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Tom Herzig's Trackside: Chassis change sparks title charge

July 18. 2018 10:01PM

On Track This Weekend
Thunder Road (Vt.): Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

NHMS: Friday, 2 p.m.

Legion Speedway: Friday, 7 p.m.

Lee USA Speedway: Friday, 7 p.m.

NHMS: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Bear Ridge (Vt.): Saturday, 6 p.m.

Star Speedway: Saturday, 6 p.m.

White Mountain: Saturday, 6 p.m.

NHMS: Sunday, 2 p.m.

In January, when NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Justin Bonsignore and car owner Ken Massa decided to purchase an LFR Chassis and build a new Phoenix Communications No. 51 Modified for the 2018 season, the company announced on its website, “Bonsignore sets sights on first championship with new chassis and crew chief”.

Fast forward to mid-July and it turns out the headline still has some juice.

Bonsignore, with help from new crew chief Ryan Stone, a former LFR employee, will arrive at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Friday’s All-Star Shootout and Saturday’s Eastern Oil & Propane 100 as the Tour’s point leader with four wins in seven starts.

“Ryan and I have been clicking well,” Bonsignore said. “He’s very thorough. He runs a good operation.”

“The LFR chassis was a good choice,” Bonsignore emphasized. “We have a lot speed. We’ve put ourselves in a position to succeed with a really good average of qualifying well. It’s a little easier to have a good race when you start up front.”

Bonsignore said the team will have two cars and a third motor at NHMS, but the plan is to focus on one car.

“I’ve tried to have two cars all set up just right, but there’s not enough practice to get that done well,” he said.” We use the All-Star race as a test session really. You’re out there racing, but if you can’t get it done with a clean move, you don’t force it.”

“I’ve been up and down — more down than up — at New Hampshire,” Bonsignore admitted.

He won his only Tour race on the “Magic Mile” in 2016 in a green-white-checker finish that saw his closest competitor, Rowan Pennink, go up in smoke on the last lap.

“I won that race from the lead, but it can be a tough one,” Bonsignore said. “If you’re just ahead of a big group at the end, you’re a sitting duck.”

Among Bonsignore chief rivals will be Ryan Preece, a two-time winner this season; Bobby Santos, winner of both Modified races at NHMS in 2017; Ron Silk, the Modified winner last month at NHMS in the New England Short Track Shootout; multi-time champion Doug Coby, NASCAR Cup driver Ryan Newman and Chase Dowling.

Dowling is another proponent of LFR Chassis. He finished second to Ryan Preece in the Stafford Spring Sizzler and second to Bonsignore at Seekonk.

Preece will also compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Lakes Region 200 on Saturday in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota.

Another local Modified race coming up soon in the area, and not to be missed, is the Tri Track Open Modified Series SBM 125 at Star Speedway on Saturday, July 28. There will be a stellar field of Modifieds in Epping for that one.

Star is continuing with its laudable project of upgrading the lighting system. New LED lights have been put in along turns three and four, the frontstretch and a portion of the pits with more to come on the backstretch and pit area.

Star winners from a week ago: Steve Duphily of Plaistow (350 Supers), Jimmy Renfrew Jr. of Candia (Strictlys), Adam Knowles of Seabrook (Six-Shooters), Aaron Day of Rochester (Roadrunners).

Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown, Vt., broke a lengthy dry spell with an American Canadian Tour victory in the J.P. Sicard/Kingdom Gravel 151 at Speedway 51. It was Hebert’s third ACT career win, but his first since 2003 at Sanair in Quebec. Thunder Road veteran Chip Grenier had an ACT-best second place finish ahead of Scott Payea, Rich Dubeau and Eddie MacDonald.

Devin O’Connell of Madison, Conn., won the Granite State Pro Stock Series Gateway Classic 100 at Hudson. It was O’Connell first GSPSS win. Nick Lascuola of Abington, Mass., and Ray Christian III of Groton, Conn., had career-best finishes in the second and third-place cars to the line.

Thursday at Thunder Road — with a 6:30 p.m. start — is the 39th Governor’s Cup 150 for Tour-type Late Models.

Terry Williams of Wells River, Vt., won a DIRTcar Sabil & Sons Sportsman Modified thriller at Bear Ridge. Jason Colbeth was the Sportsman Coupe winner. Will Hull carried the USAC Dirt Midget checkers. The Sprint Cars of New England join the card this Saturday.

The passing of Gardiner Leavitt, of Kezar Falls, Maine, a New England Auto Racing Hall-of-Famer, a Molson Tour, American Canadian Tour and Beech Ridge competitor and later a beloved fixture along with his wife, June, as a race day parts supplier, is being mourned by the New England racing community. Gardiner was as dedicated, reliable, good-natured and honest as they come.

Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at

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