By: Ashley McCubbin
With four top-10 finishes, Kyle Bonsignore enters this weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway ranked seventh in the standings. Though ahead of the Whelen 100 on Saturday, July 16, he shared his thoughts with NEWS FROM THE PITS.
ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: What are your thoughts going into New Hampshire this weekend?
KYLE BONSIGNORE: We’ve been on racing on bullrings for most of the first half of the season, so it will be really be a lot of fun to get back on a bigger track and New Hampshire is like our Daytona with the draft, the amount of speed you carry, and really, the whole race. So I’m excited and looking to turn our season around – not that we’ve had the worst of years, but it’s just not what we’ve expected as we had a lot higher hopes going into this season. We’re in need of a good run so hopefully we can get it there. I think we have a really good starting line for a set-up so I’m excited to get there.
ASHLEY: So what’s the biggest challenge when it comes to running at the Magic Mile?
KYLE: So the toughest part at New Hampshire is getting a good starting spot. Even though you’re able to draft In the race, usually the first five or six cars break away from the pack really early and then you really need to work to get back into the lead group. So you have to have a good starting spot, (and) having a car that doesn’t fade throughout the race. Unlike a lot of these shorter tracks where it’s really easy to use up your right rear tire, and you can pace yourself at those smaller tracks to be there at the end. At New Hampshire, because you have to keep a certain amount of speed to stay with the draft, you have to have a car that will maintain speed the whole run. So working on your balance in practice, which believe or not, changes whether you’re in the lead or not in the lead with how the air affects your car.
All those things come into play and that is a really hard thing to figure out, but once you get it right, it’s a really fun race track to race on – especially if you’re around the right cars that you can pass, give you room, bump draft on the straightaways right. So that’s probably the hardest part – keeping your car happy the entire length of the run, because we do get pit stops there so you are allowed to make some adjustments to improve it and usually you have to take fuel because it’s the biggest track that we run on so you don’t want to run out of fuel.
But just keeping the balance, keeping your car happy throughout the race, and staying up front is a big, big ever-changing math equation that you have to hope to guess right. The biggest challenge is definitely keeping your car balanced throughout the entire course of the race. You burn a lot of fuel that changes the weight distribution and your tires get worn, so that changes the way the car handles. So if you can keep it as neutral as possible throughout the 50-60 lap run before you get to your pit stop, that’s the toughest part of New Hampshire.
ASHLEY: Let’s face it – it’s been a while since the last time you won a tour modified event. What would it mean to you to get back there?
KYLE: That would be huge. It’s coming up on four years and I think about it every time we start the race. It would be huge for my team. We’ve got a couple new guys that we’ve added since the last time that we won, so I think it’d be big for them to get to victory lane. I believe this is the biggest paying race of the year so financially, that would be huge, because I’m the owner and driver so it’d be big for us to get the highest paying race of the year. Out of all the things that we could win, that’d definitely be big for being able to keep the car as good as possible on replaceable parts.
That would be gigantic for momentum going into the summer swing and going into the second half of the season because there’s a lot of important races coming up – two Thompson races, Martinsville, Oswego, going back to Riverhead – between all that, it’d be a huge victory if we can pull it off. I really enjoy racing at New Hampshire so like I said, this is the Daytona of our season. So not many people win at New Hampshire, and be able to pull that off would be huge for our team.
ASHLEY: You’ve shown speed throughout this season, but where do you feel that you and your team could be better going into the second half of the year?
KYLE: So we’ve had great speed at the beginning of the year on the biggest tracks, so that’s what gives me a lot of confidence going into New Hampshire. Honestly, we just need to be able to do – I think we’re going to have really good cars to unload with it. My crew chief Cam McDermott has given us really good speed at these bigger tracks. I think we’re going to unload really well. We just need to piece the whole puzzle together. We had a good car at New Smyrna, and we just couldn’t do anything right between pit stops, adjustments. Then after that, we got a lot better when we went to Jennerstown, which is another really fast track, and had a bolt failure that none of us could foresee. That was before we even got to the pit stop and we were running top-five the whole race there.
