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.
“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.”
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.
Sad, shocking news: 9-time Nascar Touring series champ and Hall of Fame nominee Mike Stefanik had died in a crash of an ultra-light aircraft near Sterling CT, racedayct .com reports.— Mike Joy (@mikejoy500) September 16, 2019
Horrible news to hear.— Chicagoland Speedway (@ChicagolndSpdwy) September 16, 2019
Mike Stefanik was a true champion. Godspeed, Mike. https://t.co/dmoxpGRLMz
It’s hard to put into words what Mike Stefanik meant to #NASCAR - he was simply one of the best.— Bob Dillner (@bobdillner) September 16, 2019
It’s even harder to put into words what he meant to a skinny 15 year-old kid like me who was just starting out in the biz.
Mike was a racer, but also a great family man & a friend.
Here is some video of Mike Stefanik from over the years while covering him here at @nbc10.— Joe Kayata (@NBC10_Joe) September 16, 2019
He was a NASCAR racing legend and one of the nicest guys I ever met. Thoughts and prayers with his family and friends and wife Julie.
RIP Mike!@NASCAR pic.twitter.com/DBEXASRSiV
We are so sad to hear the tragic news about Mike Stefanik. He was one of the greatest modified drivers in history and a great friend of the speedway. Rest in peace, Mike. We will miss you! Our thoughts and prayers are with the Stefanik family. https://t.co/ElGEJErsjs— New Hampshire Motor Speedway (@NHMS) September 16, 2019
Wow just heard the news about @mikestefanik. Sucks really really sucks. Way to young , too much more to do. One of the best racers ever. God bless Julie , Nichole , Christen and family. See you on the other side bud .... Damn .....— ray evernham (@RayEvernham) September 16, 2019
Man. So sad to hear the news of the passing of Mike Stefanik. I idolized him growing up when my dad was involved with the tour. God speed. My thoughts & prayers are with his family.— Jesse Little (@jesselittle97) September 16, 2019