A season-long battle between two veteran champions came down to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale and Ron Silk held on to secure his second career Tour championship with a sixth-place finish in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 200 at Martinsville Speedway. NASCAR Cup Series regular Ryan Preece took home the Grandfather clock, winning in a sentimental car he prepared at his home shop.
Silk won his first championship in 2011, and when he joined up with the newly formed Haydt Yannone Racing team to start the 2022 season, another championship was on his mind. The title landed the new team their first owner’s championship in only their sophomore season on the Tour.
Entering Thursday night’s championship battle, Silk held a 13-point lead over three-time (2018, 2020, 2021) Tour champion Justin Bonsignore. Silk needed to finish eighth or better to ensure himself the win, regardless of Bonsignore’s performance, but the path to the championship wasn’t a clean one for Silk.
“It’s been a long season, kinda weird racing tonight knowing the scenario, you gotta finish eighth or better if he wins,” said Silk on knowing what it would take to win the title. “I tried to keep myself in a decent position most of the night, got turned around once on the backstretch but luckily didn’t hit anything. It feels great, lot goes into this and it’s really rewarding to get another one.”
Bonsignore spent most of the night in the top five, while Silk had to battle through a pair of crashes in front of him along the way to only his second top-10 finish, and first since 2009, at Martinsville in seven starts.
On Lap 72, a backstretch incident between Bryan Narducci and Kyle Bonsignore also sent Silk spinning as he and several others came together in an attempt to avoid the mess in front of them. However, he came out of it pointed in the right direction and was able to quickly recover and continue on.
His championship hopes had a second scare on Lap 118 when a pair of cars spun in front of him in Turn 4, but he was able to maneuver around them without incident.
After that, Silk was able to maintain his spot in the top 10, securing his title despite a second-place effort from Bonsignore.
Preece, who drives the No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, decided three weeks ago to work with his father, Jeff, to prepare a car to race at Martinsville. The chassis they raced had special meaning to Preece, as his last Whelen Modified Tour win in it came at Richmond Raceway in 2021 as the No. 6 entry for Eddie Partridge. Partridge passed away hours after celebrating in Victory Lane with Preece that night.
“Most people, when you’re at the Cup level and you come down and win, you probably wouldn’t see so much emotion,” said Preece. “But I put a lot of effort in my racing. I just put a lot into this. It hit me on the stage, the ‘Virginia is for Lovers,’ the last time I won on the Tour was Richmond, and that was the day I lost one of my best friends and my car owner. Which that is the same car that we bought from his wife.”
The win marked the 26th on the Whelen Modified Tour for the 2013 Tour champion, who got his first win in the series at Martinsville in 2008.
Jake Johnson was crowned the Sunoco Rookie of the Year after a strong finish to his season. The driver of the No. 3 had one top five (a second-place finish in his last start of the season at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Oct. 8) and seven top 10s over 13 races contended.
Martinsville’s Playoffs race weekend continues on Saturday, Oct. 28, a 3:30 p.m. ET with the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dead on Tools 250. Then, on Sunday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m., Playoff drivers will put everything on the line in the final race before the Championship in the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Limited tickets remain for Sunday’s showdown, and fans can purchase tickets to the 2023 NASCAR Playoffs Race Weekend via phone at 877-RACE-TIX or online at martinsvillespeedway.com.