(Stafford Springs, CT)—For Justin Bonsignore and the #51 Phoenix Communications Inc. team, the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season has been a year for the ages. Bonsignore has won half of the 14 NWMT races this season, he has recorded top-8 finishes in all 14 races, and his average finish for the season is a miniscule 2.9. This dominant performance sees Bonsignore leading the NWMT championship chase by 74 points over Chase Dowling and he can clinch the championship this weekend, September 29 & 30 at Stafford with a finish of 21st or better, 22nd or better if he leads one lap, or 23rd or better if he leads the most laps.
“We’re pretty aware of what we need to do as far as the championship goes and we’re all pretty excited about that since it’s the first time we’ve ever been in this position,” said Bonsignore. “With the points situation we have a little bit of a cushion where we can still race hard and go for the win. Our ultimate goal is to try to win the race and we’re not going to race for points. We’re still trying to approach this race the same way as always. We really want to check off that win box at Stafford, it’s been a big goose egg for my whole career there.”
As dominant as they have been during the 2018 season, Stafford is still the one track on the schedule that Bonsignore and the #51 team are looking to master. Bonsignore’s two worst finishes of 7th and 8th this season have come at Stafford and while Stafford hasn’t exactly been a struggle with 21 top-10 finishes in 33 career starts, he has yet to record a victory. Bonsignore is looking to change that fact with a new chassis setup and the fact that his large point lead will allow the #51 team to take some chances with their pit strategy that they normally might not make.
“It’s been a little bit of a few different things at Stafford,” said Bonsignore. “I’ve maybe struggled a little on what the car needs during practice or an adjustment on pit road and pit strategy has bit us a few times. We have speed in the car, we just have to keep the speed in the car for the entire 150 laps. We’re coming to Stafford with a little different setup than we’ve had all year. Also with the pit strategy, it’s always a guessing game with the one tire per stop rule to know what is going to be best strategy so maybe we can think a little outside the box. Stafford is one of the tracks that weighs on me every time we go there. We can regularly run well and contend for wins at tracks like Riverhead or Thompson and at Stafford it’s like what do I have to do to win a race here? It gets frustrating at times and it’s probably more in my head now than anything but if we can check Stafford off our list, I feel like we’ll have figured out what we need for future races. I’d love to pull into NAPA victory lane at Stafford and get that checked off my list.”
While he has yet to win a race at Stafford, Bonsignore knows that in order to reach NAPA Victory Lane on Sunday he can make that job easier with a practice and qualifying time that is towards the top of the time sheets on Saturday.
“You like to qualify in the top-3 or top-5 at any track that we go to but at Stafford more than anything you need to have a good qualifying effort,” said Bonsignore. “You also need to have a good practice time to get a good pit box selection because the Stafford pit road is tight and can get hectic so any time you can make up getting in and out of your box is a bonus.”
Pit strategy will be another key to winning the NAPA Fall Final 150 and although he acknowledges that picking the correct pit strategy can be anyone’s guess, Bonsignore is confident that he has the best pit crew on pit road even if picking a pit strategy is a bit of a shot in the dark.
“Everybody on pit road has been doing their jobs really well and we’ve had great pit stops all year,” said Bonsignore. “I know that any time I come down pit road you’re going to pick up a spot or two or at worst maintain the position that you had coming in. It always helps to have the best pit crew and I’m confident in saying that I have the best pit crew. We’ve had a few races now between last year and this year with the one tire per stop rule and we still haven’t guessed on it right. I don’t know if the same strategy has won twice yet. It’s a difficult thing to understand what’s going to be the right call and it’s very circumstantial as to when the caution flags fall and what other people do. It’s always a moving target and you never know what you’re going to get.”
Bonsignore’s quest for the Whelen Modified Tour Championship may be decided this weekend, September 29 & 30 at 46th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final. Tickets for the event are priced at $40.00 for adult general admission, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. All NAPA Fall Final tickets are good for admission on both Saturday and Sunday and ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Discount tickets are available at your local participating NAPA Auto Parts Store. The NAPA tickets include general admission for both days along with a luncheon buffet on Sunday, all for only $38 per person. For a list of participating NAPA Stores, please click the PARTICIPATING NAPA STORES link found at the top of the www.staffordspeedway.com homepage.
For more information on the 46th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final Weekend, or to order tickets, contact the Stafford
Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.