Donny Lia races to first FMS top-five at Stafford NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Donny Lia, of Merrick, N.Y., recorded his career-first top-five finish in the series when he finished fifth in Friday's...
Donny Lia races to first FMS top-five at Stafford
NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Donny Lia, of Merrick, N.Y., recorded his career-first top-five finish in the series when he finished fifth in Friday's rescheduled Haynes Connecticut Classic 150, the second of four FMS races held at the half-mile Stafford Motor Speedway.
"We had a pretty great day," he said after the race, which he started from the outside pole. "We've been as fast as the leaders all year so far, and just haven't been able to show our hand. