.Teams and Drivers,
Submit your FREE profile
 for 2010
   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


Bonsignore Commands Victory Lane for Season Finale by Polly Reid

The 2016 NWMT season came down to two teams, twenty points and 150 laps.

Justin Bonsignore did what he had to do by winning the NWMT Sunoco World Series presented by Xtra Mart 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

Doug Coby did what he had to do. A sixth place finish was more than enough to clench his third straight NWMT Championship title, his fourth overall. Coby from Milford, CT in the Mike Smeriglio III owned, Dunleavy Truck and Trailer Repair/A&J Romano Construction sponsored modified etched their accomplishment into the history books by capturing a third straight NWMT Championship title.

Bonsignore of Holtsville, NY in the Ken Massa owned, Phoenix Communications sponsored modified passed for the lead with twenty to go and never looked back to win the NWMT Sunoco World Series presented by Xtra Mart 150. His fourth win of 2016, Bonsignore narrowed the point gap on Coby, but came up short. In victory lane, Bonsignore had much to be grateful for.

“Billy Michael prepared another amazing car for Thompson,” said Bonsignore in the winner’s circle who congratulated the 2 team. “I can’t thank my whole crew enough- an amazing pit stop- it’s our fifth win at Thompson.” A bittersweet victory for Bonsignore, it has been a competitive season with a ramped up attitude in the last half of the year that has led this team to being a contender to the end. “We won four races in the last eight or nine, that’s pretty impressive,” said Bonsignore. “I’m proud of my season, my head is held high, even if I’m not feeling it right now.”

Ryan Preece crossed the line for second, Jimmy Blewett third, Donny Lia fourth and Coors Light Pole Award winner Timmy Solomito completed the top five. Sixth went to Coby, Woody Pitkat was seventh, Eric Goodale eighth, NWMT Rookie of the Year winner Matt Swanson was ninth and Dave Sapienza crossed for tenth.

Bonsignore went into the World Series twenty points behind Coby. Coby needed to finish 17th or better to capture the title. Bonsignore’s win, combined with Coby’s sixth place finish closed the point gap to twelve.

“I’m hoping we can keep everybody together,” said Bonsignore. “I don’t want to lose or add anybody. We’ve got a really good group right now, I had a lot of fun with these guys, they do a great job every week. They prepare the cars up in Connecticut now and I get to show up and drive, that’s a big honor to be able to do that in this series. In hindsight, Bristol probably stings a little more now but you can’t go back and count points, you just have to keep looking forward and head held high.”

Coby in the 2 car was once again the team to chase this season. Timmy Solomito in the Eric Sanderson 16 modified was a threat until Bonsignore and the M3 team hit their stride bringing the title down to the last race, the last laps of 2016.

“To do this, every week these guys, they just don’t stop,” said Coby about his team. “I want to tip my hat to the 51 team and also the 16 team, they really put the pressure on us this year. Everybody said we were going to walk away with it with a couple of changes last year to start the season, man, it was tough. It is so tough to win on this series and we’re just so appreciative. I know we win a lot of poles and a lot of races and now three championships in a row, but we are so appreciative of what we have on this team. I am so thankful for the people that make this happen. Doug Dunleavy, Dunleavy Truck and Trailer Repair, he got us to the race track this season and I can’t thank him enough along with Phil Moran- what do you say about that guy, just unbelievable. Very emotional right now, this is not going to sink in for a long time.”

With chamber of commerce October weather setting the backdrop for the 54th Sunoco World Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, it was Timmy Solomito of Islip, NY earning the Coors Light Pole award on Saturday with Doug Coby qualifying second. Bonsignore who had an early draw, took the green flag seventh.

Solomito and Coby, nose to tail, pulled from the pack setting a blistering pace with only one caution in the early going that closed the field back in line on lap four. Solomito, choosing the outside lane, was able to make gains out of the corners keeping Coby, Woody Pitkat, Robbie Summers and Shawn Solomito in his rear view mirror.

Bonsignore fell to tenth by lap twenty when five circuits later, Shawn Solomito became the next caution when his motor blew up heading down the front stretch.
Timmy Solomito remained the car at the point, the Islip, NY driver in the Diversified Metals sponsored modified continued to dominate while Coby challenged for the top spot, the championship contender keeping focused on the big picture.

