Justin Bonsignore earns 11th Riverhead victory in thrilling battle with Ron Silk during Eddie Partridge 256

Justin Bonsignore earns 11th Riverhead victory in thrilling battle with Ron Silk during Eddie Partridge 256

RIVERHEAD, New York — For all 256 laps of Saturday‘s Eddie Partridge 256 at Riverhead Raceway, Justin Bonsignore and Ron Silk never lost sight of one another.

The tension gradually built between the two frontrunners in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour point standings as the checkered flag drew closer. Neither driver gave the other any breathing room, with Bonsignore and Silk trading bumps numerous times as the finish neared.

RELATED: Complete results from the Eddie Partridge 256

By the time the two champions settled their duel, Bonsignore was the one who emerged as the victor. The resilient effort during the final laps earned Bonsignore his 11th career Riverhead victory while simultaneously putting him back on top of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour point standings.

“It was a heavyweight fight for sure,” Bonsignore said. “It was going to be whoever [bumped the other] last, but we timed it perfect tonight. Sometimes you just have to be aggressive in this deal, but I was going to get wrecked if I let [Silk] get back behind me.”

Bonsignore has been more motivated than ever to claim his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship following a hard crash at Oswego Speedway that caused him to lose significant ground to Silk in the standings.

When the Ken Massa Motorsports team convened the following week, Bonsignore jokingly remarked to his team owner that he was going to win the final five races on the schedule.

Bonsignore kicked off his quest to run the table by leading every lap from the pole in last weekend‘s Winchester Fair 150 at Monadnock Speedway. He carried over that speed into the Eddie Partridge 256 by putting his No. 51 on the pole with a time of 11.561 seconds.

Silk, who was eliminated from contention at Monadnock following two early crashes, ensured that the Eddie Partridge 256 would not go as smoothly for Bonsignore.

Despite the two mostly engaging in a clean fight for the championship through 14 races, both Bonsignore and Silk were not afraid to be assertive at Riverhead. Nearly every lead change came because of shots to the rear bumper, which only intensified in frequency as the laps dwindled.

Silk fought valiantly to keep control of the top spot even as the rear brakes on his No. 16 glowed bright red as he entered each corner, but one last bump from Bonsignore coming to the white flag was enough to give him the lead for the final time. Silk attempted to return the favor in Turns 1 and 2, but ended up falling to third as a result.

As Silk decompressed after a heartbreaking defeat, Bonsignore celebrated two major milestones in Victory Lane.

Not only did Bonsignore become the fourth driver to reach 40 wins in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour alongside Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggiero and Ted Christopher, he also tied Mike Ewanitsko for the all-time Whelen Modified Tour win record at Riverhead.

An exhausted Bonsignore was elated when he was informed he matched Ewanitsko‘s Riverhead win total. He has long considered the Modified veteran to be one of his heroes and felt honored to celebrate that moment after having to exert so much energy to defeat Silk.

“With all that went on there, I forgot about tying Mike,” Bonsignore said. “That was a goal of mine since I was fortunate enough to start winning a few [at Riverhead]. I‘m sure he‘ll voice text me something extremely funny.

“Momentum has been going pretty good so far, but I‘m ready for a week off.”

Bonsignore now has five victories during the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season compared to Silk‘s four. Although he triumphed in another battle on Saturday, Bonsignore‘s war for the championship with Silk is far from over.

Riverhead regular Mark Stewart took advantage of the chaos to finish second in front of the home crowd. Following Silk in fourth was Austin Beers, with J.R. Bertuccio completing the top-five a lap behind Bonsignore.

CNBC will broadcast a replay of the Eddie Partridge 256 at Riverhead Raceway on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Up next for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is the series’ inaugural visit to one of the Southeast‘s most cherished facilities, North Wilkesboro Speedway. The Brushy Mountain Powersports 150 at North Wilkesboro is set to take place on Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET, with FloRacing providing live coverage.