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Riverhead Raceway: Wild finish to Buzz Chew 200 Saturday night

Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville won Saturday’s Buzz Chew Chevrolet-Cadillac 200 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Event in unique style.

Having won six career modified events in his career, Bonsignore won Saturday in a way unlike any before: sliding nearly backward across the finish line. A late race caution on lap 197 set up a green, white, checker finish between John Beatty Jr. of Merrick, who had a comfortable late race lead, and Bonsignore. The final laps set up a thrilling finish as Bonsignore muscled his way to his third win of the season while Beatty settled for second.

His win moved him into sole possession of second on the all-time Whelen Modified Tour list at Riverhead behind Mike Ewanitsko, who won 11 times. Overall, Bonsignore has 14 wins at Riverhead.

“I hate it for John [Beatty] and his guys, we are friends, but I had to do what I had to do to win,” Bonsignore said afterward.

Beatty said he was frustrated at the finish.

“Man, I have been third and second,” he said. “I just can’t get the WMT win here.”

Beatty appeared in line for the win as the final laps approached. A disabled car off turn two that involved two other cars led to a yellow flag that Beatty and his team never wanted to see.

Beatty chose the outside lane for the green white checker moving Bonsignore to the bottom. When the race resumed, Bonsignore made his car very wide going into the first and second turn, but Beatty tried to hold serve to the outside. As the tandem hit the final turn, Bonsignore again made his car wide but Beatty was not lifting. With Bonsignore 3/4 of a car ahead, Beatty went for broke catching the right rear rub rail of the leader, ending him off turn four into a wild slide.

As the checkers waved, Bonsignore nearly backward wrestled to keep his car off the wall while Beatty hoped to sneak past.

Timmy Solomito of Islip finished third, followed by Ron Silk of Norwalk, Conn. and Craig Lutz of Miller Place.

Prior to the modified tour event, four feature events were contested under threatening skies. Some intermittent rain, however, didn’t slow down the racing.

Justin Brown of Manorville took down his fourth Crate Modified win of the season. Chris Rogers of Patchogue had won the last two races and Brown was looking to get back on the winning side, having won three of the first five races. Over the final dozen laps of the 25-lap event, Brown raced ahead of Rogers and Dave Brigati of Calverton to claim his seventh career win.

It was both a clean sweep and milestone kind of night for former multi-Blunderbust champion Tom Pickerell, who first set a new track record in qualifying with a lap of 14.539 and then went out and won his 25th career main event in a 30-lap contest. Pickerell wasted little time making his way to the race lead at the start. Cody Triola of Bay Shore moved into the second spot and tried to catch Pickerell but couldn’t get closer. Pickerell recorded his third win of the season. Russ Jansen of Medford finished third.

Ray Fitzgerald, who won 15 races during his Enduro career, picked up his first legend race car win Saturday night. Rookie Joseph Braun of Manorville raced out to an early lead before the veteran Fitzgerald began vying for the lead. After the two traded positions in the lead, Fitzgerald took over first for good and he went on to dedicate his win to his longtime friend and sponsor, the late Dan Jones of Blue Point Auto Body. Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches surged late to grab second as Braun settled for third.

In the 20-lap Street Stock race, Brian Brown won his first career race. Wesley Sammon of Southampton was second and Jay Henschel of Levittown was third.