Calvin Carroll brought out the next caution on lap thirty-nine and on that restart, a jumble that started more towards the front section of the pack going into turn one rippled back through the field to bring out the red flag. Jimmy Blewett got a piece of the incident along with Eric Goodale, Ron Silk and Craig Lutz all involved in the turn two melee. The day was over for Lutz while Blewett, Goodale and Silk were able to pit and rejoin the field at the tail end.

It was this restart on lap fifty-one that started to make this more of a nail biter for Coby. Timmy Solomito at the point for the restart appeared to be edged at the line by Coby. Coby immediately dropped back relinquishing the momentary lead only to lose several spots while Bonsignore was able to gain. By lap sixty, it was Timmy Solomito, Rob Summers, Justin Bonsignore, Woody Pitkat and Doug Coby the top five. Meanwhile, Ryan Preece who had started from scratch at the green was entering the picture in seventh place.

The fifth caution of the day waved on lap seventy. This set up the action on pit road with nearly the entire field coming in for tires and adjustments. Solomito led the way down pit road and the Flamingo Motorsports crew had Solomito back out first with Bonsignore and the M3 crew turning on the hustle gaining several spots getting Bonsignore out second. Coby lined up seventh.

Wade Cole, who had pitted earlier, was the new leader selecting the inside lane for the lap seventy-seven restart. Solomito on the outside was able to clear turn one for the top spot taking Donny Lia, Preece, Bonsignore and Matt Swanson the top five with him. Bonsignore made his move and was in second by lap eighty, his sights set on Solomito.

Meanwhile, Coby was shuffled back to fourteenth.

Lap 100, fifty to go, it was Solomito, Bonsignore, Preece, Lia and now Blewett the top five. Coby cracked the top ten and was now ninth.

The field was pulled in one more time for a caution on lap 102 for the motor on the Chase Dowling machine that expired.

From the lap 106 restart, it was all green flag racing.

Bonsignore on the bumper of Solomito tested the waters and finally completed his move to become the new leader on lap 130. With ten to go, Bonsignore put some real estate between himself and the field as the others jockeyed for position in the closing circuits.

Bonsignore crossed the stripe in convincing style for the bittersweet victory while Preece took second, and Blewett third to complete the podium. Donny Lia crossed for fourth with Solomito fifth.

Coby survived the day for a sixth place finish and a run into history to earn a third straight NWMT Championship title, a fourth title for Coby overall.

“The greats of our sports and I’m honored to mentioned among them,” said Coby when asked by NBCSN reporter Derek Pernesiglio how it felt to be mentioned along names like Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman- all multiple champions. “I’m honored for the accomplishment to have done this. This is so special, we’re going to celebrate with our fans, friends and family because there is a lot of sacrifice that goes into this- you guys, race fans who are here, everybody who works on other teams, media members, you guys know the sacrifice, all these people who stand behind this car just puts so much into it and it just means so much for us to come out and again, do every week. We know we have the bulls eye on us and we just always perform, always have a great car – the 2 team baby, we’re up front again.”

“We kept them so honest this year,” said Bonsignore. “Everybody thought they would just walk away with this deal and the second half of the year we really turned it on – we were forty or fifty points out at one time. We’re not going to hang our head on any of this – all in all, an amazing season. To finish second is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m very proud of our season- four wins, I think we finished in the top five all but four races, just bummed, but really excited. It’s our fifth win at Thompson so that’s even cooler- we’ll just come back next year even stronger.”

“We had a good car,” continued Bonsignore. “We had a couple of restarts go our way. The guys had a great pit stop. We had a backup and almost stalled it and still came out second. I just worked the 16 over, I knew he was free, I could see it- I showed him a nose, showed him a nose, finally I could see the guys behind us were running us down so I had to go. He drove it in deep, we bounced wheels, I hope he’s not too upset. An amazing season and a nice way to go into the off season- we’ve won almost every different weekend here so that’s special too.”

His second trip up to the press box for the day, NASCAR Xfinity driver Ryan Preece made the trip from Kansas Speedway where he competed Saturday to Thompson on Sunday. Jon McKennedy practiced and qualified the Connie Partridge owned, T.S. Haulers/Riverhead Raceway sponsored modified for Preece who had to start the field from the scratch position because of the driver change. Fresh off his Sunoco Modified win earlier in the afternoon, Preece was up to 15th by lap fifteen, into the top ten by lap thirty-five and after the pit stop at the half way mark was up to third by lap seventy- eight. Bounced back to fourth, Preece turned it on in the closing circuits to finish the Sunoco World Series a solid second.

