One of the legends of NASCAR’s oldest racing division is gone.
Mike Stefanik, who first started racing in 1987, died in a tragic plane accident on Sunday, according to Fox News. He was 61 years old.
Flying a personal plane is becoming more and more popular these days with athletes. So, it was not necessarily a surprise to find out that Stefanik had his own aircraft.
Sadly, though, he has now been placed on a growing list of public figures who have lost their lives piloting their own planes.
Stefanik was flying a single-seat Aerolite 103 out of Rhode Island when he crashed and died.
According to reports, he had barely taken off from Riconn Airport when he turned the plane around. The aircraft wreckage was found in a wooded area near the airport.
Long and Illustrious Career
NASCAR fans today may not recognize Stefanik’s name because he never made it to the NASCAR Cup Series.
However, in NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour, which is NASCAR’s open-wheel racing division, Stefanik was a legend. In all, he won nine championships on the Modified Tour and was named an all-time top 10 driver in 2003.
During a stretch from 1989 to 2006, Stefanik won the championship a total of seven times and holds the record for Modified Tour wins with 74.
Stefanik raced 26 times in the Busch Series and 26 times in the Truck Series, but never managed to do better than a top-10 finish. His lack of success on those tours, though, was hardly reflective of the man’s career.
In addition to his championship seasons, Stefanik was named Rookie of the Year in 1999 for the Craftsman Truck Series and was named to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.
Rest in peace, Mike. NASCAR, your friends, family, and fans will miss you.