Off-Season Filled With Awards & Plenty of Travel
HUNTINGTON, NY (January 3, 2005) -- NASCAR Modified driver Donny Lia is redefining the term "off-season" this year. For the promising young racer, there has not been much "off" in his off-season. And that will continue this week as Lia travels to the epicenter of the stock car world, Charlotte, NC, before heading back home to prepare for "Speedweeks 2005."
Lia will be in the Tar Heel state for three reasons; first, to make more contacts in the racing world, secondly, to visit with some friends, but most importantly, to make an appearance as "NASCAR Night with the Charlotte Checkers." The team is part of the East Coast Hockey League and several NASCAR celebrities will make appearances at Friday and Saturday night's games (January 7th & 8th). Lia will join NASCAR Nextel Cup star Sterlin Marlin, Busch Series competitor David Stremme and NASCAR television personalities Bob Dillner and Krista Voda (both from SPEED Channel), among others at the Cricket Arena in Charlotte.
"It will be a lot of fun," said Lia of his trip from Long Island, NY to North Carolina. "NHL does not exist right now because of the strike and I hear the Charlotte Checkers are doing well this year, so hopefully a lot of people will come out to see the game and show their support of NASCAR."
Lia's month of December was occupied by the end of the year banquet circuit. Just before Christmas, Lia was honored at the NASCAR Modified Series banquet as the 2004 Bud Pole Award winner. Lia and his #19 Lia Motorsports, Inc. team earned a total of four fast-time-awards during the season.
"It's a great honor and I'm proud that we won this," Lia said upon reflecting on his banquet appearance. "This is a hard series to even make a race in. The Modifieds have the highest car counts of any NASCAR Series, so this is especially satisfying for our team."
Lia is also fresh off his appearance at the New Hampshire International Speedway awards banquet. He placed third in the standings at the "Magic Mile" this year behind double race winner Ted Christopher and 2004 Modified Series champion Tony Hirschman.
"To be in the top three of the guys who raced at New Hampshire in only my second year of going there is pretty special," said Lia. "We had a shot to win both races there this year."
The track really fits Lia's driving style well, which is a good thing considering the prestige associated with Modified races at the track.
"I liked the place from the first time that I went out to practice there," said Lia. "I'm very comfortable racing there. The track is wide and smooth. You can have some hard side by side racing there. New Hampshire is one of the most coveted races on our schedule. It's our Daytona."
New Hampshire is the only track on the Modified schedule that awards a points fund for their events. Lia is very appreciative of that fact and the overall treatment that competitors receive at the facility.
"All of the people from the track are very generous," said Lia. "I need to thank the Bahre family, Fred Neergaard and everyone else for hosting us and going out of their way for the Modified Series. I really appreciate it."
So now that the banquet season is over, what will Lia and his team be doing to make sure that they are a part of next year's post season festivities?
"My team is coming back intact for next season and our qualifying program is going to be the same," said Lia. "As long as the new tires will let us use our notes from this year, we'll be good. If not, we'll adjust. Winning the Bud Pole Award again next year is something that we would like to do, but our first goal is the championship."
In 2005, Lia and the LMI team will return to action in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series. They will also compete in the Modified events at New Smyrna Speedway during "Florida Speedweeks" in February.