Story By: BRANDON WHITE / NASCAR – RIVERHEAD, NY – In nearly two decades of competition with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Riverhead Raceway, Ron Silk had never taken home a checkered flag from the Long Island quarter-mile.
The current series points leader finally added that milestone to his resume Saturday evening with a dominant victory in the Miller Lite Salutes Mike Ewanitsko 200, which also served as his second victory of the 2023 season.
Silk had come close to Victory Lane many times at Riverhead, including the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s most recent outing there in May, which is why he was relieved to put together a full race at a track that has meant so much to him during his career.
“I felt like we had the car to beat [at Riverhead] last time, but I got beat on those last restarts” Silk said. “Luckily, we didn’t have to face that again and my guys brought a great car. This is Eddie Partridge’s track and obviously we all wish he was still around, so it’s really cool to [win here].”
A staple of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for many years, Partridge balanced out being a team owner in the series with overseeing the day-to-day operations at Riverhead up until his sudden passing on Sept. 10, 2021. Silk drove for Partridge when he won his lone NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2011, making Saturday’s victory that much more special.
Since last year, Silk has never finished a Riverhead race worse than third, but was not able to claim that elusive win until Saturday evening.
Silk patiently bided his time behind polesitter Austin Beers before a mid-race restart provided him the perfect opportunity to take control and lead the entire second half of Saturday’s feature.
The only driver who could keep pace with Silk was Justin Bonsignore, who wrestled the lead away from Silk in May to earn his 10th NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Riverhead. A win on Saturday would have tied Bonsignore with his childhood hero Ewanitsko for most Tour victories at Riverhead with 11.
A different tire compound and the nighttime conditions made it difficult for Bonsignore to fight his way through the field. He managed to get to Silk’s rear bumper, but gradually lost ground as the laps clicked off.
“We were able to run a harder pace than we had in the past,” Bonsignore said. “I tried the bottom groove at around Lap 130 and I lost about six car-lengths. You’re just glued to the top, which is unfortunate. I would have loved to win with Mike [Ewanitsko] here tonight and I appreciate [Riverhead] for everything they did to honor Mike. He’s well deserving of it.”
Bonsignore commended Silk and his team for the work they put in to make his silver No. 16 so efficient in both trips to Riverhead this season, adding that Silk would have won in May if not for a late caution.
Bonsignore will have one more opportunity to match Ewanitsko’s win record at Riverhead this year in September, but he knows Silk will be the one to beat if he carries over the speed from the first two Riverhead events.
“Ron has been the best car here both times so far,” Bonsignore said. “We snuck away with one last time and even if there was a late caution, I don’t think I could have done anything with him. Maybe if we had track position, he might have had a tough time getting by us.”
Silk enjoyed the chance to celebrate with Ewanitsko in Victory Lane, who he considers to be one of the best to ever make a lap around Riverhead.
While Silk does not envision beating Ewanitsko’s Riverhead win record, he knows another championship is feasible with Haydt Yannone Racing and is confident he can further extend his advantage over Bonsignore during the summer.
“I’m so lucky to have such great owners,” Silk said. “I also lucked out to have a great crew chief like Phil Moran. These guys spend a lot of time on these cars and we work on them a lot together, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Doug Coby finished third in Saturday’s Miller Lite Salutes Mike Ewanitsko 200, where he was followed by Kyle Bonsignore and Riverhead regular Jack Handley Jr. Rounding out the top-10 were Roger Turbush, Tyler Rypkema, John Beatty Jr., Timmy Solomito and Beers.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action on July 8 for the Jersey Shore 150 at Wall Stadium. The green flag will fly at 8 p.m. ET