LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Seven-time NASCAR Modified champion Mike Stefanik perished in a plane crash Sunday in Sterling, Connecticut. He was 61.
According to reports, Stefanik was piloting a single-engine, single-seater Aero Ultra-Light aircraft. Stefanik had taken off from RICONN Airport along the Rhode Island border and crashed in a wooded area located near the airport.
During his career, Stefanik won 74 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races in 453 starts, as well as seven championships between 1989 and 2006. He was also a two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, which was known as the NASCAR Busch North Series during his tenure.
Additionally, Stefanik made select appearances in NASCAR’s top three national divisions competing in 52 races between the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series respectively.
His best effort was second in the season-opener in the Truck Series in 1999, the same season he won Rookie of the Year honors.
In 1997-98, Stefanik won back-to-back championships in the modified and K&N East Series.
“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 Chairman and 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.”
Stefanik was first nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015. He told RaceDayCt.com that the nomination “humbled” him. “I’m not in, but it’s quite an honor,” Stefanik told RaceDayCt.com.
“I never really thought much about it. I didn’t get into racing to get into a Hall of Fame. But it’s humbling for sure.”