everyone wondered if Flemke would be able to hold him off, or if Lia would have enough time to make the pass.
Lia finally made the outside line work for him as he passed the #10 car on lap 128. He didn’t look back after that, holding the lead until the end and proving that his car was the strongest of the night.
Flemke didn’t take the checkered flag first, but he had nothing but good things to say about Lia and their battle at Waterford.
LIA TOPS FLEMKE IN SPIRITED WATERFORD BATTLE by April Barker
Long Islander Scored First Mod Tour Victory of 2006
It’s been a tough season for Donny Lia that has been long on bad luck and short on the type of finishes that he would like on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. But Sunday night at Waterford Speedbowl, Lia proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with on the Tour, earning his first victory of the 2006 season at Waterford Speedbowl Sunday night.
The victory didn’t come easy either. Lia and Eddie Flemke put on an exciting show, running side-by-side for nearly 100 laps.
Flemke started on the pole and stayed out front for most of the night. He was challenged throughout the race by drivers like Ron Yuhas, Rob Summers and Mike Stefanik, but no one really seemed to be a threat until Lia, who started seventh, got behind him around lap 40.
All eyes were on the #10 of Flemke and #18 of Lia as the young lion Lia raced the veteran Flemke hard and clean, attempting to pass him on the outside nearly every turn of every lap. Fans were on the edge of their seats as
Flemke and Donny Lia (#18) ran nose-to-tail or side-by-side for most of the race. (Top - Howie Hodge Photo, Bottom - Mary Hodge Photo)
Eddie Flemke leads the field to green at Waterford. (Howie Hodge Photo)
“We didn’t lead the most important (lap)…but Donny Lia, I tell you, he’s a good kid. He works just as hard as we do,” said Flemke. “He ran me very clean. I took every inch away from him I could, he took every inch away from me, but it’s just neat to see somebody you like and you race with that you can trust, and it was a mutual trust too. He said ‘Thanks for the lane’ and I said ‘Well I gave you what you gave me,’ so it’s a good night.”
Lia never gave up and was happy to earn the win fairly and cleanly.
“The race was a great race, a lot of fun,” said Lia. “I had a great battle with Eddie, and it’s real nice to know we were able to win it cleanly. We passed him on the outside, and we had worked him over, and worked him over, and worked him over until it finally worked. He was using me up a little bit there, but that’s part of racing, you gotta do what you gotta do to protect it.”
Ironically, Flemke’s bid to protect the lead might have been what cost him the lead.
“Eventually I said, if we don’t run him out of tires, he’s going to run us out of tires, and that’s what happened,”
“I’m just happy to be able to win one this year,” said Lia. “I’m proud of my guys and it was a perfect night. I couldn’t ask for anything more than this. I’m happier for my guys than I am myself. We’ve had so many problems this year that it’s good to know that we can still win on any given week, which I always really knew, but you question it every now and then. Now its gives me a little self-assurance.”
Lia and his team have suffered from everything from engine failures and wrecks to running out of gas en route to many disappointing finishes uncharacteristic of a team that had two wins on the Whelen Modified Tour in 2005. According to Lia, having the help of Bob Mueller from Troyer Racecars this weekend at Waterford gave them the edge that they needed and ultimately set the team up for a shot at the win.
Lia's #18 team gets to celebrate in victory lane for the first time this season. (Mary Hodge Photo)
explained Flemke. “We were trying to wear each other out, and he wore us out first. It’s hard, and not to make any excuses, but when you start on the pole, a lot of people think its easier starting up front because you don’t have to race so hard. But I had Stefanik in the beginning, and then I had the #6 [Yuhas], and then I had the #1 [Summers], so I had to keep them guys behind us and had to run that hard all the time”
After Lia was finally successful in passing Flemke on the outside, Flemke knew that his only chance to get the lead back would probably come on a restart.
“I was kind of conserving a little at that point because, you never know, at a lot of short tracks, you could have a green-white-checkered or something like that, and I wanted to save a little bit because we were better than Donny on restarts,” said Flemke. “We were better the first couple laps, and then he would be better in the later run. So we tried it, and we didn’t beat him. He did a great job. I am absolutely thrilled and proud of that boy. You don’t mind getting beat that way…He out-raced us tonight, and I have no problem saying that.”
Lia was proud of and happy for his team, especially after a season that has been filled with a lot of bad luck.
“Bob made a great call, and I’ve got to thank him for helping out this weekend, it made all the difference,” said Lia. “We’ve been close every week, but this week we were just right on, and Bob had a lot to do with that. My guys set the car up, I set the car up, we do this all ourselves. Bob just came in and looked over what we were running and said ‘Hey this is what I would go with’ and it was a little different than what we had and he made a couple of great calls. But as a whole this team is really strong right now and we learned a lot and now it’s paying off here for once. Thanks to all the guys, they just did a great job.”
Lia and his team will head to the World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson International Speedway this weekend with a higher sense of self-confidence and the momentum they have been looking for all season.