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Although Saturday’s Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200 at Riverhead Raceway yielded a first-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winner, the driver who parked his car in Victory Lane had plenty of experience getting there.
Kyle Soper, who has won three track championships at Riverhead during his career, finally broke through for his first victory after 15 starts and simultaneously broke a 27-year drought for Riverhead regulars in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competition at the facility.
Soper’s path to Victory Lane on Saturday was far from an easy one, as he had to fend off three-time Tour champion Justin Bonsignore, who was searching for his ninth Tour win in Riverhead, New York.
Fortunes ended up favoring the local hero in Soper, who joined Mike Christoper Jr. as the only other driver to get his first Tour win this season.
Below are the key takeaways from Saturday’s Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200 at Riverhead Raceway
Kyle Soper wins one for the Riverhead regulars
Every NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead features plenty of representation from the local contingent of drivers.
Along with Soper, other track champions like Tom Rogers Jr., Howie Brode, Shawn Solomito and John Fortin have entered numerous Whelen Modified Tour-sanctioned races at Riverhead during their careers, but all of their attempts ultimately came up short of a trip to Victory Lane prior to Saturday.
The most recent Riverhead regular to win a Tour event at the track was Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr. in 1995, who held off legend Reggie Ruggiero for what proved to be his only Tour victory.
With so many close calls in the following years, it was only a matter of time before one of the current Riverhead regulars finally earned the distinction of winning a Tour race at their home track.
That honor was ultimately bestowed upon Soper, who was driving a car fielded by a five-time Riverhead track champion Wayne Anderson.
Every time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolls into Riverhead Raceway it is usually noted along the way the last time a track regular won a WMT event was back in 1995. Saturday night Kyle Soper, the reining champion at the quarter mile bullring scored one for the home team. pic.twitter.com/I8cdR1HNfO
— Riverhead Raceway (@RiverheadRacewy) June 27, 2022
Still maintaining a small points lead in the weekly Modified standings at Riverhead, Soper intends to build off the momentum from Saturday so he can add another track title to his resume.
He also hopes to start a new trend of success for Riverhead regulars with the next Whelen Modified Tour race at the track just two months away.
Justin Bonsignore inches closer to the championship fight
The comeback trail for Justin Bonsignore is officially on.
After an inconsistent start that saw him record two finishes outside the top-20, Bonsignore has returned to his typical championship form with two straight finishes inside the top-three, including a win at New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway.
Justin Bonsignore came so close to his second consecutive Whelen Modified Tour win.
— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) June 26, 2022
Bonsignore’s past success at Riverhead put him in a position to get his second consecutive victory on Saturday and third of the 2022 season. He led 47 laps, but could not fend off Soper, who ended up passing Bonsignore for the win with 10 laps remaining.
Despite coming up short of the win, Bonsignore’s recent string of success has placed him fifth in the Tour standings, 33 points behind leader Ron Silk.
Although Bonsignore still has a significant amount of ground to cover, the odds are gradually shifting in the three-time champion’s favor as the Tour embarks on the second half of the 2022 schedule.
Timmy Solomito’s dry streak continues
It has been nearly five years since the last time Timmy Solomito won a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race.
That streak came close to ending in Saturday’s Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200, as Solomito led a race-high 114 laps before the handling went away on his No. 66 Natural Designs/Highmark Modified, forcing him to settle for an eighth-place finish.
Once one of the most consistent drivers in the series, Solomito enjoyed a dominant stretch driving for Eric Sanderson from 2016-’17, winning nine races during that timeframe and finishing inside the top-three in points during both seasons.
Unfortunately for Solomito, he has not been able to replicate that success in the following years. His 131 laps led in both Riverhead races this year have been the most for Solomito in a single year since 2017 when he led 410.
Now driving for his brother Jerry on a part-time basis, Solomito showed on Saturday that he is still capable of winning Tour events, but the opportunity to end his long dry spell will have to wait for another weekend.
Points leader Ron Silk continued his stellar season at Riverhead Raceway on Saturday with his fourth top-five finish of the year. The 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion has yet to finish outside the top-10 in 2022.
Kyle Soper was not the only Riverhead regular to shine on Saturday. Dylan Slepian posted the fastest time in practice on Saturday and ended up recording his second top-five finish of the year, both of which have come at Riverhead.
An impressive rookie season continued for Austin Beers in Saturday’s Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200. Along with getting his third top-10 finish of the year, Beers has also completed all but three laps so far this year.
Saturday was not the best evening for a handful of series veterans. Six-time Tour champion Doug Coby just barely held onto a top-10 finish after fading late, while an early accident for two-time champion Donny Lia relegated him to 21st, 35 laps behind the leader.