Mike Stefanik, 9-time NASCAR modified racing champ, killed in Connecticut plane crash at age 61

Photo for Headline Surfer / Mike Stefanik, as shown in the latter years of his NASCAR racing career, died Sunday in a plane crash at age 61.
YouTube download / NASCAR video /  Miuke Stefanik is shown six years ago in Victory Lane at Bristol Motor Speedway after winning a NASCAR Whelen Tour race there in the closing laps.
 
By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Mike Stefanik, a nine-time NASCAR champion and 2019 Hall of Fame nominee, died Sunday in a plane crash in Sterling, Conn. He was 61.

As reported by CNN, According to Connecticut State Police, an Aerolite 103, single-engine, single-seat plane took off from Riconn Airport just over the state line in Rhode Island on Sunday. Police say the ultralight plane, while turning back toward the airfield, crashed into a wooded area adjacent to the airport in Sterling, Conn.

Stefanik, who lived in nearby Coventry, RI, was piloting the ultralight plane he borrowed from a friend when it went down Sunday afternoon and crashed.

Stefanik was airlifted to nearby Rhode Island Hospital, where he died from his injuries.

NASCAR issued a statement on its website from Daytona Beach-based chairman and CEO, Jim France, which reads in part: "Mike Stefanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport."

France's statement on Stefanik continued: "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."

NASCAR legend Mike Stafanic killed in plane crash / Headline Surfer InfographicNASCAR CEO Jim France / Headline SurferNASCAR issued a statement on its website from Daytona Beach-based chairman and CEO, Jim France, shown here, which reads in part: "Mike Stefanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport."

France's statement on Stefanik continued: "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."

Stefanik was the winningest driver in the history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, according to NASCAR, having won that circuit's championship in 1989, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2006. He also won the Busch North -- now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East -- titles in 1997 and 1998.

Stefanik, who grew up in Southern New England, began his racing career at Stafford Motor Speedway  and the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, formerly Thompson Speedway, both short tracks located in Northeastern Connecticut. 

Aerolite plane Mike Stefanik was piloting when he was killed / Headline SurferThis is a pic of the Aerolite 103 plane Mike Stefanik was piloling when he crashed Sunday and died a short time later.

Investigators with the Connecticut State Police did not release information on what may have caused the crash involving the Aerolite 103 plane Stefanik was operating, emphasizing the cause of the crash remains remains under investigation. 

Stefanik was a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee earlier this year, but came up short for induction.

The 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame consisted of nine individuals, among them drivers Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, the late Alan Kulwicki, and the late Davey Allison; team owners Joe Gibbs, Jack Roush, and Roger Penske; and crew chief/engineer builder Waddell Wilson.

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Post Date: Nov. 13, 2018
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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.