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Mike Stefanik Dies in Plane Crash

NASCAR Modified legend Mike Stefanik died Sunday after a plane crash near the Connecticut-Rhode Island border. He was 61.

Stefanik won seven championships on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, adding two titles in the former NASCAR Busch North Tour (now the K&N Pro Series East) — tying him for the most in the sport’s history. He was named one of the Modified Tour’s 10 Greatest Drivers of all time and is a nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“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 and CEO Jim France said in a statement. “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’s Modified Tour career ended in 2014 with a record 74 victories. His final win came the previous year at Bristol Motor Speedway. Stefanik also won 12 times in the Busch North Series, winning back-to-back titles in 1997-98. He secured a rare double with Modified titles in those same seasons.

Stefanik also was an occasional competitor in NASCAR’s national series, making 26 starts in each the Xfinity and Gander Trucks circuits. He was named Rookie of the Year in the truck tour in 1999.