STERLING, Conn. (WPRI) — One day after nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik was killed in a small plane crash, his racing colleagues are sending their condolences.
Stefanik – who lived in Coventry – died after the Aero Ultra-Light Aircraft he was piloting went down in Sterling shortly after taking off from RICONN Airport in Greene, Rhode Island, Sunday afternoon.
Nicholas Teto, a local racing historian, said Stefanik made his racing debut at a race in Stafford, Conn., at the age of 18.
He moved to West Greenwich in the 1980s and then Coventry in 1992, where, according to Teto, Stefanik lived with his wife Julie.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway released the following statement about Stefanik:
“Yesterday, the short track community lost one of the greatest modified drivers in history. Mike Stefanik was a true champion on and off the racetrack making a long-lasting mark on short track racing, specifically in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. With 10 career victories, Mike is one of New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s top winning drivers. I know that I can speak for everyone here, as well as our entire Speedway Motorsports, Inc. family, when I say that Mike will be truly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the entire NASCAR community during this very difficult time.”
Bristol Motor Speedway also reacted to the news on Twitter.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – who himself survived a plane crash just weeks ago – retweeted NASCAR’s statement and commented.
“Breaks my heart. I hope his family and friends can find some peace and comfort somehow,” Earnhardt, Jr. said.