March 29, 2024 | By Tadd Haislop, NASCAR.com

Bonsignore wins NASCAR Modified thriller at Richmond

Photo by Emily Morgan/NASCAR

RICHMOND, Va. — Justin Bonsignore, a three-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, entered Friday’s Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150 at Richmond Raceway with 40 series victories on his resume.

For myriad reasons, No. 41 was different.

A notable level of jubilation overcame Bonsignore’s team on pit road as the driver beat rival Ron Silk to the checkered flag in a thrilling finish. That joy transferred to Victory Lane, where Bosignore for the first time in his career was greeted in triumph not only by his wife, but also by his son. An already-charged crowd of friends, family, crew members and sponsors roared when Justin embraced 4-month-old Evan for the first time in a winner’s circle.

The 36-year-old from Holtsville, New York repeated the refrain multiple times throughout post-race interviews: This simply was not a race he was going to lose.

Mods at Richmond: Results | Highlights

“This gives a little look behind our team,” he said. “This is tough. [Crew chief] Ryan Stone is the only paid, full-time employee on our team; everybody else is a volunteer. Sometimes it’s too much. We got home from [the season-opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway], and we were having some really tough conversations of where we were going to go in the future with things.

“But the team proved tonight with good pit stops and hard work all day that we all are still really motivated. And a last-lap battle like that is always going to charge you up. And, to top it off, having my son and my wife here for his first Victory Lane.”

This is a team that broke out with three Modified Tour titles in four years from 2018-21. Bonsignore did that on the heels of Doug Coby’s four consecutive championships from 2014-17. (Coby also won in 2012 and 2019; six titles in eight years.) Bonsignore’s team feels it took over as the squad to beat when it delivered those championships.

Now, though, Bonsignore is locked into a rivalry with Silk, the defending champion who is trying to steal Bonsignore’s role as the driver to beat each race. That’s what makes Bonsignore’s wins over Silk so satisfying.

“We’re trying to stay a step ahead of that, or at least maintain,” Bonsignore said. “These are tough championship battles. So yeah, it was charged up.”

On Friday, Bonsignore was so hyped after beating Silk that his mind had nowhere else to go. He said he reached the backstretch of his victory lap before he remembered he would be able to celebrate a win with his newborn son, a realization that delivered yet another wave of emotions.

After he had time to collect his sentiments, Bonsignore was reminded he’s now one win away from tying Modified racing legend Ted Christopher for third on the all-time Tour wins list. Ironically, the series’ next race takes place at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, where Bonsignore and Christopher are tied for second in Tour victories.

The realization delivered yet another factor making Friday’s win so massive.

“These are guys who are legends of the sport, and our community in the New England area,” Bonsignore said of Christopher and other record-holders. “It’s a lifestyle. I don’t think people understand how crazy we are about Modified racing.

“We all have a chip on our shoulder that we think there’s no racing better than what we do. So to have my name mentioned with those guys is really cool.”

Silk, who won February’s season-opener at New Smyrna, settled for second Friday at Richmond despite an incredible effort in the closing laps. He and Bonsignore ran side-by-side for the virtual entirety of the last green-flag run.

The good news for Silk in what figures to be a season-long battle for the 2024 Modified Tour championship: He left Richmond with a two-point lead over Bonsignore in the standings.

Trevor Catalano finished third ahead of Bobby Santos III in fourth. Jake Johnson drove the legendary No. 3 Ole Blue Modified to a fifth-place finish.

Coby, Craig Lutz, Kyle Bonsignore, Carson Loftin and Tommy Catalano rounded out the top 10.

Ryan Newman finished 11th. The 2008 Daytona 500 winner took his shot in the waning laps, restarting third and diving to the bottom in Turn 1 to briefly take the lead before drifting up the track and fading.

Bonsignore didn’t love the move, as Newman’s aggression cost him a few spots. But he laughed and noted, “That’s why he’s a NASCAR legend.”

The Modified Tour returns to action Sunday, April 7 as part of Thompson’s annual IceBreaker event. The race is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. ET and will be shown live on FloRacing.

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