'Sad, shocking news': Motorsport rocked by legend's tragic death

Nick Bromberg - Yahoo Sports

Mike Stefanik, one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, died in a plane crash on Sunday at 61.

Stefanik was killed when a plane crashed near the border of Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The Rhode Island driver won seven Modified Tour championships and last competed in 2014.

“Mike Stefanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport,” NASCAR CEO Jim France said in a statement.

Mike Stefanik in victory lane following his win in the Winston Classic NASCAR Modified Tour event in 1991. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

“His tough, competitive nature and excellence on the race track won him the respect and admiration of fans and competitors alike.

“His career stretched more than 30 years, bridging the generations between Jerry Cook and Richie Evans to our current drivers.

“He recorded achievements in this sport that are likely untouchable, and his legacy as a champion will endure.

“We will keep his wife Julie and his family and friends in our prayers.”

Mike Stefanik at the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2014. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Motorsport world devastated

Stefanik was on the list of nominees for the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

He won his first Modified Tour championship in 1989 and won his ninth in 2006 at the age of 48.

His best run came in 1997 and ‘98 when he won two straight titles and 23 races across both seasons. Those two years started a stretch of four titles in five seasons for Stefanik.

Stefanik won 74 races in 453 career modified starts. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he had 301 top-10 finishes across those 453 starts and also had an insane 223 top-five finishes.

Tributes have poured in from around the motorsport world.