NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – Veteran Ron Silk endured the entire 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season without visiting Victory Lane.
It took Silk just one race in 2023 to end its dry spell as he held off Justin Bonsignore on Saturday night in a thrilling late-race battle to reclaim New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau 200 at New Smyrna Speedway.
Silk knew that the Haydt Yannone Racing-prepared cars were always capable of bringing home the checkered flags, which is why he felt a strong sense of catharsis to finally take his first win with the organisation.
“It’s always good to win,” Silk said. “I had a great car last season and a lot of chances to win, but I couldn’t go over the limit. Getting it over with in the first race is nice. This is a big pressure for us.
The last time Silk visited Victory Lane was at Oswego Speedway in 2021. No one could touch Silk in Kevin Stuart’s Modified that night, as he led a career-high 111 laps before defeating Matt Hirschman by over two seconds.
RELATED: Full results from New Smyrna Speedway
Saturday’s triumph wasn’t going to be so easy for Silk, who needed a late caution to work his way into first place ahead of Bonsignore, Hirschman and the evening’s dominant car in six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby .
Bonsignore put pressure on Silk during the closing laps before making an aggressive dive in Turn 1 which gave him his first lead of the night. Silk finally returned the favor a couple of rounds later with a similar move, which gave him enough cushion to keep Bonsignore at bay.
Although disappointed with his run for second place, Bonsignore was pleased with a strong performance after mechanical failure sidelined him at New Smyrna last season after just 31 laps. He also praised Silk for racing him aggressively but cleanly to settle the season opener.
“We wanted to win, but this has been a good start to the year compared to what happened last year,” said Bonsignore. “We made a good adjustment in that last pit stop and freed up the car a bit. If we took the lead, I felt we could hold [Silk] out, but I couldn’t find enough space to stop him from doing the same banzai move on me.
“As soon as you put the bumper on someone else, it opens the door for them to do it on you again, and that’s just a good hard ride.”
Bonsignore nearly suffered a similar fate on his recent New Smyrna outing. With 32 laps to go, a bad turn 1 entry by Bonsignore while battling Silk spun him from Coby, triggering a multi-car pile-up that left Bonsignore mostly unscathed and with solid track position.
Now that New Smyrna is behind him, Bonsignore is eager to defend his win at Richmond Raceway last year as he looks to carry Saturday’s momentum to his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title.
“We were quite frustrated about leaving [New Smyrna] last year he died last,’ said Bonsignore. “It’s much easier to start the season on good footing. This has been a solid run for second place and it makes things easier as we chase for points this year. We’ll take this break before Richmond [Raceway] and try to improve”.
Silk also hopes to be able to add a second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship to his résumé at the end of the year, but plans to keep his eye on the prestigious 1948 Cup for now.
Inspired by the trophy Red Byron received when he won the very first NASCAR race at Daytona Beach, the 1948 Cup was a tremendous reward for Silk, whose NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour career dates back to 2003.
Silk has always had a fond appreciation for modified racing which includes the prestigious World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in New Smyrna. He is confident his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour story will include many more celebrations long after New Smyrna on Saturday.
“It’s really great for our team to get this win,” Silk said. “This is one of my favorite tracks and I love Speedweeks. To get NASCAR’s Ben Kennedy to come out and introduce us [the 1948 Cup] with all the history and nostalgia that goes with it it’s great.
Hirschman, who was involved in an early collision with Tyler Rypkema, overcame early adversity to salvage a third-place finish, with Anthony Sesely and Coby rounding out the top five.
Jake Johnson, Dave Sapienza, Austin Beers, Anthony Nocella and Tommy Catalano were the rest of the top 10 finishers.
A replay of New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau 200 can be seen on CNBC on Saturday, February 19 at 10 a.m. ET.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will shut down for seven weeks before returning to action at Richmond Raceway on March 31 at 6:30pm ET. The race will be broadcast live on FloRacing.