Mike Stefanik, one of the most accomplished drivers in NASCAR history, died Sunday in a plane crash.
He was 61.
“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 won the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour seven times during his career and twice took home the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East trophy. He is the winningest driver in the Modified Tour's history before retiring in 2014.
Stefanik began flying after his retirement, telling RaceDayCT that he's a "thrill seeker."
“I’m not one to sit on the porch and I do like a little bit of thrill,” Stefanik said. “I’m a little thrill seeker. … I can’t wipe the smile off my face every time I go fly that thing. I call it a flying lawn chair. But it’s actually a pretty cool little airplane.”
The circumstances behind the crash are yet to be reported.
Stefanik is among the drivers who are nominated for the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame.