It was one of those instances where the race more than lived up to the hype.
Billed as the longest race in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour history and offering the biggest purse, held on the biggest stage for Modifieds, the inaugural Musket 250 in September of 2018 had everybody talking heading into the weekend.
The racing certainly delivered: 30 lead changes and just five cautions, as the Whelen Modified Tour drivers skillfully sliced and diced around and around the 1.058-mile oval.
Justin Bonsignore led nine times for a race-high 77 laps and was on point heading into Turn 3 on the white flag lap. But then he went to block Ryan Preece as they entered the turn, the two wound up locked together and sliding into the wall. That opened the door for third-place Patrick Emerling.
RACING-REFERENCE: Musket 250 Race Results
But Chase Dowling was more ambitious, diving under Emerling, and emerging out of Turn 4 with the lead. Dowling crossed the finish line ahead of Emerling by 0.056 seconds.
“It‘s in me, it just doesn‘t really sink in yet,” said Dowling in Victory Lane. “I‘m through the roof. It was a pretty crazy race overall. I think it was just one of those things where I was waiting for it to happen. It finally happened.”
It was the first career Whelen Modified Tour win for the 20-year-old Dowling, in his 55th career start. It also allowed Dowling to narrow Bonsignore‘s points lead to 74 with two races remaining, after Bonsignore was credited with a seventh-place finish at New Hampshire.
Bonsignore finished 12th the following race at Connecticut‘s Stafford Motor Speedway, but it was enough for the 30-year-old from Holtsville, New York, to lock up his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship. He followed up with six wins in 2019 and finished second in the title race.
It hasn‘t been as smooth sailing for Dowling.
The Roxbury, Connecticut, parted ways though with Rob Fuller‘s No. 15 team after 2018. Dowling started 2019 in the No. 99 S and S Pontiac for Jamie and Cheryl Tomaino, leading 74 laps in the Spring Sizzler at Stafford before mechanical issues took him out of contention. He ran six races for the Tomainos, and three in the No. 82 for Danny Watts Jr.
Dowling announced in January 2020 he was running the full Whelen Modified Tour season for Watts, in addition returning full time to the SK Modified Division at Stafford.