“Starting last, all the way from Kansas,” smiled Preece, “it was a good day. Jon fought the same things I fought, we needed to make an adjustment just to help the center, but a really good car. It’s just hard when you are not here to practice or anything. I’m happy, second place, you can’t complain with that.”

Jimmy Blewett overcame a setback on the lap 45 restart when a tire started to go down. Pitting and starting from the back, Blewett worked his Bob Garbarino owned, Starrett Tools/Mayhew Tools sponsored modified through the field, up to fifth by lap 100 and passed for third with five to go. “To finish off on a good note, a nice top three finish, be on the podium the last race, it feels good,” said Blewett. “For me, this year coming in it, I got thrown in here, basically on the fly- go out there and do the best I can for Bob and his team and try to show everyone that I’m still really capable of doing it. Hopefully throughout this season I’ve proved myself to owners and maybe I’ll get myself another opportunity for next season to hopefully get another ride.” Plans for next season are in the air for Blewett, while a sit down discussion with Garbarino in the next few weeks would be ideal, he knows the ‘silly season’ is here. “Everybody kind of does a car swap and we’ll see where I land. Hopefully I can land somewhere respectable with a good team, come back next season and give this guys a charge.”

“Yes,” Blewett would be happy to be back with Garbarino. “We have some things to fix if we come back together next season. All in all, these guys worked as hard as they could, even during the hard times when most people would put their head down, those guys, when their head was down, they charged forward. I just felt like we were plagued with a bunch of gremlins, you just never had that luck, whether it was the inside restart when you need to be on the outside or the outside when you needed to be on the inside, you could just never find that groove. I’m happy to finish in the top three again and give these guys a good send off at the end of the year.”

A podium finish at Thompson is good but unfinished business remains for this Howell, NJ driver. “I’ll win at this place, one day. I don’t know when- hopefully one day I can get it. Everybody knows why I come here, every time I come though that gate, it’s tough for me and my family. You just keep plugging away at it, it’s one of those things you keep picking away at and eventually, you’ll get it.”

Winning three NWMT championship titles may not have exactly totally sunk in yet. What does run deep is an emotional connection that seems to be shared among the MS III Racing team. A true gratefulness for what they are able to do, what they have done and accomplished together.

“This is a huge sacrifice for everybody,” said Coby. “You guys know what the travel is like, what the time away from home is like, if you think about every team out here has ten to fifteen people that don’t get a whole of credit but do a whole lot of work, there’s people that make food, people that take times, people change tires, mount tires- Timmy and John mount tires for three hours just about a day and none of us see that. You don’t see them dismounting tires because they’re not happy with an eighth of an inch of stagger and that’s what they do every week in the sun, trying to get drinks when they can, everybody has a job to do and there is just so much sacrifice, not only on our team but all these teams – this is largely a volunteer crew series and that’s why the championships are so special, because you get to go to Charlotte, dress up, sit down, relax and realize the achievement and we’re so fortunate, three years in a row to be on top. I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t continue, it’s just really hard to stay at the top, I think it’s almost harder to stay at the top than get to the top. It’s been five years in a row coming to the World Series- some of the guys on the 52 came to the 2, it’s been five years in a row battling at the World Series for a championship and we got four of them. That’s something I would have never thought in 2012, if you said, predict that the next five years of your career, I never would have dreamed, number one, that I would switch teams and number two, that a brand new team would gel together that quickly and win three championships in a row.”

Car owner Mike Smeriglio III has a lifelong place in his heart for modified racing. “I go back to when I was four years old, at Danbury Racearena with my dad, I’m just such a fan of racing.” When it was time, Smeriglio unleashed his passion for modified racing and became a car owner. First as a ‘student,’ next, being on his own and now, to the top of the game. “I’m not the technical guy, I’m a little bit of a strategist, but this 2 Team, it’s really about Phil and Doug. Phil lets me be me and I let him be him. I’m going to be the emotional one, I’m going to be the cheerleader. I’m going to be the one to pick him up when he’s down or pick the guys up when they don’t have a good pit stop, it’s always half full versus half empty. Everyone does their job and they work to do it better, but they’re not afraid to fail because we’ll pick them right back up. I don’t look at as being the leader, it’s just who I am. I care about the guys. This is my family and I’m going to give them as much respect and care and yes love, as I can.”

