Donny Lia, of Merrick, N.Y., won his first NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series race of his career on Saturday night when he won the Miller Lite 200 at the quarter-mile Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway. Lia started the race from the inside of the front row...
Donny Lia, of Merrick, N.Y., won his first NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series race of his career on Saturday night when he won the Miller Lite 200 at the quarter-mile Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway. Lia started the race from the inside of the front row and led all but a handful of laps on his way to dominating the race.
"It means so much to me and my team to win our first race at home on Long Island, especially at Riverhead with all the history that goes with it," he said. "We never anticipated going there and winning. I was hoping to qualify well and run solid. I never would have imagined going there and dominating. There's a lot of luck involved, and we were really lucky in pulling the first starting position after qualifying. That was huge. Even though we were very good, it would have been a whole lot harder to do if we didn't start from the pole."
While Riverhead served as Lia's home track before he moved up to the Featherlite Modified Series, he still had his work cut out for him when he first brought his Huntington Honda Chevrolet onto the track for practice.
"We brought a car that we hadn't run there before, so that was an unknown," he said. "We just went there and had to figure it out in practice. We never really were totally satisfied with the car in practice at all. It needed figuring out so we kept throwing stuff at it and it got a lot better, but it still wasn't where we wanted it. After qualifying, Richie Neimeic, my crew chief, made some wholesale changes to the car, huge changes, it was what you'd call an educated guess. They were the kind of changes that wouldn't have hurt it too bad if we went the wrong way, but could have helped it a lot. The changes worked and the car was really good."
After the traditional redrawing of the top qualifiers, Lia drew the pole position. From that point on, it was his using his knowledge of the track to lead every lap, except for a handful after Frank Vigliarolo jumped a lap 43 restart.
"He got out there, and I had to work to get the lead back," he said. "He left just a little hole going into turn one, I filled it real quick. One thing I've learned racing at Riverhead in the past is, there is no time to wait around, you have to go from the drop of the green flag. At the end, even if you have a little more tire left than the next guy, it is extremely difficult to set someone up and complete a pass.
"You have to drive that track a certain way," Lia continued, "you have to discipline yourself with the throttle. I saw a lot of guys getting out of shape all day and driving the car even harder to make up for it. That is the last thing you want to do. Slower is faster at Riverhead every time."
Following the race, Lia gave credit to those who made his first series win possible.
"I want to thank my father for giving me the opportunity to do this. I'm really happy for my crew guys, Garfield, Dave, Sammy, Warren, my tire specialist Kevin, and my spotter Bill," he said. I especially have to thank my crew chief Richie Neimeic. He's been wrenching on Modifieds for over twenty-five years and has won a countless number of races, but this is his first Tour modified win which makes it even more special. I give my guys all the credit, they gave me a great car to drive. It's really due to their hard work that we got this far this quickly.
"But we have a long way to go still," he continued. "I don't think we can go to tracks like Stafford and Thompson and win just yet. But we're learning quickly. This race was a huge confidence builder, and we'll take the momentum as well. We're also now in the top ten in points, and that's pretty crazy considering the start of our season. We've got a big lead in the Rookie of the Year standings."
Lia only has a few days to enjoy his win before heading out to the next series race, which will be held Friday, August 8th, at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.
"I like Stafford a lot. We lead some laps and ran up front all day the last time we were there. I think we'll go back with what we had and just try to tweak it, we should be in real good shape," he said.