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NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

In Memoriam: Mike Stefanik leaves behind storied legacy

Getty Images for NASCAR

The NASCAR Modified community lost another one of its most historic drivers on Sunday.

Nearly two years to the date that fellow champion Ted Christopher passed, Mike Stefanik died in a plane crash in Connecticut. Stefanik was 61.

The nine-time NASCAR champion, and seven-time Whelen Modified Tour champion, did it all in New England. He drove just about every car he could in his career — spanning from modifieds, to Pro Stocks, to indoor TQ Midgets. And he also won in nearly everything he drove.

On the Whelen Modified Tour, Stefanik was the all-time wins leader, with 74 career victories. He had the most poles in series history, including a year where he scored seven top qualifying spots in 1998. He finished inside the top five over 200 times, inside the top 10 more than 300 times, and led more than 9,000 laps.

The definition of dominance.

In the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Stefanik won 12 times over his 164-race career at a variety of different tracks — spanning from the road course of Lime Rock Park to the one-mile ‘Magic Mile’ of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Outside of his wins, he earned two consecutive championships in 1997 and 1998 — two years where he also won the Whelen Modified Tour crown.

Stefanik dipped into the national series level, running 26 races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and 25 in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series. In his 1999 Rookie of the Year season in the Trucks, Stefanik earned a best finish of second in the season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He won 32 times at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, capturing victories in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Pro Stock divisions. He currently sits 21st on Thompson’s all-time wins list.

Two years ago today, we lost T.C. in a plane crash. Yesterday, we lost Mike Stefanik in a plane crash. Two of the most…

Posted by Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Monday, September 16, 2019

At Stafford Motor Speedway, Stefanik was also successful in Whelen Modified Tour action, scoring 20 victories across 19 years of competition, including multiple wins in the annual NAPA Spring Sizzler. Including his additional victories at the track, Stefanik is 13th on their all-time wins list, with 34 checkered flags. He was also a two-time champion at the Connecticut oval — once in the Sportsman division, and once in Modifieds.

1979 – Just 1 season after notching his first Stafford win, Stefanik goes on to win the 1979 Stafford Sportsman track…

Posted by Stafford Motor Speedway on Monday, September 16, 2019

His final win in his Whelen Modified Tour career will go down as his first and only triumph at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2013, his final full-time season.

“Big, big win… Bristol? Are you kidding me? Everyone knows Bristol Motor Speedway,” he said just minutes after climbing from his car that day.

Former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., whose dad raced against Stefanik in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, shared words Sunday night after winning the opener of the NASCAR Playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Just a hero in the northeast and a hero of mine growing up as a kid,” Truex Jr. said. “What a legend. He will be remembered for a long time because he was a pretty awesome guy.”

In 2009, Stefanik took the hometown win in Providence, Rhode Island, when TQ Midgets invaded the Dunkin Donuts Center. Stefanik would capture the “Coffee Cup” trophy, defending home turf against some of the best indoor midget drivers in the northeast.

Statement from Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on the Passing of Mike Stefanik"Mike Stefanik competed at Thompson…

Posted by Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Sunday, September 15, 2019

Locally, Rhode Island race fans and media alike are remembering Stefanik as a fierce competitor on the track that had a candid personality in the paddock area. Outside of his racing career, Stefanik found a knack for flying.

Back in 2017, Stefanik took a longtime friend of his, and a World War II veteran, to the air.

On all social media platforms, the entire NASCAR community shared their thoughts on the passing of one of the greatest modified drivers ever.

Posted by Pitkat A Woody on Monday, September 16, 2019

Hard to put into words what Mike Stefanik meant to our racing community and to me personally from the time I was in…

Posted by Doug Coby on Sunday, September 15, 2019

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