With about 40 laps to go at Martinsville Speedway Thursday, it dawned on Eric Goodale that his night was about to get a lot more expensive.
“When I got to Justin Bonsignore‘s bumper,” said Goodale, “I actually thought, ‘Oh my god, we have a car to win this race and I’m going to have to buy these guys clocks‘.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 200
The stray expense line didn‘t slow Goodale, who passed Bonsignore with 30 to go and then held off the defending tour champion and Tyler Rypkema to win the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 200. It earned Goodale the coveted Grandfather Clock, historically given to the race winner at Martinsville. The win also meant the Long Island driver would have to make good on his pre-race promise, when he told his team that if he managed to win the race, they‘d all get clocks, too.
“We got some new crew guys,” Goodale said. “We got real good chemistry. Some of my crew has been with me since I been racing go-karts since I been 12. It‘s been pretty cool to still have them around.
“It‘s just clicking and we‘re gonna ride it for as long as it comes.”
Plus, Goodale gets to keep the shiny original from victory lane. He plans on putting the clock in his kitchen.
Goodale hated the grandfather clock he had in his house as a child. Make no mistake however: he‘s in love with this one.
“It is about that clock,” he said. “You have no idea how bad I‘ve wanted one of those. Now that that one‘s mine, I‘m gonna love it. I don‘t care how many times it chimes when my fat foot sets that thing off. I‘m gonna enjoy it.”
Save for his first Tour win in front of family and friends at Riverhead Raceway back in 2014, Thursday night‘s Martinsville win is the sweetest one yet.
“I love Martinsville,” Goodale said. “We‘ve been so good here in the past, and we just had issues that prohibited us from having good finishes. It‘s awesome, man. This is Martinsville. Just the aura of it. I‘ve watched Cup races here.
“It‘s all about the clock.”
Goodale finished 10th at Martinsville in his tour debut in 2008. He was seventh there in 2009, but dropped to 24th in 2010.
Goodale had his share of struggles in 2020, dropping from sixth in the standings in 2019 to 15th in 2020. The speed, however, has clearly returned to the No. 58 GAF Roofing Chevrolet. It started with three top-10s at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna back in February, and has carried over to the Whelen Modified Tour season.
“ and ‘20, we just really struggled,” Goodale said. “We found out everything not to do. You gotta put it behind us and just think that you‘re gonna show up and win the next race. We didn‘t get the win down in Florida, but we felt good leaving there.”
Up next for the Tour in less than two weeks: the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, the track where Goodale‘s last win came back in 2017. Since 2016, he has six top fives in 14 races at the half-mile.
“I run well at Stafford,” Goodale said. “I love Stafford. It‘s gonna be good to show up there with a head of steam.”
Tyler Rypkema collected five top 10s in nine races last year, including a best finish of eighth at Jennerstown Speedway in Pennsyvlania, en route to Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
The 24-year-old from Oswego, New York, established himself as a contender early at Martinsville. He was second fastest in practice, leading the charts until a late run by NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman knocked him off the top spot. After qualifying 10th, Rypkema ran with the leaders all night and brought the No. 32 Musco/Welcorp Chevrolet home with a runner-up finish.
“This is huge,” said Rypkema. “We’re just a family-run team. We all have day jobs. We all work our butts off to be able to come and do this, and to be come all the way down to a track that I’d always dreamed of racing at … and to pull off a second-place finish is just incredible.”
Justin Bosnignore, on the other hand, is used to running at the head of the pack. The third-place run by the No. 51 Coastal-Fiber Chevrolet was Bonsignore’s 16th straight top-five finish. But it wasn’t without its bumps.
A potential radiator leak after qualifying had the two-time tour champion standing outside his car while the rest of the field was lined up on pit road.
The leak was eventually diagnosed as nothing and he made the grid as it rolled off, but Bonsignore had to start at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments. He took the lead from Ryan Preece on Lap 111, and again with just under 40 to go but couldn’t fend off Goodale in the end.
“We did a longer run early in practice and we knew we had good speed, with not a lot of fall-off, the car was great to drive,” Bonsignore said. “There were no new-car jitters today. We raced our way up through the field, and had some really good strategy again by Ryan Stone. We just missed it on adjustments during the final stop.
“Starting at the tail and working our way into the top-three is a really good day. If you can‘t win, you have to go out and run in the top three. We were able to get the season off on the right foot.”
Bonsignore turns his attention to Stafford, where he has seven top fives and 13 top 10s in his last 14 races – including a pair of runner-up finishes — but has remarkably gone winless in 38 career starts.
Max McLaughlin jumped in the No. 77 Curb Records Chevrolet and finished fourth, matching his finish at Stafford last year in his first career tour start.
Tommy Catalano finished seventh, his second best tour finish in 39 starts.
After leading the first 110 laps, Mayhew Tools Pole Award winner Ryan Preece finished 12th.
Former tour champion Jamie Tomaino made his first start soince 2019 — and 624th overall — and finished 10th. The 64-year-old from New Jersey now has 249 career top 10s.
Former NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour regular Bobby Measmer Jr. finished 14th. Measmer had one win and nine top fivesin 35 races from 2014-16 on the former southern tour.
Jeff Gallup was the highest finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Race contender in 15th, one spot ahead of rookie Jared Fryar.