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It’s a new era in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Justin Bonsignore hopes to be the name that defines it.

When the division opens its 2017 season on March 18 at Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina, it will be under the ‘one tour’ banner that unites the traditional tour with the now defunct Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

Some have called it a merger while others see it as the southern tour simply folding, but the fact remains that the Modified Tour is now a fully-functioning east coast NASCAR division and that excites Bonsignore — a contender for much of the past half-decade.

“I’m excited to spend some more time down south,” Bonsignore told Short Track Scene last week. “I actually wish we had a few more southern tracks, but at the same time, 17 is a real solid number for us on the tour.

“I think it might take a few years to see if it can take hold down south, but we’re going to try to put on some really good shows.”

Of course, selfishly, he hopes that means finding himself in Victory Lane a lot more this season. The 29-year-old has won 12 times in 105 starts and posted a career-best second-place championship finish last season to Doug Coby.

He has a new crew chief this season in the form of Daniel Laferriere, but that doesn’t represent a huge departure from the norm. Laferriere was the car chief for the No. 51 Kenneth Massa Motorsports entry last season and has previous experience on top of the pit box.

The rest of the crew has returned from last season, and that has Bonsignore optimistic for yet another championship run.

“We’re not going to miss a beat from last season,” Bonsignore said. “We’re just going to try to get through Myrtle Beach because that’s such an unknown. The season really starts at Thompson and we feel really confident after closing out last year with a win in the World Series.”

At the same time, the 2017 roster might be the best and deepest in the recent history of the NASCAR Modified Tour. Ryan Preece has announced his return and will rejoin the likes of Bonsignore, Coby, Timmy Solomito and Eric Goodale.

Bonsignore believes the list of capable winners could be 10-deep each race.

“Without a doubt,” Bonsignore said of the parity. “Ryan is back and Woody Pitkat and Donny Lia will be competitive when they’re on the tour. Doug, Timmy and I had a heck of a battle last year and that shouldn’t change.

“It’s cool to be a part of the tour with so many interesting things happening.”

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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