Nine-time NASCAR touring series champion Mike Stefanik has died in a plane crash. He was 61.
NASCAR confirmed the news 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. 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, a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee since 2015, made a name for himself with immense success in the Whelen Modified tour where he made his first start 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.
In addition to his nine championships, Stefanik was named Most Popular Driver on seven ocassions. He was also previously named to the Whelen Modified and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (where he has 12 wins) all-time top-10 drivers list.
Stefanik made NASCAR history in 1997 and ’98 when he won duel titles by topping both the Modified and K&N Pro Series East divisions.
Stefanik also made a combined 52 starts between two of NASCAR’s national series, Truck and Xfinity. In the Truck Series, Stefanik was named Rookie of the Year in 1999 when he ran his only full season.