STERLING, Conn (WWLP) – The racing community is mourning as former NASCAR Champion Mike Stefanik was killed in a plane crash between the Connecticut/Rhode Island border. NASCAR confirmed the death on Sunday evening. Stefanik was 61 years old. Stefanik was a Wilbraham native.
NASCAR issued a statement on Sunday night:
“Mike Stefanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport. 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 Chairman and CEO Jim France said in a statement.
WWLP’s sister station WTNH reported that Connecticut State Police reported at 2:02 p.m. an Aero Ultraright Air Craft Model # 103 single-engine plane went down at 1329 Plainfield Turnpike. The plane crashed in a wooded area. Local State Police and Fire were at the scene. Police said that the pilot had taken off from RICONN Airport. WTNH reported that the pilot was awake and conscious. He was transported to Backus Hospital for serious injuries and burns. He was later Lifestared to a hospital in Rhode Island.
Stefanik raced in various divisions and tracks including the former Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam. He is the only time champion in NASCAR. Stefanik won back-to-back championships in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Busch North Series in 1997 and 1998. Stefanik won his last NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race back at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 2013.
Stefanik scored 74 wins on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He won an Indoor TQ Midget race in his home state at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI back in December 2009.
Stefanik leaves his wife Julie along with their two daughters Nicole and Christine.