DONNY LIA OFFICIALLY CROWNED 60TH NASCAR MODIFIED CHAMPION
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (Dec. 15, 2007) -- Donny Lia's championship season came to a crowning conclusion Friday at the Mohegan Sun Resort where he was honored as the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion at the series awards banquet.
Lia's first career NASCAR title made him the 60th NASCAR Modified champion dating back to the division's first champion, Red Byron, in 1948. NASCAR's first sanctioned event was a Modified race and Lia's coronation kicks off a celebration of the Modified division's rich and storied history that will encompass the entire 2008 season.
"I don't think it totally set in that we're the champions until we got here," said Lia, "and we had the banquet and you see the race car on display and hear what everybody had to say. It's just a real special deal for us and everything we accomplished this year comes to a head."
Lia earned $104,225 as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, collecting $40,000 in point fund money, as well as $8,000 as the season-long Budweiser Pole Award and Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race Award winner. He was also presented with the prestigious NASCAR championship ring by NASCAR Managing Director of Racing Operations George Silbermann. In addition, Lia was awarded the new NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour trophy. The trophy, introduced this season by NASCAR and series sponsor Whelen Engineering, features the name of every NASCAR Modified champion dating back to Byron's championship season. The list of past champions includes such racing legends as Bobby Allison, Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Mike Stefanik, and Bugs Stevens.
Celebrating with Lia Friday was long-time Modified car owner Bob Garbarino, who after nearly five decades in the sport, earned his first NASCAR championship. Phil Kurze, vice president of motorsports for series sponsor Whelen Engineering, presented Garbarino with an identical championship trophy as Lia's, in honor of Garbarino's dedication and loyalty to the NASCAR Modified division throughout the years.
Friday's banquet provided plenty more for Modified fans and drivers to celebrate. Kurze announced Whelen has signed an extension with NASCAR that extends the company's series entitlement of the Modified Tour and the Southern Modified Tour an additional five years to the current agreement -- through 2016.
In addition, NASCAR announced the 2008 schedule, as well as plans to implement an optional spec engine as a cost-saving initiative for Modified teams. The spec engine, which has had solid success in the Grand National Division, will be introduced for the 2008 season.
A number of special honors were also awarded Friday.
Stefanik, a six-time Modified champion, collected $6,000 Friday as the POWERade Power Move of the Race Award, while Ted Christopher earned $5,035 as the Featherlite Driver Improvement Award. Richard Savary was honored with a $2,000 check for winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Todd Szegedy picked up the trophy for finishing second in the championship standings, and Matt Hirschman received the third-place driver's trophy.
In addition, Szegedy was named the Most Popular Driver; the Boehler Family was honored with the Dedication Award; Eric Sanderson received the Len Boehler Car Owner Award; Joe and Linda Brady were presented with the Whelen Modified Tour Women's Auxiliary Award; Engine builder Bob Bruneau was honored with the Sportsmanship Award; and Ronnie Silk was honored with the Driver Achievement Award.
This year's awards ceremony featured NASCAR race broadcaster Mike Joy of Fox Sports as master of ceremonies.