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NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

Silk Unstoppable In NWMT Thompson Icebreaker Victory

The defending champion already has two wins and a runner-up finish in his title defense.

Ron Silk streaks to the checkered flag in Sunday's NWMT Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway. (STS/Jeff Brown)

In the opening laps of Sunday’s Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, plenty of drivers seemed like they had a shot to win.

But Ron Silk made them look like long shots at best.

The defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion was untouchable in the final fifty laps en route to his second NWMT win of 2024 and the 23rd of his career.

Ron Silk celebrates his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of 2024. (STS/Jeff Brown)

And with that checkered flag, Silk’s title defense is off to a great start.

The Norwalk, Conn. veteran opened the season in the winner’s circle at New Smyrna Speedway, following that win with a runner-up result to Justin Bonsignore in a thrilling finish at Richmond Raceway.

But Sunday’s showdown marked a return to the Tour’s home turf. After two road trips to start the year, the Tour will venture no further south than Long Island until October. It’s a stretch of eleven dates at tracks that have been the bread and butter of the NWMT for years.

Fitting, then, that Silk is on such a roll.

Silk timed in fifth for Sunday’s race, with Bonsignore leading Jake Johnson to the green flag. The field had completed one lap when a multi-car calamity ensued in the first turn, ending the day early for Bobby Santos, Dave Sapienza, Andrew Krause and Eric Goodale.

Bonsignore was in control for the first dozen laps, but third-place starter Craig Lutz took charge on lap 13, showing the way through a pair of early yellows for mechanical failures. A few drivers ducked onto pit road for fuel, including Kyle Bonsignore, hedging their bets on a long green-flag run.

Lutz, Justin Bonsignore, Johnson and the other leaders remained on the track, with Lutz holding the point from the lap-33 restart. Silk, meanwhile, was reeling in the frontrunners, moving to second with a third of the race complete.

Lutz and Silk battled briefly, but Silk claimed the lead on lap 60, immediately building distance between himself and the pack. With only a few cars off the pace, traffic was barely a hindrance for the leaders, and the fuel strategy of the early stoppers seemed like it could eventually rear its head.

A spin for Matt Swanson, though, froze the field at lap 90, dashing the strategy wildcard. The entire field came to pit road, with Patrick Emerling’s crew reeling off a fast stop to beat Silk back onto the track. Emerling, in his first few races of a new deal for 2024, was poised to be the upset challenger to Silk.

Patrick Emerling brought the field to the green flag for the final restart of the day, but Silk took charge and left Emerling scrapping for third. (STS/Jeff Brown)

But Emerling chose the high line for the restart. Silk got a strong restart and crowded Emerling in turns one and two, with Emerling drifting high to save the car. The New York racer dropped back in the pack as Silk escaped with the lead.

Johnson emerged from the chaos in second, in prime position to deliver the Boehler family its first NWMT win since the 2017 Icebreaker. But while Johnson could keep pace with Silk, on a clear track, he could not close the gap.

With little ahead to slow his pace, Silk coasted to the victory, 2.169 seconds ahead of Johnson at the checkered flag.

Emerling rebounded for third, his second top-five finish of the season. Richmond victor Justin Bonsignore was fourth, with Tyler Rypkema racing his way to a season-best fifth.

Emerling dropped through the pack after the final restart, but drove back to a third-place finish. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Early leader Lutz settled for sixth. Austin Beers, who started 23rd after helping his team to swap engines before qualifying, drove to a seventh-place finish. Kyle Bonsignore and Matt Hirschman were eighth and ninth, with Swanson a lap down in tenth.

This year’s Icebreaker was the first since 2019 to feature the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as its main event. The legendary lidlifter was postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then canceled altogether when Thompson’s oval racing future looked bleak. Promoters Cris Michaud and Tom Mayberry, owners of the American-Canadian Tour and Pro All Stars Series circuits in northern New England, arranged a lease deal that kept two Tour events at Thompson later in the year, but could not come to terms with NASCAR for any 2021 dates. The Tour returned to Thompson in 2022, and will race three times on the historic oval in 2024.

For the second straight Thompson race, Jake Johnson made a bid to return “Ole’ Blue” to a NWMT winner’s circle for the first time since Rowan Pennink won in 2017. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Silk’s win was his seventh NWMT win at Thompson, but only his second in the Icebreaker, having won the event twelve years ago for car owner Eddie Partridge.

Now paired with Pennsylvania team Haydt-Yannone Racing, Silk is enjoying something of a career renaissance. After parting ways with Partridge in 2014, Silk raced for a number of teams, remaining competitive even when on a part-time schedule. Silk and HYR joined forces for special events in 2021, making the move to the Tour in 2022. But surprisingly, the team went winless, coming up just short to Jonathan McKennedy for the championship.

Since then, the HYR-Silk tandem has been the class of the field, winning five times last year and finishing outside the top ten only once en route to the title. And with two wins and a second-place finish already in 2024, Silk is still on a championship path.

It could be a long summer for the opposition.

Unofficial Results
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park

1. (16) Ron Silk
2. (3) Jake Johnson
3. (1) Patrick Emerling
4. (51) Justin Bonsignore
5. (32) Tyler Rypkema
6. (46) Craig Lutz
7. (64) Austin Beers
8. (22) Kyle Bonsignore
9. (60) Matt Hirschman
10. (89) Matt Swanson
11. (19) Anthony Sesely
12. (25) Brian Robie
13. (54) Tommy Catalano
14. (18) Ken Heagy
15. (28) Mike Marshall
16. (01) Melissa Fifield
17. (84) Tyler Catalano
18. (2) J.R. Bertuccio
19. (56) Trevor Catalano
20. (4) Tim Connolly
21. (44) Bobby Santos III
22. (24) Andrew Krause
23. (36) Dave Sapienza
24. (58) Eric Goodale

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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