Donny Lia Notches First Bud Pole at Lake Erie, Finishes Fourteenth in Race NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series rookie Donny Lia is the series track record holder at the three-eighths mile Lake Erie Speedway after the series made its debut at the...
Donny Lia Notches First Bud Pole at Lake Erie, Finishes Fourteenth in Race
NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series rookie Donny Lia is the series track record holder at the three-eighths mile Lake Erie Speedway after the series made its debut at the year-old track on Saturday. Lia, who won his first career Bud Pole Award for being the fastest car in qualifying, went on to finish fourteenth in the race.
"It started as a great day for the LMI race team," Lia said after the race, "it could have turned out better in the end, but we'll take it."
Lia and the team knew they had a good car right off the bat in practice. "We went out to shake the car down on year old tires with some laps on them already. We wound up being one of the top three cars speed-wise in that session, that's when we knew we had something," he said.
When crew chief Rich Neimeic decided to put stickers on it and simulate their first time trial run, they were the class of the field. "We made a few minor adjustments as the track started to get some rubber laid down on it, but nothing really major, we were real happy with the chassis at that point," Neimeic said after the race.
Going out as the tenth car to take time, Lia posted a best lap of 14.015 seconds, then watched as car after car took its shot at knocking him off the pole. None could, and Lia had his first Bud Pole Award in the series.
"I'm thrilled about our qualifying program this year," he said. "It's a hundred percent better than before. I've always said if we could improve our qualifying, everything else would take care of itself." "My guys deserve to run like this, everyone works really hard, we are all gelling really well together."
In the traditional redraw of top qualifiers, Lia drew the tenth starting position.
In the race, Lia got up to sixth place and rode there, finding the track hard to pass on. "You could run the outside groove, but there wasn't an advantage to doing it," he said. "There was a rule where you couldn't even put your left side tires on the yellow line on the bottom of the track, so it was real hard to get a run on someone to pass him on the straightaways."
On a restart just after halfway, Lia got a break when a car in front of him did not get up to speed. He went from sixth to third, and was alongside second to challenge for that position, but banged wheels with that car and was forced high, where he lost many positions. "We just couldn't catch a break. It seemed like every restart we would wind up on the outside, and every time we were able to make headway it just never worked out," he said.
Near the end of the race, Lia was following Eddie Flemke, Jr., who he had been following for many laps. "I had been working on him for 45 laps at least, and he wouldn't give me a lane. Finally I got my right front under him and there was contact. I know I didn't come up, it was a racing deal. If I was going to dump someone, I wouldn't follow him for all those laps and then do it. But NASCAR didn't see it that way."
Lia was brought to the pits for a one-lap penalty. "I don't agree with that penalty, I think a warning would have been sufficient, especially since I've never caused trouble in the series before."
The penalty cost Lia eight positions, and he went on to finish the race in fourteenth position, the first car one lap down.
"We're satisfying our goals so far this year," he said. "We're finishing races, staying out of trouble and learning stuff for the next time we go to these tracks. Aside from the penalty, it was a good night for us, and we are very proud to score our first Bud Pole ever."
Lia now stands in a tie for eleventh in series points, having moved up from thirtieth over the last four races. He also opens up a commanding lead in the Rookie of the Year points, with an eleven point margin over second place Zack Sylvester.
Lia and the Featherlite Modified Series return to the track next Saturday for the running of a 150-lap event at Seekonk Speedway, which is located outside of Providence, Rhode Island.