This is by far tops, the biggest win for me. Nothing even comes close to this. Winning two Tour races at Riverhead meant a lot to me but this is something different. To be able to come to a place as fast as this and so different and win means a lot to me and this entire team. I am just blown away.”
DONNY LIA CHARGES TO SHOOTOUT WIN By Matthew Dillner & J. Kaplan
Late Race Run Earns Lia North vs. South Glory
The 2nd annual North vs. South Shootout at Concord Motorsports Park (NC) turned into exactly what it was advertised to be... a Shootout. Sparks flew and nerf bars clashed as some of the top Modified “Gunslingers” from the North and the South locked horns for some classic short track racing during the final stages of the event.
And Lia's competitors were blown away when the #18 made its charge to the front.
“I told them on the radio when this car comes in it's going to come in,” said Lia about his #18 racer. “I told them word for word that when this thing comes in, this race is going to be over. I'm not trying to sound cocky, but the car was just that good. We got the balance perfect and the race was over.
“When you have a car that good, your confidence just
The Hardest Charger of the night, Donny Lia, was the man who came out on top and it was in dramatic fashion.
The Featherlite Modified Series regular had just dropped from third to fifth and it looked as if his chances for a win were fading. Then Lia had a spirited battle with defending race winner John Blewett III. After a spectacular wheel to wheel battle, Lia's #18 looked as if it were shot out of a cannon. The young Long Island driver went on a tear. He stormed through the top-five and dove past race leader Jerry Marquis with a bold move in turns three and four to take the top spot.
Once Lia grabbed the point, he never looked back and went on to capture the biggest win of the his career.
“I know we just beat the best of the best in Modified's out there right now,” said Lia. “To win it is something to be really proud of.
Although Lia put a spanking on the field in the closing laps, a mid-race pit stop was the motivation behind the young driver's charge to the front.
“I owe this race to this crew,” said an elated Lia. “When I came in, they ripped off a stop and a half. We came in 7th and the guys got me back out third. That was a pit stop! I mean we were in and out. We not only changed tires, but we adjusted the spoiler and put some wedge in. That stop was quick. After that I was so pumped man! I'll tell you, that
Lia's #18 was one of the fastest cars all weekend.
gets so high. I didn't have a care in the world. It's very few and far between that you get a car that is that perfect. It would go anywhere I wanted it to go. When I would shoot down and divebomb somebody I wasn't worried. I knew the car would stick. They knew I was there and they gave me the lane. It's just not easy to pass here. The speeds are so high and it's hard to set someone up here.
The quick pit stop that gave Donny his mojo.
changes a driver's attitude so much. When you come in and they rip off a great stop, it makes you want to go out there and drive it straight to the front. Tonight it really gave me the feeling that I wanted so bad to go out there and do better for my guys because they really got the job done in a big way. Even with our car being that strong at the end of the race, that pit stop is what probably won us the race. If we hadn't come out third and left the pits tenth maybe I wouldn't be standing here right now. I'm just so proud of these guys.”
Lia and his LMI crew may have held the hardware in victory lane, but Eric Beer's second place finish was like a victory for the ROC Mod regular. And Beers believes he had a legitimate shot at the win.
“I wanted to get by Jerry Marquis but Donny came up and caught me real quick,” said Beers. “I think if we got by Jerry first and got the lead, Donny would have had a hard time getting by us. He was a little faster than me and restarted better than me, but I still think if we got the lead before he got to us that it would have been a great race to see.”
Beers was smiling all weekend at the Shootout.
Lia and most of the top-cars were impressed with the spectacular side by side racing that took place near races end.
“It was a battle out there,” said Lia. “We were going at it every lap out there man! I guess that's just Modified racing. That's all I have ever raced and I'm just so used to it. Rubbing like that and beating on each other is just the way we race. That's what it's all about.
“We exhibited some great racing in the front of the pack there,” said Beers. “I mean this place isn't meant to race side by side. It was crazy out there how we were racing. It just shows how good the racers are up there that you can run that close together at a track as fast as this and trust eachother like that.”
Young Bobby Santos III came home fourth just behind Nevin George and was also impressed with Lia's run.
“Donnie beat me out of the pits and he was strong for the remainder of the race, said Santos. "I was watching him pass those cars and some of the moves that he made I didn’t think were possible. But he made it work.”
When talking about his spectacular run, Donny spoke of another hard charger...his old friend Tom Baldwin, who was killed in a racing accident at Thompson Speedway earlier this year.
“It reminds me of the story of Tommy Baldwin's last win. It was up in Stafford for the 300. I heard he just charged
through the field at the end. Brad LaFountaine put a set of gumballs on the car and he just drove through the field. He was driving through people. Sometimes you just have to do that. You have to drive like that to win and tonight it worked."
51 will have more stories from the Shootout later this week.