“It’s just not right,” said Lia. “We’re racing here and these guys are in the way. NASCAR won’t do anything about it. They need to get on their game with that. It’s not fair. We’re 100 laps in and working a big pack of lapped traffic and they aren’t throwing the [passing] flag. They need to be waving that flag. It’s lapped traffic, they need to pull down and get out of the way.
“Once the leaders go by, resume your race with whoever you are racing. I’m not going to fault the drivers too bad because they are racing for position and the flag’s not flying. I probably wouldn’t move over either if the flag wasn’t flying. Luckily tonight, we got through it.”
The battles with the lapped cars allowed Hirschman to close up late in the race. A restart with three laps to go gave the crowd, and Lia, the idea that anything could happen. But while Lia was on worn tires, so was Hirschman, and a classic battle just wasn’t going to happen.
LIA GETS A LOT DONE IN 50 MILES AT RIVERHEADby Mike Twist
Mod Tour Race Might Not Be a Long One, But it Was Action Packed
Fifty miles really isn’t a very long distance. Some people commute that far to work each and every day, one way. In racing terms, it’s only 1/10th of the distance for the biggest races of the year at Daytona and Indianapolis. Heck, it’s only about eight-percent of the distance of NASCAR’s longest race of the season at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (NC).
But 50 miles was plenty of distance for the action to get heated up at the tight Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. That’s where the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolled into this past weekend and where Donny Lia rolled out of, taking the victory in the track’s August race for the third year in a row.
Not that it was easy for Lia. Local drivers John Fortin and Jimmy Blewett were quick, but trouble found them both early. Pole winner John Blewett, III and strong qualifier Tony Ferrante got knocked out before showing their strength. Eric Beers had one of the quickest cars at Riverhead, but was pedaling just to stay on the lead lap
“I don’t know,” said Lia. “I just get around this place really well. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I have more experience at Stafford than here probably by now. We just keep plugging away and if we have a little bit of luck, we’re right there.
“Great cars, great crews and a little bit of luck is what does it. I just get out front and do what I can do. I try to save that right rear and just ride. You have to stay on the bottom and protect the bottom. Wait for the opening in lapped traffic and go from there.”
There weren’t very many openings in lapped traffic for Lia at Riverhead. He raced wheel-to-wheel and nose-to-tail with several drivers during the night. Ted Christopher, Dave Etheridge and several other guys fought spirited battles with Lia’s #18. But it wasn’t for the lead, it was just to stay on the tail end of the lead lap.
Lia doesn’t feel that as the race leader, he got much help from the flagman in trying to get through lapped traffic.
“There was nothing left on that thing,” said Lia. “We used it up. Thank God for single file restarts, I’ll say that. I don’t know what would have happen on that last one. The car was not good on immediate green laps. It took a long time to come in and I knew Tony would be strong.”
“He still was going good,” said Hirschman of Lia. “We had better tires than the #4 [third-place finisher Jerry Marquis], but the #18 [Lia] was still pretty good. You do the best to manage your tires, but pretty much everybody is out of tires here at the end. We were in a bunch of lapped cars there and there was a chance of something happening, but it would have been hard to pass the #18.”
Behind Lia, Hirschman and Marquis were the cars of Chuck Hossfeld and Beers. Those drivers make up the various positions between second and sixth in the standings and all gained ground on point leader Ted Christopher, who struggled through the night but recovered to post a 10th-place finish.
Speed51.com will have more from Riverhead later this week with our Modified Leftovers.
Lia in victory lane. (Howie Hodge Photo)
after getting caught in a wreck and having a flat tire. Tony Hirschman got to Lia’s bumper late, but didn’t have enough tires to make a winning pass.
Lia meanwhile, didn’t have any of those problems. He just stayed out front, navigated the lapped cars and won.
So what’s Lia’s secret at Riverhead?
Lia made it through 50 miles of Riverhead racing faster than anyone else. (Howie Hodge Photo)
The #00 of John Blewett and the #16 of Mike Stefanik shared the front row (Top - 51 Photo) awhile the #84 of .John Fortin led early. (Bttom - Howie Hodge Photo). Wrecks and flat tires ended the day early for all three drivers.