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Stefanik To Be Honored At Stafford

By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR
May 16, 2008 - 8:04am

As part of a season-long celebration of 60 years of Modified champions, seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titlist Mike Stefanik will be honored at the TSI Harley-Davidson 150 on Friday, May 23 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.

A resident of Coventry, R.I., Stefanik is the winningest driver in the history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and he was also named to the “NASCAR All-Time Modified Top 10 Drivers” list in 2003.

Since the tour’s inception in 1985, Stefanik has experienced unparalleled success. His seven championships are two more than Tony Hirschman’s total and his record 68 wins are 24 more than second-place Reggie Ruggiero’s 44.

“I’m not a big nostalgic person and into statistics and all of that, but someday it’s going to be very exciting for me to realize that [the accomplishments] and enjoy it for what it is,” Stefanik said. “I’ve had a very nice and rewarding career.”

Stefanik captured his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 1989 when he edged Ruggiero by just six points, the second-smallest margin in the division’s history. During the course of the next 12 years Stefanik ran a full schedule nine times and captured the series title in five of those campaigns (1991, '97, '98, 2001, '02). His seventh title came in 2006 when he registered just one victory but finished in the top 10 in 15 of 16 races.

He was also voted the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s Most Popular Driver in 1997, 1998 and 2001.

Although the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is where he has experienced the most success, Stefanik is an accomplished driver in other series as well. He has tallied nine poles, 12 wins and 102 top-10s in 164 career starts in the NASCAR Camping World Series East. Stefanik also made 26 starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series from 1992-2000 and had the same amount of starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series during the 1998-99 seasons. Stefanik earned Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors in 1999 when he finished 13th in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings.

In one of the more dominant two-year runs of any driver in the history of NASCAR racing, Stefanik captured back-to-back titles in both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Camping World Series East in 1997 and 1998. In a Modified, Stefanik compiled 22 wins and 30 top-fives in 55 races en route to his third and fourth championships in that division. During that same time span in the stock cars of the NASCAR Camping World Series East he recorded six wins and 31 top-10s in 39 starts to earn consecutive points titles.

With his seven NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titles and two NASCAR Camping World Series East crowns, Stefanik is currently tied with the late Richie Evans for the most championships in the history of NASCAR racing. Evans earned nine Modified titles, including the inaugural NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 1985.

Stefanik, who will turn 50 on May 20, has no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. He finished fourth in the Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 27 and is just two years removed from his most-recent points title.

“I’m thrilled just to be racing anything, and to be involved with the program that we have is fantastic,” Stefanik said. “I’m just going to keep doing it and enjoying the rest of my time behind the wheel because it’s now more enjoyable than ever.”

NASCAR plans to honor each of its 31 all-time Modified champions throughout the season. The celebration began with the recognition of Frankie Schneider, Donny Lia and Richie Evans at Thompson International Speedway on April 6. Prior to the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 27 NASCAR honored Ernie Gahan and Red Byron.

With two races in the books, Stefanik and the rest of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour field will return to the half-mile oval at Stafford for the first night race of the 2008 season. The one-day show will feature an afternoon practice session and time trials at 6 p.m. For ticket information, please visit Stafford’s official Web site (staffordmotorspeedway.com).