Tragedy struck the NASCAR world on Sunday when nine-time champion Mike Stefanik was killed in a plane crash in Connecticut. Reports of the crash were initially broken by RaceDayCT. He was 61 years old.
RaceDayCT reported Stefanik had piloted a single-seat Aero Ultra-Light plane, which crashed in Sterling, Connecticut near the border with Rhode Island.
Stefanik began racing full-time in the Modified Tour in 1987, where he finished seventh in points with thirteen top tens. Two years later, he scored his first seven nine series championships, followed by further titles in 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, and 2006. He ran his final races in the Tour in 2014, with his last start being a tenth-place run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. His seventy-fourth and final victory came at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2013. Due to his successes, Stefanik has long been a nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, he also raced in the Busch North Tour (now known as the K&N Pro Series East), where he won twelve races and the 1997 and 1998 titles. Although he didn’t race often in NASCAR’s national series, he finished thirteenth in the 1999 Truck Series standings with nine top tens and a best run of second at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Mike Stefanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport,” NASCAR Chairman Jim France said in a release. “His tough, competitive nature and excellence on the race track won him the respect and admiration of fans and competitors alike. His career stretched more than 30 years, bridging the generations between Jerry Cook and Richie Evans to our current drivers. He recorded achievements in this sport that are likely untouchable, and his legacy as a champion will endure. We will keep his wife Julie and his family and friends in our prayers.”