“We were better on the restarts,” said Christopher. “I’d stay close, but that was about it. Then he’d start checking out. We were just too tight in the middle and up off and that’s where he was good. We were good right on the restarts, but after that it kept getting tighter and tighter. By that time, he was gone.”
LIA DONNY-NATES MOD TOUR RACE AT WATERFORDby Mike Twist
Long Islander Leads Every Lap and Holds Off TC to Win
Donny Lia started out front and led every single lap in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Waterford Speedbowl on the way to the victory. But the 150 lapper was more than just a race for second-place.
“It was a race for second, third and fourth,” observed fourth-place finisher Jerry Marquis. “That’s where it was all happening.”
Actually, the race wasn’t as easy as it looked for Lia. The young driver knew that he had a great car, but was on pins and needles for much of the night.
“Were they racing for second? I guess that they were because I won,” said Lia. “But you never know with these tires. They have been great lately, but in the past they could be great one lap and junk the next one. So with 25 or 30 laps to go, I was worried that I’d lose the right rear and we’d be done. I never got a confident feeling until the end. We had a good lead, but you never know.”
Lia qualified third for the race and redrew the number one before the line-up was set. Before the race, a well-wisher joked that all he had to do in the next 150 laps was to not let anyone pass him. That’s exactly what Lia did.
“If we could have gotten by Ted, who knows?,” said Beers who finished third behind Christopher. “He was holding us up pretty good. If we could have gotten by him, we could have probably stayed on Donny’s bumper at least. I don’t know if we could have passed him, but we could have stayed with him.
“We ran hard trying to get past Ted and just got the car so loose that I could barely drive it. I’d let the right rear cool down and then go right back after him. You would see me get all over him, then back down and try it again.”
The only way that it looked possible to take Lia on hand-to-hand was on a restart, but even that didn’t look very likely to happen.
“I messed up on two restarts,” said Beers. “I didn’t fill a hole and let some cars down there. I made up for it by passing a few on the outside on the next restarts. I made life tough for myself.”
Meanwhile, Marquis was using the laps after the restarts to try and catch those ahead of him.
“On the restarts, everyone would separate a little bit and then we would start reeling them in,” said Marquis.
The tight racing behind Lia was fine with him.
“We were able to stay out front and control the race at our own pace,” said Lia.
At the end, Lia was in his own zip code while Christopher, Beers, Marquis and Whitt were nose-to-tail for the rest of the top five. Hirschman was in the middle of that logjam as well until one lap to go, when he got spun in turn three and dropped out of the top 10.
The victory was Lia’s first on the Modified Tour this season and moves him into the third position of the point standings. It also ends a streak of tough Tour luck dating back to last season that included broken wheel hubs, wrecks and anything else under the sun for the Long Island driver.
Lia runs to the inside of Christopher's #13 on a restart. It's the cloest that TC got to the lead all night long. (Mary Hodge Photo)
Lia pulled away from the field on every single restart. Ted Christopher finished second and ran in that position for most of the second half of the event. Close behind him were a cast of characters which included Eric Beers, Marquis, Tony Hirschman and Steve Whitt. Christopher had the best track position of this bunch, but not necessarily the best racecar.
“Teddy was holding the whole pack up,” said Hirschman. “I know that he was holding Eric and me up at least.”
“We’ll take a second place,” said Christopher.
But the race wasn’t over when the checkered flag flew. An extended post race technical net drew in the tops finishers. When it was over, nobody could beat Lia on the track or in the tech line either. A team of NASCAR officials looked over Lia’s car. They checked the wiring, they checked the engine compartment, they even looked under his seat but the Lia #18 was judged to be 100% legit.
“They can look all that they want to,” said Lia in the tech area. “It’s legal and they aren’t going to find anything wrong. This only goes to show that.”
Lia in victory lane. (51 Photo)
Because of this luck, Lia was never able to get too comfortable during the race.
“You never think that you have anything in the bag,” said Lia. “Especially me with my luck. Down in Florida, we had two races in the bag when bad luck happened. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
And the way that it went at Waterford meant that the real race was for the runner-up spot.
NASCAR officials look closely over the #18 car after the race. They didn't find anything unusual. (51 Photo)
Speed51.com will have more from the race later this week with Modified leftovers and stories of how two young drivers followed in their fathers’ footsteps at Waterford. Stay tuned.