack McNelly explains decision to suspend Brandon Setzer
- Short track industry rallies behind Brandon Setzer after CARS suspension
- Tour Type Modifieds added to PASS Commonwealth Classic at Richmond