Record-Setting NASCAR Champion Mike Stefanik Dies in Plane Crash
Nine-time NASCAR touring series champion Mike Stefanik died in a plane crash on Sunday in Connecticut.
NASCAR confirmed the news of the 61-year-old NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee’s death in 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,” said NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France.
“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,” France added.
“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.”
We are saddened to hear the news about nine-time NASCAR Champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Mike Stefanik’s passing. NASCAR statement: pic.twitter.com/VqRBxBpB18
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 16, 2019
The Hartford Courant reported Stefanik was piloting a single-engine, single seat plane, when he crashed in a wooded area in Sterling, Connecticut, near the Rhode Island border.
The retired NASCAR star was returning to the RICONN Airport in an Aerolite 103 ultralight glider-type plane at about 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon when the crash occurred.
“Stefanik was taken to the hospital with severe injuries and burns and was later pronounced dead, according to state police,” NBC Connecticut affiliate WVIT reported.
According to USA Today, Stefanik has been a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee since 2015.
The New England native made his first start in the Whelen Modified tour in 1985.
“In 453 career starts on the tour, Stefanik earned 74 wins and 301 top-10 finishes, and was crowned the series champion for the first time in 1989. His other titles came in ’91, ’97, ’98, ’01, ’02, and his last in ’06,” according to USA Today.
All of us at BMS are saddened to learn of the loss of @mikestefanik. His family is in our thoughts and prayers. pic.twitter.com/e0tqJCq6EK
— BristolMotorSpeedway (@BMSupdates) September 16, 2019
In 1997 and ’98, the racer made NASCAR history when he won duel titles, taking both the Modified and K&N Pro Series East divisions.
Over the course of his career, Stefanik was named most popular driver on seven occasions.
He ran one full season in the Truck Series in 1999, during which he was named Rookie of the Year.
Stefanik is survived by his wife Julie, whom he married in 1984, and the couple’s two daughters.
Breaks my heart. I hope his family and friends can find some peace and comfort somehow.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) September 16, 2019
Fellow NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who last month survived his own scrape with death in an airplane crash, tweeted on Sunday, “Breaks my heart.”
Earnhardt added, “I hope his family and friends can find some peace and comfort somehow.”
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