Donny Lia is Honored as 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion; 60th NASCAR Mod Champ Shares Stage with Modified Greats at Awards Banquet
HUNTINGTON, NY (December 18, 2007) -- On Saturday night, Donny Lia and the Mystic Missile Racing Team were honored in front of a packed house at NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour banquet at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort (CT). Lia was officially crowned the Series' champion and presented a newly-designed NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour trophy, which lists all of the Modified Champions since Red Byron won the first division title in 1948.
Lia earned a total of $104,225 dollars by winning his first NASCAR Championship. Although he had a dominant season in the Mod ranks, including six Tour wins and the season's Bud Pole Award, being awarded the prestigious hardware was a humbling experience for the Long Island driver.
"For me it's surreal," admitted Lia. "I never thought my name would be on the same trophy or in the record books with all of the names on there. From Bobby Allison, "Bugsy" Stevens, Richie Evans, Jerry Cook to guys like Mike Stefanik, there are so many great racers that have won the championship on this Tour. I've said it before and will say it again; I have never considered myself a driver that would rank with those guys. To be a part of this and have my name on the trophy and be up there on stage with them is absolutely surreal."
Lia was joined on that stage by several of NASCAR's greatest Modified drivers. NASCAR, in celebration of entering its 60th year of Modified racing, invited all of the living past champions to be a part of the celebration. Lia, who is now NASCAR's 60th Modified Champion, shared the stage with drivers like Carl "Bugsy" Stevens, Ernie Gahan, Mike McLaughlin and 1962 NASCAR Modified Champ Bobby Allison.
"As a 12-year old kid I used to cheer on and adore Davey Allison. He was the man to me. When he passed away I cried for days. I was a kid and he was my hero. To be up here with his father, who is a Legend, is amazing. Talking to Bobby Allison about Davey was special.
"You grow up watching racing on TV and you always dream of going out there and doing it. You never really think to yourself that you can be involved in that and be on a stage with those guys but having my name on a trophy that their names are on is incredible. The Modifieds have a real rich history with NASCAR and to be a part of that is very humbling."
A week before the banquet in Connecticut, Lia joined some other big names in New York as a part of NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series Awards Banquet weekend. Lia shared the spotlight with Nextel Cup Champ Jimmie Johnson, Busch Series Champ Carl Edwards, Craftsman Truck Champ Ron Hornaday and all of NASCAR's 2007 Touring Division champs.
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind experience for 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champ. Besides his trip to New York, Donny has tested a Craftsman Truck at in Rockingham, NC, operated his business (360 RC Speedway & Hobbies) as well as accepting the New Hampshire International Speedway Track Championship in Loudon, NH.
The day after the Whelen Mod Tour banquet, Lia kept his wheels turning traveling from chilly New England to the World's Center of Speed to take his first laps at Daytona International Speedway. Lia was second quickest out of 35 ARCA competitors in a Daytona test draft-session, posting a speed of 182.678 in a #92 Toyota entry. Lia plans on competing in the ARCA 200 at Daytona International Speedway in February.
"You lose track of things. I don't know where half of my clothes are. I've been living out of a bag. I was in the city for the Cup banquet celebration one week and then Rockingham, North Carolina to test a truck. Then we were up in Loudon for the dinner to accept the New Hampshire International Speedway track championship one day and the next at Mohegan Sun for the NASCAR Whelen Mod banquet.
Although his frequent flier miles are racking up while being on the go, Lia has taken the time to stop and smell the roses.
"These are memories that I will never forget. Moments like this are once in a lifetime and it's important to cherish them. There are opportunities in front of me for next year that are once in a lifetime as well that I need to take advantage of. Hopefully they all work out. Either way I am still extremely proud to be a part of a championship like this. It's one thing for a driver to win a championship but to win a championship with a car owner (Bob Garbarino) that has been trying for over 40-years is awesome. Words can't describe the feeling I have as a driver to be able to be the one that helps him realize that goal."