Lia Clinches Championship at Stafford's Fall Final  by Amie Campbell
Defending Champ Stefanik Grabs First Win of Season
“Don’t write about me,” pleaded Lia to the media gathered around him. 

Lia wanted us to talk about what Bob and Joan Garbarino and the rest of the Mystic Missle team has accomplished this year.  He wanted us to talk about how Bob Garbarino decided to put a driver in his car that a few years ago he didn’t even want to be near on the track.

“I’d like to thank him for the opportunity to drive his race car,” said the humbled Lia.  “It took a little convincing I think to get him to [put Lia in the car].  I think it took him a little while to decide I was the one he wanted in the car.  I remember he said to me on the phone, ‘There was a time I didn’t even want my race car around you.’ because I was a little wild.  And now, we just won a Championship together.”

Indeed, theirs is a story that couldn’t have been scripted better.  The talented but misunderstood driver joined together with the car owner who despite a storied history on the Whelen Modified Tour had never won a championship.  Theirs is a story about chemistry, about a team that thumbed its collective nose at the concept of point racing.
The #4 team appears as champions for the first time.  (Jim DuPont Photo)
There was a new NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion crowned at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT), but if it were up to Donny Lia, the story would be about his car owner, Bob Garbarino. 
“We go out there and race to win,” explained Lia. “Race and worry about winning races.  The points would take care of themselves.  And it did.  That’s how it all worked out – the points did take care of themselves.”

They story on this Sunday wasn’t just about the new champion, however.  It was also the story of the defending champion picking up his first win of the season and the collective strong runs of some of the more veteran drivers on the Modified Tour.

Mike Stefanik lead the final 59 laps and held off a hard charging Tony Hirschman Jr and equally hard charging Ted Christopher to pick up his first win since last year’s season opening Icebreaker.

During the pit party that preceded Sunday’s race, a fan approached the eventual winner and told him that he had Stefanik in a monetary pool.  Stefanik’s advice to this fan?  “You better hope for a lot of wrecks today!”

In all seriousness, Stefanik didn’t need a lot of wrecks to accomplish his win, or even a great deal of misfortune to his fellow drivers.  Instead, he finally had a car that he felt relatively comfortable in, thanks in part to car setup notes offered from the Major Motion Racing team that Ronnie Silk drives for.

“We really didn’t go with what they [the Major Motion team] did, but it set us down a different path then we’d been going,” said Stefanik.  “We haven’t been running that good.  We didn’t run that good last year, and other then Riverhead and Claremont, we have been field filler.”

Despite their struggles, Stefanik never gave up on his team, and his team never gave up on him, and he was proud of them for that.

“It felt good,” said a smiling Stefanik.  “It’s been a long time.”
Stefanik, Lia, and the rest of the Whelen Modified Tour end their season at Thompson Speedway, with qualifying scheduled for October 13th, and the race for October 14th.

Stafford Motor Speedway
Stafford Springs, CT

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (14) Mike Stefanik, Coventry, R.I., Chevrolet, 150 laps, 63.395 mph.
2. (3) Tony Hirschman, Jr., Northampton, Penn., Chevrolet, 150.
3. (9) Ted Christopher, Plainville, Conn., Chevrolet, 150.
4. (5) Matt Hirschman, Northampton, Pa., Dodge, 150.
5. (6) Ronnie Silk, Norwalk, Conn., Chevrolet, 150.
6. (10) James Civali, Meriden, Conn., Chevrolet, 150.
7. (2) Donny Lia, Jericho, N.Y., Dodge, 150.
8. (16) Rick Fuller, Auburn, Mass., Pontiac, 150.
9. (17) Bobby Santos, III, Millis, Mass., Chevrolet, 150.
10. (25) Reggie Ruggiero, Rocky Hill, Conn., Chevrolet, 150.
11. (11) Eddie Flemke, Southington, Conn., Chevrolet, 150.
12. (19) Kevin Goodale, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 150.
13. (13) Bobby Grigas, Marshfield, Mass., Chevrolet, 150.
14. (27) Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., Chevrolet, 150.
15. (1) Todd Szegedy, Ridgefield, Conn., Ford, 150.
16. (12) Jimmy Blewett, Howell, N.J., Chevrolet, 150.
17. (20) Richard Savary, Canton, Mass., Chevrolet, 150.
18. (8) Dick Houlihan, Bridgewater, Mass., Chevrolet, 150.
19. (7) Eric Beers, Northampton, Pa., Chevrolet, 150.
20. (31) Joe Hartmann, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 149.
21. (18) Anthony Sesely, Matawan, N.J., Chevrolet, 149.
22. (33) Jake Marosz, Middletown, Conn., Chevrolet, 148.
23. (28) Eric Berndt, Meriden, Conn., Pontiac, 147.
24. (30) Wade Cole, Riverton, Conn., Chevrolet, 146.
25. (23) Charlie Pasteryak, Lisbon, Conn., Chevrolet, 140.
26. (26) Renee Dupuis, Glastonbury, Conn., Chevrolet, 136, clutch.
27. (32) Glen Tyler, Hampton Bays, N.Y., Chevrolet, 121.
28. (22) Woody Pitkat, Stafford Springs, Conn., Pontiac, 108, suspension.
29. (24) Billy Pauch, Jr., Frenchtown, N.J., Dodge, 106, accident.
30. (15) Jerry Marquis, Broad Brook, Conn., Chevrolet, 68, accident.
31. (4) Ryan Preece, Kensington, CT, Chevrolet, 18, accident.
32. (21) Carl Pasteryak, Lisbon, Conn., Pontiac, 5, accident.
33. (29) Jamie Tomaino, Howell, N.J., Ford, 2, engine.

Mike Stefanik crosses under the chcerked flag to win at Stafford.  (Rick Ibsen Photo)