I think if we’re just able to practice good, qualify good, and execute on the pit stops, I think we’ll be there at the end because Cam has a lot of experience at New Hampshire and I really like racing there. I think if we can just completely put together a race, I think we’re going to be really good by the end and be in the right position. That’s what I think. On the bullrings, we kind of ran some more experimental set-ups on the bullring types of tracks. We learned the hard way at Manadnock that wasn’t the right way to go and then the last two races, we just got – Riverhead, we ended up finishing sixth but we didn’t qualify good. Wall (Stadium), we got spun out almost at the halfway point of the race so we had to make our way up through the field after that. It’s not the easiest thing to do at Wall Stadium. So I think we’re getting a lot closer to being able to practice, qualify, and put the race together – which is not a very easy thing to do at any of the tour races because the competition is so stiff. We could be a tenth off in qualifying and that could be the difference between being in the top-four and being 12th.
So it’s a lot easier said than done, but I feel we’re chipping away at it and learning so much race-to-race that it’s really going to set us up for the second half of the season especially going back to some of these tracks – that will be a really big thing. I think that’s what we need to do and I think we’re going to be able to do it, and I’m excited to get going. Wall Stadium, you know was rough, but it’s just so hard to pass there that we weren’t able to get back up to – I think we had a sixth or seventh-place car and the last restart was kind of messy and we just weren’t able to complete a couple passes. So going forward, I think that the tracks we’re going to will favor the set-ups we run and we’ll be able to use everything we learned to be better out of the trailer, in qualifying, and then through the whole course of the race at those tracks. I’m excited to get back at it. It’s hard to put together those races, but I think with what we’ve learned, we’ll be plenty capable of doing.
ASHLEY: What is it about the modifieds that makes it a lot of fun that keeps you coming back year-after-year it seems?
KYLE: I mean, the amount of competition is just insane and it’s not only the competition level, but it seems you can race really hard with guys lap-after-lap. There’s a lot of respect in that series. The pay for finishing – the pay-outs, the best there is in modified racing, and it definitely makes it more feasible to run. The points fund is tremendous compared to any other modified series. But being able to say you finished top-five in the tour a couple weeks in a row – even a top-10 is not easy to come by now a days, but the level of competition brings us back week after week. When you’re able to run and race with guys like my cousin (Justin Bonsignore) and Ronnie Silk and Doug Coby who have all won championships, and two of them multiple championships, you can lay the bumper to somebody and you expect it and that’s just good hard racing.
It’s hard to find that anywhere else. Super Late Model racing is probably the closest thing as far as car and engine packages, but you can’t really rub somebody or lean on somebody and get through the corners – usually those guys end up wrecking or spinning somebody out. It’s just the type of racing is real nitty, gritty; you can get in the corner, bounce off somebody, and they can do the same thing to you – but you can both make it out and race again in the next corner. All that combined just makes the modified tour from a driver’s standpoint, car owner’s standpoint, and honestly from a fan’s standpoint, it’s unbeatable.
The amount of passing at New Hampshire this weekend, and bump drafting, you won’t find that any other division at New Hampshire. It’s definitely the most fun race to be in and watch this weekend, and I think any weekend. It’s the reason why I come back year-after-year, even though we haven’t gotten back to victory lane as frequent as I would want. I mean, it’s what keeps me coming back. If you can say that you beat Tommy Baldwin’s car at any race, that is saying something. He was a (NASCAR) Cup (Series) level crew chief, and now he’s a crew chief and car owner on the modified tour full-time. It’s insane.
It’s really hard, clearly it’s not easy, but that’s what makes running really good that much more rewarding. You know you beat the best of the best in modified racing. There’s a lot of guys like Matt Hirschman that run part-time, and that just makes running good against guys like him that much better. So it’s really the pinnacle of modified racing, to me, and if we can run good there – and I do run open shows for another team and it’s a lot of fun, but still to me, there’s nothing like running good at Whelen Modified Tour race. It’s extremely rewarding that you’ve run well against the best of the best.
ASHLEY: What track do you wish was on the schedule that is currently not?
KYLE: Honestly, a track that I wish would be on the tour schedule but currently is not – I would say probably it’s kind of a toss-up between Nashville Fairgrounds or Motor Mile. Those are two tracks that I think would produce amazing races for the Whelen Modified Tour. I know it’s logistically not easy because they’re both – I think Motor Mile is definitely easier. It’s a beautiful facility and I think it would make great racing for the tour – you can run side-by-side there and there’s lots of grip. But Nashville, I think just the amount of history that’s there, it would be like running at Thompson if you could run at normal groove. Thompson we kind of run like Darlington – right around the top. But it’s bumpy, and it’s rough, and the track, you have to really adapt to how the car handles. But Nashville would be an amazing race track for the Whelen Modified Tour. I know they had a southern tour race there and everybody said it was great, but I think if we could go there, that’d be huge.