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Justin Bonsignore Impresses in NASCAR Xfinity Debut, Spins Late

Justin Bonsignore NASCAR Xfinity Series debut finishes 23rd Joe Gibbs Racing New Hampshire Motor Speedway SciAps 200

Photo Credit: Damin J. Sawyer, TobyChristie.com

The final scoring sheet may show that Justin Bonsignore, who was making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut for Joe Gibbs Racing in Saturday’s SciAps 200 driving the No. 19 Toyota GR Supra, came home in 23rd position, but that finishing spot is in no way indicative of how well the 36-year-old NASCAR Modified Tour star ran.

After qualifying was washed out on Friday, Bonsignore was relegated to a 25th-place starting position thanks to the NASCAR Performance Metric Formula. But after snagging a win in Saturday morning’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at the 1.058-mile speedway, Bonsignore had his competitive juices flowing, and he was ready to soak up everything about a NASCAR Xfinity Series car that he could, but he wanted to also put in a strong effort.

“I just felt you’re in a Joe Gibbs car, even though it’s my first time here, you’ve got to perform,” Bonsignore explained after the race.

The modified tour legend fired off pretty decent, despite the race starting on the foreign wet-weather Goodyear tires. Bonsignore climbed from 25th to 20th by the Lap 10 competition caution, which allowed teams to bolt slick tires on.

Bonsignore credits his crew chief Seth Chavka for making an incredible strategy call in the Opening Stage, which put them in a position to gain track position. By short pitting under the second caution of the race at Lap 29, Bonsignore was able to remain on the race track when the caution came out again on Lap 35, which moved the driver of the No. 19 machine inside of the top-15 for the first time.

Bonsignore would climb to a 10th-place finish in Stage 1, and would even lead a couple of laps under the Stage break caution.

“Seth had great strategy to get us to flip that first Stage, and got to lead a couple of laps under yellow,” Bonsignore stated. “Then, have to lineup of course next to Christopher Bell. Was not sure how our pace would be in that second Stage, and ran really well. Just was learning. There’s a lot of fans, a lot of things that I can do inside of these race cars compared to ours. It’s just way different. Struggled a little bit on pit road exit, coming onto pit road a little bit of loss there. But just really good pace.”

As Bonsignore continued to get more and more comfortable in the car, he continued to become more and more relevant on the scoring pylon, and he even caught some attention with a daring move to take third-place from Chandler Smith on the outside with 73 laps remaining.

“My spotter Tyler Green was like, ‘Roll the top here, and see,’ I just kind of throttled up and it stuck. We were up in that modified lane,” Bonsignore said with pride. “Yeah, I’m hoping to go see Chandler and see if he liked that one, because I liked it. That was pretty cool.”

While it looked like Bonsignore had finally figured the car out, a rash of cautions in the back half of the race would keep him from being able to apply what he had learned over the course of a long run, still, he found himself up in the seventh position with 24 laps remaining in the race, and he skillfully avoided his teammate Chandler Smith who spun right in front of him to move to sixth.

It looked like he had a top-five to top-10 run all sewed up. But then, Bonsignore got to experience how intense late-race restarts can be in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as he was sent spinning with 19 laps to go by Sammy Smith, who had ducked below him to make it three-wide.

“It’s just tough,” Bonsignore said with disappointment in his voice. “These late-race restarts are going to bunch everybody up, and everybody gets crazy. It’s unbelieveable there’s an inside wall there, but guys are trying to get to pit road if they can. But all-in-all, it was a great experience. I just want to thank Joe Gibbs Racing.”

Bonsignore says he would be open to dabbling in more NASCAR Xfinity Series races if they can make all of the logistics work out in the future.

“It was a really cool experience, and hopefully we can put something together to do some more,” Bonsignore explained.

Whether he gets another chance in the NASCAR National Series ranks or not, Bonsignore is just happy that he was able to show what modified racers from the Northeast are able to do when they strap into a highly competitive car in any series.

“I’m going to ake away that we had a really good experience out of it. I hope that we can show that the modified drivers are really good in this area,” Bonsignore said. “If anyone of them would have jumped in a car today — if points leader Ron Silk jumps in, he could have run just as good. It’s just we have really good race car drivers around here, and I just hope the National stage can see that.”

The National stage certainly took notice of how competitive Bonsignore was Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

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