Donny Lia hasn't had the Speedweeks he had hoped for. Fuel issues knocked him out one night. A transmission broke another night. And yet another night, a oil line broke and took away a chance at victory.
But time and time again, Donny and his team brushed off the problems and came back the next day determined to win.
That determination paid off as Lia took the win in the biggest race of Speedweeks for the Modifieds, the Richie Evans Memorial 100.
“I’m happy,” said a smiling Lia after the win. “It feels really good. The guys worked their asses off. We kept making head way and getting chopped at the knees. It really messes with your mind. We had a meeting in here after the final blow, which was the broken oil line the other night, and the guys all wanted to do the same
thing I wanted to do, which was come out here the next morning, work on the car, get it right and kick these guys’ asses.
“They always have those intentions and kept working hard. That is who I give all of the credit too. They could have thrown in the towel. I never knew how hard it is when you keep having problems. You either want it or don’t want it, bottom line. If you want it, you are not going to stop. They all want it bad and that is cool.”
Lia was one of the fastest cars in the field but had to get by Kevin Goodale, who finished an impressive second, in the closing laps to get the win.
“I kind of sent it in there on him and made a little contact,” said Lia. “But hey, that is racing.”
Goodale had no qualms about Lia's bold move to get the lead heading into turn one.
“It was 10 to go and I can’t believe we were winning the thing," said Goodale. “Then, Donny got me. I wasn’t sleeping. He just threw it in there going into turn one. He didn’t wreck us. He threw it in there. He didn’t wreck me,
Donny Lia finally broke through and got into Victory Lane on the biggest night of Speedweeks.
but I could have done the same thing. It was good racing. It just sucks getting second.
“I know it isn’t bad. It just sucks to come back and run second after winning. Running with Donny was fun. I I had something for him at the end and could have got him on that restart. I should have left some room to be able to make a move on him. I’m not used to running up front so much.
And Goodale's recent up-front racing has turned the heads of many in the Mod world, including the race winner.
“Goodale was real good," said Lia. “For putting one tire on and doing what he did, he’s come a long way in about a year. You can see, he is a smart kid. He will race you. I’m glad he is running as good as he is. It's kind of cool that we were one and two and both from Long Island. Now we can go run like this on the Tour and have kind of a Long Island gang.”
For Lia, after a problem filled week at Smyrna, finally getting a win was just what he needed. But to win the Richie Evans Memorial holds a much more special meaning for any Modified driver, even a young gun like Lia. And starting on the pole Lia was right behind Richie Evan's #61 Coupe that paced the field prior to the start.
A Richie Evans' car paced the field before Friday night's race.
“Richie Evans was the best modified driver ever,” said Lia. “I’ve won some pretty cool races. The North-South Shootout and this race. But this one is real cool.
“Before the race I was looking around. I moved up behind it (the Evans coupe). I wanted to get on its bumper to see what it was like to race one of those old coupes. I heard them talking before the race about Richie Evans when I was sitting there on the grid.
“Mod racing is very historic. Here I am, son of a car dealer and I’m racing three or four years and here I am winning a race named after the greatest driver ever. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’ve paid my dues because
of the history that goes along with modified racing. But, it feels awesome. I know what the guy means to modified racing. It is an honor.”
NO PIT = ALMOST FOR CHUCKIE
Chuck Hossfeld led some laps and it looked for a while that he would be the Richie Evans Memorial 100 champ. But a gamble to stay out and not pit eventually led to Goodale and Lia sneaking by, leaving “Hoss” with a third place finish.
“My spotter did a hell of a job,” said Hossfeld. “He (Goodale) was making run on me off of two. I was trying to protect he bottom. When we got a restart, it took a while ”
for my right front to start working, so he was able to sneak by me with Donny. Those restarts with old tires didn’t help us. If it would have went green, I think we might have had something for them.
FLEMKE GETS IT ON WITH LIA AND LOSES
Eddie Flemke arguably had the fastest car all night long at Smyrna on Friday night. And he charged through the field making contact with several cars he passed. Flemke got into Kevin Goodale early in the race sending both drivers spinning.
Later in the race, Flemke battled Donny Lia, and came out on the losing end. After Flemke's #79 got around Lia with a tap, Lia rubbed with Flemke to get back by him in turn one and two. Then in the next corner Flemke retaliated with a bump which moved Lia up about a groove and a half. Lia didn't like the contact and came back down into Flemke. The final contact resulted in a spin for Flemke, who was then hit hard by Justin McKenney.
