Justin Bonsignore has had an absolute dream season. Not only has it been nearly immaculate, Bonsignore’s 2018 may go down as one of the all-time great seasons not just in Whelen Modified Tour history, but NASCAR history as a whole.
He and the rest of the No. 51 team have put nothing short of a clinic on the competition in 2018.
Bonsignore has led a whopping 551 this season, a total that exceeds his prior career high by almost 200 with three races yet to be run. Seven times the team has visited victory lane. Four of his nine career poles have come in 2018. He has finished inside the top-10 in every single race this season. Bonsignore’s average finish is 2.7. Two. Point. Seven. Since 1985, when the Whelen Modified Tour was established, no driver has had an average finish that high.
What makes Bonsignore’s season all the more remarkable is the sharp turnaround from last season. While Bonsignore finished third in points, he went winless for the first time since 2010, his first full-time season on the Tour. He led a mere four laps, and did not sit on the pole once in 2017. Before the 2018 season, the Ken Massa-owned team made the switch to LFR chassis and brought Ryan Stone in to sit atop the pit box. Stone won the 2011 championship as the crew chief for Ron Silk.
“He’s done an unbelievable job for our team, turning us around,” said Bonsignore of his crew chief. “He works 16-hour days every day in the shop to get these cars prepared and to show up with speed off the truck. They’re well-maintained, they’re prepared, and we don’t have any issues with the cars falling apart.”
The only Tour season that can hold a candle to Bonsignore’s 2018 campaign was Mike Stefanik’s 1998 championship run. The fourth of Stefanik’s seven titles came on the strength of 13 wins in 22 races, 20 top-fives, and 21 top-10s. He led over 1,500 laps that season and had an average finish of 3.1.
“To have your name mentioned with Mike in anything is unbelievable,” said Bonsignore. “Mike is right up there with the best of them. One of the best of his generation.”
This type of thing just doesn’t happen anymore, or ever, for that matter. Bonsignore’s average finish of 2.7 is the lowest in Tour history for a full-time driver. Nor has never been a driver to win the championship in the Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, or the Camping World Truck Series with such a low average finish, either, according to Racing Reference.
Fans may be tired watching the same driver win so many races, but this season is different from the typical beatdown. This is the type of season we may never see again on the Tour, let alone in NASCAR. Don’t be upset at the dominance by the No. 51 team. Take a step back, and enjoy the history being made out on the track.