Justin Bonsignore said he would see friends and family when he returns to Riverhead Raceway this weekend, but business comes first; he has bragging rights to defend.
Bonsignore, 28, a Holtsville native and resident, competes in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, which holds races throughout the Northeast, and will race at his home track in the tour’s Riverhead 200 Saturday. He won both NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 200-lap races at Riverhead last year on June 28 and Aug. 29 and is hoping to reach the winner’s circle again.
“It’s cool to go back and race at home,” Bonsignore said. “I don’t get to do it on a weekly basis anymore. Riverhead’s a tough place to win so to be able to win back-to-back and three total at Riverhead is really cool, but we want to keep building on it every year. We want to win at home more than anywhere else.”
Bonsignore said he began competing in the NASCAR Modified division at Riverhead in 2006 and briefly overlapped with the NASCAR WMT after starting his career there in 2010. He added he’s got plenty of experience in longer races with 16-18 each season.
Bonsignore was named the WMT’s Rookie of the Year in 2010 and picked up his first tour win in 2011 at Riverhead. He won the NASCAR Modified championship at Riverhead that same year and has continued to earn various championships and accolades on the tour.
“When I first got started there was a big difference,” Bonsignore said of leaving Riverhead’s quarter-mile track. “A lot of the races we race are half-mile tracks, but running a weekly show to a long-distance show, you’ve got to change the mentality. It’s a totally different animal. It’s not the easiest of learning curves. It takes a little time.
“In a 40-lap race you go as hard as you can the whole time. In a 200-lap race there’s a period of time where you’re logging laps and not abusing your equipment to make sure you can win at the end of the race. The cars are exactly the same, but it’s a totally different approach.”
Bonsignore said the Riverhead 200 would likely feature 20-25 racers from the WMT and a few local competitors, but added it should be a “typical Riverhead race,” characterized by aggressive jockeying for position on the small track.
That suits Bonsignore just fine.
“Lately I’ve become a little bit more aggressive on the track,” Bonsignore said. “You’ve got to have the equipment and have fast cars. We’ve got everything going for us right now. It should put us in contention to battle for the win.”
Shawn Solomito, Islip — 262
John Fortin, Holtsville — 261
David H. Brigati, Calverton — 242
Howie Brode, East Islip — 240
Vinny Biondolillo, Farmingville — 236
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 200. Late Models, Riverhead Modified Crate, Legend Race Cars.