In the season opener, Justin Bonsignore spent the entire race running out front.
When round number two rolled around, he sat in second nearly the entire race — until it was time to go.
Either way, the end result was the same: The Holtsville, New York, driver parked the No. 51 Phoenix Communications Inc. Chevrolet. Matt Hirschman was left wondering what might have been, and defending tour champion Doug Coby came with a car length of getting back to Victory Lane.
Here is what we learned from the Independence Day 200 at White Mountain Motorsports Park.
It may have been a longer offseason that expected, but Bonsignore is showing no signs that the streak he ended 2019 with will not continue this season.
Bonsignore became the first driver since Ted Christopher in 2009 to win the first two races of the season with his victory at White Mountain Saturday night. No other driver has accomplished that feat in tour history.
“We had a good car,” said Bonsignore. “I don’t know, maybe if we had track position, we could have held them off the whole night. But it was still a good run. At go back-to-back is a good way to start the season.”
It’s three straight wins for Bonsignore, who capped last season in Victory Lane at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut. Over the last eight races, he has five wins, two seconds and a fifth.
In the closing stages Saturday night, it looked like Bonsignore may run out of laps before he got a chance to pass Hirschman.
Then Lap 194 happened.
"And Bonsignore to the lead!"
— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) July 5, 2020
“He was the class of the field all night,” said Bonsignore of Hirschman. “He made a little mistake getting into (Turn) 1, I as right on his bumper, and as soon as he got loose and checked up, I just got into him a little bit and washed him up the hill.”
With the victory, Bonsignore moved into a tie with Coby and Mike Ewanitsko for sixth on the all-time tour wins list with 28. Next up is Matt’s father, five-time champion Tony Hirschman Jr. at 35.
“It’s awesome when you win when you come somewhere you’ve never been,” Bonsignore said. “It makes you feel good. I just want to thank all the fans for coming out, even the ones who aren’t so happy — they must be (Hirschman) fans.”
White Mountain is the ninth different track Bonsignore has won at.
Almost But Not Quite
Matt Hirschman started the evening with his eighth career Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award, and came within six laps of his fourth tour victory.
After the No. 60 Pee Dee Motorsports Chevrolet lost the lead, though, not even a late caution gave him enough time to return the favor to Bonsignore and snatch the win back.
“We had a great race, led almost the whole thing. But it doesn’t matter right now when you don’t win at the end,” said Hirschman after his eighth career runner-up finish. “(Bonsignore) may have had a little tire left at the end, but that was the groove I was running. And he had another groove to try if he wanted to, but he drove into me and punted me up the track. We’ll move on to the next race. You learn from everything.
“I didn’t spin out, he didn’t wreck me. He moved me. So, we’ll just move on to the next one.”
Hirschman was left to fend off Coby in a side-by-side finish for second as the race went to 205 laps thanks to caution for a spin by J.R. Bertuccio on Lap 197.
That's ✌ for @JBonsignore
— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) July 5, 2020
Despite the disappointing ending, Hirschman had rave reviews for the quarter-mile track.
“It was a really fun race,” said Hirschman. “Don’t let what happened to me overshadow what a great race it was at the end. This race track is awesome. First time I’ve ever been here. The way the grooves came, the way the rubber built up on the race track, it was a ton of fun.”
Coby Inches Closer
After a seventh-place finish in the opener, Coby came close to slipping by Hirschman for the runner-up spot at White Mountain.
With his third-place finish, Coby moved to a tie with Craig Lutz for third in points — 17 back of Bonsingore.
“We chased bugs all day and worked them out for qualifying, and had a really great car in the race,” said Coby, who pointed out the No. 10 Mayhew Tools Chevrolet team brought a brand new LFR chassis for the event.
“When I was running second, I tried the outside a whole lot; I didn’t drive through Matt,” said Coby with a laugh. “It was a great race. The three of us, we all want to win, and I thought it was a great show between the three of us for our first time here.”
— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) July 4, 2020
- Tommy Catalano finished fourth to secure his first top-five finish in 33 career tour starts. The 22-year-old from Ontario, New York, was the 2018 tour rookie of the year after winning NASCAR track championships at New York’s Holland International Speedway and Spencer Speedway in 2017.
- Woody Pitkat finished fifth in his fifth race with car owner Ed Harvey. That matched his best finish in last year’s finale at Thompson. Pitkat had two top 10s in the first 11 races last season with Danny Watts Jr., including a win at New Jersey’s Wall Stadium.
- Dave Sapienza finished 13th at Jennerstown in his second race back after a back injury suffered at Wall derailed his season last year. At White Mountain, Sapienza improved to a sixth-place run.
- After posting the fastest time in practice, Chris Pasteryak started seventh and finished seventh.