Donny Lia Hopes His Third Season Is a Charm 18 LMI Team Eyes Good Points Finish on NASCAR Modified Tour At the end of the season, NASCAR will crown a champion for the Whelen Modified Tour and that will be a huge honor for the driver who ...
Donny Lia Hopes His Third Season Is a Charm 18 LMI Team Eyes Good Points Finish on NASCAR Modified Tour
At the end of the season, NASCAR will crown a champion for the Whelen Modified Tour and that will be a huge honor for the driver who receives it. The titlist will follow in the footsteps of previous Modified champions such as the late Richie Evans, Mike Stefanik, Mike McLaughlin and Jeff Fuller. One of the active former champs (Tony Hirschman, Rick Fuller and Jerry Marquis) are also looking to add another NASCAR ring to their collection, but so would third-year Modified Tour driver Donny Lia. And after all, don't they always say, "The third time is a charm?"
Lia's goal is to produce a championship for himself and his #18 Lia Motorsports, Inc. team, but he knows it will be a tough year on the racetrack with the stiff competition he will be up against. Yet, he believes because of that intensity, the biggest winners this season might be the fans in the grandstands.
"It's going to be a really good year for Modified racing," said Lia. "There are a lot of good cars and a lot of good drivers in this series. They only got better from this past year. It's going to be tough to win the championship. I think that this new tire is going to help us have better racing too. We'll be able to go out there and race harder because it has a little more bite and the side grip that we've been lacking."
In 2003, Lia earned Rookie of the Year honors on the Modified Tour. Last year, he won the Bud Pole Award. In both seasons, he also won a race. Lia led in several races during the second half of the 2004 season, but bad luck bit him on occasion. In 2005, he hopes to contend for the championship, but he knows that lady luck will have to be riding along with him.
"I think that we are definitely a top-five team," said Lia. "We definitely have a shot to finish inside of the top five in points. As far as the championship goes, I think that is a possibility as long as the luck goes our way. Without that luck, you can win as many poles and lead as many laps as you want and nothing is going to happen.
"We are trying to be in control of whatever we can be in control of and hopefully our luck is good enough to put together a really strong season."
Lia has also been analyzing his opponents and finds no shortage of talented driver and team combinations.
"That #50 team is going to be strong," said Lia. "That car is awesome no matter who is in it and Chuck [Hossfeld] is a really good driver. When you put together a good driver and a good team, they are going to be tough to beat. [Tony] Hirschman will be right up there and [Jerry] Marquis is always good no matter what he drives. Teddy [Christopher] is going to be tough this year because the new tire will help him a lot. The #79 with Mike Christopher will be tough if they get going right off the bat well. Mike is a good driver."
2005 will also mark a new page in Lia's career since he is also going to drive the #47 Clorox/Wisk SK Modified on Friday nights at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) in a quest for the regional NASCAR Weekly Racing Series championship as well.
"I'm going to run more races this year than in any year of my career yet, between the SK Modified and the Tour car," said Lia. "I've set goals for myself that are pretty high, but as long as at the end of the year I know that I did what I could do, wherever I end up, I will be happy."
And Lia has plenty of support behind him.
"Both teams are pumped up and excited," said Lia. "They've been working hard. My Tour team has been practicing their pit stops a bunch and we feel that we have a good handle on that."
Both of Lia's teams will be racing this weekend at The Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway (CT). The weekend will kick off the 2005 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season as well as the SK Modified season at Thompson. Although they will be racing weekly at Stafford, the #47 team has entered Thompson as a tune-up race.