Smeriglio has unlocked a key to the treasure. It’s about relationships. Good business, good friends, family, teams, Smeriglio has gathered and grown a solid foundation through relationships that together, has put the 2 team on top, setting a new record in the NASCAR history books with the potential to do even more.

“How do you say it? Doug just makes it easy,” said champion crew chief Phil Moran. “He’s such a hell of a driver, he just makes me look good. We’re a good pair. We communicate well, we have fun, but when it comes time to do it, we do it, we get it done. I don’t know, I wish I had an answer. We click. The whole team clicks. Everybody has a job. Everybody does their job which is a big thing. That’s why we don’t have mechanical failures. If something falls off the car it’s because somebody didn’t do their job. We didn’t have a part failure, other than running out of gas one time, but it was just circumstances. Other than that, no mechanical issues, that’s incredible. To be honest, in the last three years, we haven’t had a mechanical failure so that’s to those guys, to making sure everything is right.”

“It’s awesome,” said Coby about the third title. “Everyone is different, everyone is special for a different reason, there is many ways to win them and may ways to lose them and we’ve just found a lot of ways to win them.”

“We keep everyone together by going out to the campground and have fun,” said Moran. “When we go to Bristol, we all stay in the same hotel, we all hang out, we all go out to dinner together, we’re all a group of friends. We all get along, there’s no animosity in any of this crew. It’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday family- it’s just the way it is.”

“It goes back to preparation, having a car that’s just good everywhere we go,” said Coby. “It does not matter what era you’re in, it’s difficult to win a championship. It’s still seventeen races, it’s a war you have to win. We won a lot of the battles, tonight, Justin, their team, won the battle and did what they had to do, luckily the 16 was as good as he was because he made the 51 work for it. We just put ourselves in a position all year, I think we had a really clean season, I don’t think there’s any question we just chipped away every week and got our wins- we won at Oswego and Loudon, what a special season that is then have the three Stafford wins was really neat. We did what we had to do today. It’s a different mindset when you’re trying to wrap this up.”

The MS III Racing Team will be honored on December 10th in Charlotte, NC at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Celebration.

“I hope we do it again next year,” added Moran. “The competition is tough. Justin stepped up his game this year and it showed, he had a great race today, he did what he had to do. Timmy’s going to be tough, their getting tough. I’ve got to do a little more homework because they are catching us. We just have to step up our game a little bit that’s all.”

This is also the fourth championship title for Moran, his first came in 2003 with driver Todd Szegedy.

“Raising the bar, that’s my job,” said Moran. “I learned a lot from a lot of good people throughout my career. From Art Barry, he taught me how to work, how to work smart and work. If you sit there on a Friday night at 11 o’clock and you want to go home but you know that you’d rather get that one part done that’s only going to take you another twenty minutes to do it, then you stay that extra twenty minutes. I learned that from Art. I spent many a night there until two or three in the morning. I learned my work ethic from Art, I owe him a lot for that. Then, working for the Pasteryak’s- Charlie Pasteryak taught me a lot as far as making sure stuff does not fall off the car, he was always about that and he worked as hard as anybody I know. It took me a lot to keep up with him. That’s why Charlie and I got along so good because we both had the same work ethic. I think that’s the biggest thing, is just having a really good work ethic. You have to give it 110 percent, every day. This is my job. This is what I do. I love it, I love doing it.”

Nine poles and five wins highlighted the season for the MS III Racing team. But there is so much more. This group is as cohesive as they come, a racing family that didn’t want to let each other down. They know every move they make is scrutinized by competitors, officials and fans. For now, the weight on their shoulders has been lifted. They did not crack or crumble under pressure and they delivered as professionals. Congratulations to the 2 Team- Mike Smeriglio III, Doug Coby, Phil Moran, John Romano, Bob Tulipani, Timmy Armbruster and the entire MS III Racing crew. You’ve earned the spotlight.

The NWMT Sunoco World Series presented by Xtra Mart 150 is scheduled to air on NBCSN on Friday October 21st at 1pm ET. 
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: October 17, 2016

2007-2016  © GeeLaw Motorsports/RGeePro/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.   Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form without written prior consent