Bonsignore, Lia Lead Long Island Contingent

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standouts Justin Bonsignore and Donny Lia will lead a strong contingent of drivers from the New York hotbed of Modified racing – Long Island – for the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach, Feb. 18-19 at Daytona International Speedway.

Eight of the 34 drivers entered so far come from Long Island for the event that will feature the NASCAR Whelen Modified and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tours compete in combination on a .4-mile short track on the backstretch at Daytona.

The trek from the snow-covered northeast will be led by Bonsignore, from Holtsville, and Lia, who hails from Jericho. The pair earned secured starting positions for the inaugural short-track showcase by virtue of their wins during the 2012 season, which both came at Thompson International Speedway in Connecticut.

Drivers that won Whelen Modified races or captured the championship during this past season are locked in to the UNOH Battle At The Beach Modified main event. All others will have to qualifying their way into the feature through heat races.

“Right from the start when they announced last year that we were going to have this event, we were really excited,” Bonsignore said of his No. 51 M3 Technology Chevrolet team. “Definitely getting locked in to the event put the icing on the cake.

“We were really excited to go even when we thought we would have to race our way into the event, but getting locked in really finalized all of our plans and we’ve been working away to get everything ready to go down there.”

Bonsignore, the Whelen Modified Tour’s 2010 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, took the checkered flag at Thompson on Sept. 9 in the Town Fair Tire Northern 75. It was the second career tour win for the third-year driver.

Lia, a two-time Whelen Modified Tour champion, earned his secured starting spot in Daytona with his 16th career victory in the Budweiser King of Beers 150 on Aug. 9 at Thompson.

This will be the second Speedweeks appearance for Lia, who competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona in 2010.

While Lia has raced Daytona on the big track, this will be his first Modified event at the “World Center of Racing” with the No. 4 Mystic Missile Racing Dodge, and it will be Bonsignore’s first experience of any kind on the hallowed grounds.

“Anytime you get to race in front of the top three series – to perform in front of all of those guys – it’s pretty special,” Bonsignore said of the opportunity. “It’s going to be an exciting race, and to have the TV coverage and all of the media outlets there, it’s going to be a big deal.”

Other Long Islanders on the pre-entry list include: J.R. Bertuccio Jr. (Centereach), Dave Brigati (Calverton), Johnny Bush (Huntington Station), Eric Goodale (Riverhead), Ken Heagy (Calverton) and Steve Park (East Northport). TS Haulers Racing, which fields cars for 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Ron Silk, is also Long Island-based.

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