DONNY LIA TAKES BIGGEST WIN OF ALL AT SPEEDWEEKS Besting Field in Richie Evans Memorial Caps Off Week If there is one event during Florida Speedweeks that the Modified competitors want to win, it's the Richie Evans Memorial 100. For starters,...
DONNY LIA TAKES BIGGEST WIN OF ALL AT SPEEDWEEKS
Besting Field in Richie Evans Memorial Caps Off Week
If there is one event during Florida Speedweeks that the Modified competitors want to win, it's the Richie Evans Memorial 100. For starters, it's the longest event of the week. But the real reason that the trophy for this race is so coveted is that the event honors a driver widely acknowledged as the best Modified racer in history.
So when Donny Lia started out the week with a ration of bad luck, ranging from a fire in his car to a broken transmission, he didn't get down on himself at New Smyrna Speedway. He simply cinched up his belts and went after the biggest win of them all.
And the young New York driver used his determination to take a trip to victory lane in the prestigious race. It was something that was sorely needed by Lia and his team after having several potential victories slip away from them in Florida.
"It was good to feel like we can still do this," Lia said. "I forgot what it was like to win. We had the best car at points during the race. I just felt good. This rejuvenated all my guys. We forget about all the bad luck the rest of the week."
"The guys worked their tails off. We kept making headway, but were getting chopped at the knees. It really messes with your mind. We had a meeting in here after the final blow, which was the broken oil line the other night, and the guys all wanted to do the same thing I wanted to do, which was come out there the next morning, work on the car, and get it right and win big.
"They (the crew) always have those intentions and kept working hard. That is who I give the credit too. They could have thrown the towel in. I never knew how hard it was when you keep having problems. You either want it or don't want it. If you want it, you are not going to stop. They all want it and they never gave up."
The gravity of the race was not lost on Lia, despite his young age.
"Richie Evans was the best modified driver ever," said Lia. "I've won some pretty cool races; the North vs. South Shootout, two Tour races at my home-track (Riverhead Raceway) and this race. Winning this one is real cool."
"Mod racing is very historic. I am, son of a car dealer and I'm racing three or four years and here I am winning a race named after the greatest driver ever. Sometimes I don't feel like I've paid my dues because of the history that goes along with modified racing. It feels awesome, though. I know what the guy means to modified racing. It is an honor."
During pace laps, a restored Richie Evans car led the field around New Smyrna and that piqued Lia's interest.
"Before the race I was looking around," said Lia. "I moved up behind it (the Evans coupe). I wanted to get on its bumper to see what it was like to race one of those old coupes. I heard them talking before the race about Richie Evans when I was sitting there on the grid."
Finishing second to Lia was another young Long Islander, Kevin Goodale, who impressed many with his Speedweeks efforts. Lia was happy to race against a hometown boy.
"I'm glad he is running as good as he is," said Lia. "It's kind of cool that we were one and two and both from Long Island. Now we can go run like this on the Tour and have kind of a Long Island gang."
In 2005, Lia and the LMI team will return to action on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.