For the first time in his career, Justin Bonsignore is a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion.
Bonsignore, who turned 30 back in February, had by far the best season of his career, clinching the Tour crown with a full race yet to be run.
The team had been a bit hush-hush about celebrating, because there are no guarantees in racing.
“We didn’t want to talk about it and get ahead of ourselves,” said Bonsignore. “You never know what can happen in racing, if you’re gonna have four bad days in a row and lose everything you worked so hard for all year.”
Bonsignore needed to finish at least 21st to lock up the title. The 12th-place finish he earned Sunday afternoon did just that.
Coming into 2018, the team was struggling to find the race-winning speed seen in seasons prior.
Bonsignore went winless in 2017, the first season he failed to reach victory lane since his rookie season in 2010. He led only four laps, and finished inside the top-five just six times, a steep dropoff from the 13 instances the team did so in 2016.
Sweeping changes were announced for the 2018 season, with a new car from LFR Chassis and a new crew chief in Ryan Stone. Rob Fuller, the man behind the dominance at LFR, had been trying to court the No. 51 team to make the switch for quite some time.
“I was chasing Ken Massa for two years,” said Fuller. “I knew if that team had good equipment, they’d be doing exactly what they’re doing.”
While Fuller may have known the team’s performance would improve, even he likely had no idea that the team would take off as it did in 2018.
The numbers speak for themselves. Seven wins. 11 top-fives. 14 top-10s. Seven front-row starts. An average finish of 3.5.
Dominant would be an understatement for how Bonsignore’s season has gone. An all-time beatdown would be a better way of putting it.
Bonsignore did have to sweat today’s race out a little, however, thanks to an unexpected tap from cousin and race winner Kyle Bonsignore in the final few laps.
“He was getting to my bumper,” said Bonsignore of the near-wreck. “I was just about to key the radio to say ‘Tell the 22 [Kyle Bonsignore] to go to the bottom here.’ I checked up because my car wasn’t that great, and I was hanging on for dear life when he got into me. I wanted to kill him with like 10 to go, but I couldn’t have been happier for him to win the race if we couldn’t… For the Bonsignores to go to victory lane like that today, I just couldn’t think of a better way to do it.”
The euphoric look on Bonsignore’s face after the race truly said it all.
“You never know what can happen in racing, if you’re gonna have four bad days in a row and lose everything you worked so hard for all year,” said Bonsignore. ”
A competitor to the core, Bonsignore now looks towards putting the exclamation point on 2018 with a win in the World Series 150. He’s three-for-three at Thompson so far this season. Plus, it isn’t very often that one can race with absolutely zero regard for the points.
“We still gotta work hard for Thompson,” he said. “We want to sweep the races there. That would be a huge deal… We don’t have worry about anything besides winning practice, qualifying on the pole, and winning that race.”
It’s been quite the season for Justin Bonsignore. An eighth win would be the icing on the cake in what has been a near-immaculate season.
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