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Riverhead Watch: Rain can't dampen outcome for Bonsignore

The Riverhead Raceway has been sold to a

The Riverhead Raceway has been sold to a Wading River family that wants to keep the track open and expand its audience. The deal closed Aug. 14, 2015. The cars of Justin Bonsignore, left, and Howie Brode take some laps on July 30, 2011. Credit: Daniel Brennan

As hard as Mother Nature tried, she just couldn't keep West Islip's Justin Bonsignore out of the winner's circle last weekend. The 27-year-old took home the checkered flag in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour's Hoosier Tire 200 last Sunday after waiting out multiple rain delays. The first delay came Saturday night. Heavy rainfall doused the Riverhead track and the race was moved up a day. Then came more rain.

"At that point [on Sunday], it was a little frustrating,'' Bonsignore said. "We were already doing pace laps to come to the initial green flag. They kept postponing it and were trying to keep the track dry. Finally, it just rained hard enough that we had to come in and wait it out again. That was the [delay] that got us a little wound up and anxious. But, you can't control the weather.''

Finally the race began, and from a fourth position start, Bonsignore stayed near the front. He gained the lead on the third turn of the ninth lap and was still in front when rain halted the action again. Since more than half of the race had been run, Bonsignore would have been declared the winner if there was no restart.

"We were pretty content with it continuing to rain,'' he said. "But, I also knew that my car was fast enough that I'd be able to hold on and win it outright. When you're winning and everything is going right, you don't have any trouble getting back in that frame of mind.''

There was a restart, and Bonsignore picked up where he left off, holding off a late charge by Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, Connecticut. He entered the winner's circle for the seventh time in his Whelen Modified Tour career and sits 12th in the points standings, 84 behind leader Doug Coby of Milford, Connecticut.

It was Bonsignore's second tour victory at Riverhead. His first win on the tour came at his home track in 2011.

"It's always special to come back,'' said Bonsignore, who raced both chargers and NASCAR modifieds at the track before moving up to the tour. "It was nice to come home and see your friends and family who can only come out to Riverhead . . . It makes it bigger.''

It was redemption for Bonsignore, who got caught in cautions and finished 16th in last year's tour trip to Riverhead. "That was a really rough race for us,'' he said. "We got caught up in a few different accidents. That's just something that happens at Riverhead when you start mid-pack or toward the back. It's hard to avoid it.''

Bonsignore said Riverhead is the smallest track on tour, making it hard to pass opponents cleanly.

"You have to be a little more aggressive than you would be on a bigger track,'' he said. "We have big bumpers on our car. You kind of have to use them a little more because the track is so narrow and tight. You bounce off people a bit more than you do at other places. You try and set a guy up and make a pass as clean as possible. It could take you anywhere between five to 10 laps, and maybe longer to complete a pass on one car.''

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