Riverhead Raceway has been a stop on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for all 26 years of the tour's existence. A homegrown Long Island talent hasn't won the event in 15 years, but tour rookie Justin Bonsignore will be out to end the drought in his white and blue No. 51 Chevy Saturday night in the Riverhead 200.
"It's been a long time since anyone won as a local," the 22-year-old from Holtsville said. "A lot of people are expecting me to do well. It's a race you circle each year, there's nothing bigger on Long Island."
Bonsignore, who still runs part-time at Riverhead, has had a successful rookie campaign, standing seventh in points at the midway point of the season. He has three top 10s in seven races, has earned $16,185 in prize money, and is currently the leader for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award.
"I feel our season's been better than most rookies," Bonsignore said. "I've had to play catch up to adapt to a lot of the tracks, but [at Riverhead] I've learned a lot of little ins and outs over the years, so I feel I have a better shot of performing well."
Other Long Island racers entered in the race are George Brunnhoelzel III, formerly of West Babylon, who won last year's Whelen Southern Modified Tour title, Eric Goodale of Riverhead, who won last season's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, his older brother Kevin, also of Riverhead, and Bill Park of Manorville, a two-time Modified champion at Riverhead, among others.
Saturday also marks the first of five Whelen Modified Tour races to be aired on the Versus network. The hour-long, tape-delayed broadcast can be seen Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Said Marc Fein, executive vice president of programming for Versus: "We're very excited with expanding our relationship with NASCAR and expanding it to Modified Tour races."