Every time the popular NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolls into Riverhead Raceway on Long Island it is usually noted along the way the last time a track regular won a WMT event was back in 1995. Saturday night Kyle Soper of Manorville, the reigning champion at the quarter mile bullring scored one for the home team winning the Buzz Chew Chevrolet 200 after reclaiming the lead from defending WMT kingpin Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville with 10-laps remaining.
By Bob Finan
Soper’s win comes 27 years and day after Eddie Brunnhoelzl Jr. won back on June 24th of 1995.
Current WMT championship leader Ron Silk won the Mayhew Tools Pole Award with a lap of 11.586 edging out Timmy Solomito who toured the track in 11.637. As the 26-car grid took the green Solomito was able to get the early race advantage over Silk. Early on Solomito showed the way in his family-owned car which he has run part time to date in 2022. As the race developed joining race leader Solomito up front were Kyle Soper and Justin Bonsignore who started the race together from the third row. Other drivers flexing their muscles near the front prior to halfway included Tommy Catalano, Craig Lutz and Doug Coby, winner of the May 14th WMT stop at Riverhead.
After racing his way to second Soper drew closer to leader Solomito and was ready to make a bid for the lead. On lap 114 Soper was able to get around Solomito, who after being overtaken for the lead now had to try and fend off challengers for second as the handle went away on his car. Once to the lead Soper led 27-laps before Justin Bonsignore came calling making an inside pass for the lead on lap 143. With Bonsignore now out front seeking his 9th career Riverhead WMT triumph and just 57 laps left to click off many thought Bonsignore was in the cat bird seat.
After falling off Bonsignore after Justin took the lead Kyle Soper came back to life as the laps wound down and before he knew it he was on the rear bumper challenging for his first career WMT win. Entering the first and second turn Soper set Bonsignore up for a pass and by the time they started the 190th lap Soper was the new race leader. Bonsignore tried to cross Soper back over on lap 191 off the fourth corner but Soper was able to thwart that effort.
With the Riverhead Raceway faithful howling with approval Kyle Soper took the checker flag for car owners Wayne & Joette Anderson and the Eastport Feeds team and the celebration was on. Afterwards the 26-year old Soper was asked about his solid effort in qualifying playing a role in the win he responded, “yeah sure did, I was texting back and forth with Jimmy Blewett last night and he gave us some set up tips that got us close and further up front in qualifying”. As to his strategy after surrendering the lead to Bonsignore with 57-to go Soper shared, “after Justin got me on that restart I was just riding and see if I could reel him back in. Once I saw him getting loose on entry and exit I started licking my lips and timed it up pretty good”. In a lighter moment during victory lane festivities Kyle reflected, “I wasn’t even born yet when Eddie Brunnhoelzl Jr. won his WMT race, feels pretty good to get one though”.
Racing for a second straight NASCAR WMT win, Justin Bonsignore had to settle for second in the Phoenix Communications Chevy and looked back afterwards, “been a longtime since Eddie Brunnhoelzl Jr’s win here and it’s cool to see a Riverhead team win, just a shame he beat us to do it. Congratulations to Kyle, Wayne, Tom Soper and that team, it was only a matter of time, think I’ll make Wayne buy the ice cream”. As to the duel for the lead Justin recalled, “late in the race I saw Kyle getting back to me, I was hoping to use some lapped cars to get lost in but his car was better than ours at that point. Onto to Wall Stadium”.
Ron Silk of Norwalk, Ct. came home third in the Future Homes entry leaving him to wonder what he has to do to beat drivers who grew up racing at Riverhead, “the local guys who grew up here like Soper, Bonsignore and Solomito are just so tough here”. Silk was making his 21st career WMT start at Riverhead still in search of his first win.
Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford, Ma and Riverhead regular Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills were fourth and fifth. Completing the top ten were, Kyle Bonsignore of Bay Shore, John Beatty Jr. of Merrick Timmy Solomito of Islip, Austin Beers of Northampton, Pa and Doug Coby of Milford, Ct.
Buzz Chew Chevrolet 200: 1. Kyle Soper 2. Justin Bonsignore 3. Ron Silk 4. Jon McKennedy 5. Dylan Slepian 6. Kyle Bonsignore 7. John Beatty Jr. 8. Timmy Solomito 9. Austin Beers 10. Doug Coby 11. Eric Goodale 12. Tyler Rypkema 13. Matt Brode 14. Tommy Catalano 15. Craig Lutz 16. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 17. Chris Young 18. Dave Sapienza 19. Roger Turbush 20. James Pritchard Jr. 21. Donny Lia 22. Walter Sutcliffe Jr. 23. Chris Turbush 24. Ken Heagy 25. JB Fortin 26. Melissa Fifeld