“I just tried to make a run on Eric on the outside and Donny filled the whole and just banged me up the race track,” said Flemke. “Down in the corner, I just figured when in Rome, do what the romans do. It is just to bad we got together. Donny and I are good friends. I know he’ll understand it. It was just a little too hard of a contact. I lost. It happens when cooler heads prevail and hotter heads get wrecked.”
There was some serious contact between Donny Lia and Eddie Flemke on Friday night.
“I know he is back there,” said Lia, “because I feel him every corner. When he is behind you, you just have to expect that. He just came out of no where. He sailed it in there and just used me up. That didn’t sit right with me. He made it a point to get me up more than a groove higher than I had to be. I just gathered him up and started following him, because he was dive bombing everyone. He got up high and I just took the opportunity to flush him out. So I filled the hole. He came off of two and and drove across the front end of my car. I put my right front in between his left front and his nerf bar. We are lucky we didn’t jump wheels and both wreck. Then he goes into the corner and center punches me. That
was unnecessary. I just wanted to get him off of me, so I got him off me. I had to draw the line and get him away.
“I have no hard feelings with him. He is a nice guy. He just needed to be a little smarter on the track.“
Flemke added, “I probably could have calmed down and just drove back by him and I’ld probably be leading this thing by now. That’s ok. I get paid to win and my car owner is happy right now. I’d rather be out there racing though.
Sometimes the winner is watching the race finish. We had the best car, but we don’t have the trophy. I guess we’ll have to come back next year.”
PASTERYAK'S STANDS UP TO TC
Ted Christopher was on a tear at the end of the race. While making his charge through the field, TC got into Charlie Pasteryak's #5. Pasteryak, who is known as one of the cleanest drivers on the NASCAR Mod Tour, didn't appreciate the contact and paid Christopher back.
“I moved him up,” said Christopher, “but I left him 10 car lengths. I guess he wanted some retaliation. It would have been nice if he just moved me and let me go racing again instead of spinning me out. I don’t know. I guess the next time I’ll just spin him out.”
“We wrecked, except I won this time,” said Pasteryak after his 4th place run. “He (TC) got up behind me. I wasn’t holding him up. He was bound and determined to go to the front. He got up beside me and we raced a couple of laps. I wasn’t going to give it to him. We went down into turn one, he crowded me down and got into the right front and got sideways. At that point, it was he or me. So it was better him spinning than me. He would have done the same thing to me.”
Charlie Pasteryak (#5) hits and spins Ted Christopher (#00).
Christopher had his worst night at Speedweeks. He didn't run the Super Late Model race after a crash the previous night, and in the Mod race finished 8th.
“We just had a cluster on the pits stops. You know, you gotta have one bad night sometime. We didn’t want to. At that point, if we would have been able to get past Charlie, we could have had a top-three car. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. I don’t know if we would have a shot at them but you can never really say. There are a lot of possibilities. Donny was only running 18 flats at the end.”
BEERS GETS CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE
Eric Beers had some big damage to the rear of his car after Friday night.
Eric Beers was riding around in the top-five most of the night. After his pit stop, the #9 was coming through the field but ended up getting knocked around like a pinball. Beers finished ninth with a torn up race car.
“We were coming fast back to the front. A couple of guys checked up and teddy got into us and moved us out of the way. He ended up between me and the 70. Then on the restart, teddy got on top of the 70 and I checked up and the 66 slammed into us and cleaned off the back end. It was just all bad from there. Tomorrow we will just finish it up.”
OTHER MOD NOTES....
Zach Sylvester fell victim to a bump by Ted Christopher and his night got worse after that. Sylvester finished 14th
Lia leads Kevin Goodale (#58) and Chuck Hossfeld
Andy Seuss had another steady run after his best performance on Thursday. The New Hampshire driver also escaped some pretty wild moments to get 6th in the final tally.
Riverhead Raceway regular, Johnny Denniston, had one of his best runs during Speedweeks. Denniston, who admits his car is underpowered and not in the ballpark compared to much of the field, finished 11th.
Ted Christopher goes for his fifth win in the final night of racing at Smyrna on Saturday night. TC leads the points going into the final night's 25-lap feature.
Ted Christopher (#00) gets into the back of Andy Seuss (#70) on Friday night.
Curtis Truex survived, even with a pretty crushed up front bumper to get a 5th place finish.