2021 NASCAR Whelen Modified championship contenders Justin Bonsignore and Patrick Emerling reside in polar opposite ends of New York State. Bonsignore of Holtsville lives in the southern most part of the state, while Emerling of Orchard Park lives just south of the Canadian border in a suburb of Buffalo. All spring and summer long however their paths have crossed from Maine to Virginia as the battle for the 2021 NASCAR WMT crown. The second to last round of that fight unfolds Saturday at Riverhead Raceway in the Miller Lite 200.
By Bob Finan
Coming into the Miller Lite 200 most would give Bonsignore the edge on paper with Justin having 8 WMT wins at a track that he won the 2011 Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series championship. Not so fast. In May at the Miller Lite 200 as well the rain delayed Buzz Chew Chevrolet 200 in June, Patrick Emerling has held serve finishing second to Doug Coby who has won both races. Bonsignore placed third at both races and perhaps made the most prolific statement after the June race. Speaking of Emerling Justin predicted, “those guys have been in the top three every week, going to be one of those years it seems” Continuing Bonsignore added, “it’s good to have new guys battling with us and Doug. Patrick’s team has been really good this year, they’re going to fight us to the end”. Fast forward to three months later and Bonsignore will carry a 22-point lead into the Miller Lite 200 Saturday.
For his end the soft spoken Emerling noted after his second consecutive runner-up finish at Riverhead, “hopefully we can come here in September and get one spot better”. Patrick realizes part of the game plan at the demanding quarter mile is tire conservation, “you have to bide your time at Riverhead, keep the right rear on the car”. In his formative years on the WMT Emerling was just trying to log laps and learn the track now as he put it in May, “we run pretty good here now and getting better and better at it”.
Sitting third to Bonsignore and Emerling in the 2021 WMT championship chase is Ron Silk of Norwalk, Ct. who recently announced he is departing the Kevin Stuart team after the final race at Stafford Motor Speedway. Ron comes to the Miller Lite 200 some 53 markers back of Bonsignore. Ron might just be the driver to watch Saturday as his seeks his first WMT win at Riverhead as motivation will be on his side. In 2011 Silk won the WMT championship for car owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and would love nothing more to honor his fallen friend with a victory Saturday night.
Doug Coby of Milford, Ct. sits 56 points out of the lead in fourth, while fifth place Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford, Ma. is 58 out.
Saturday night it will be Bonsignore vs. Emerling, Long Island vs. Buffalo in the Empire State battle for the 2021 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship at Riverhead Raceway in the Miller Lite 200. Strap in.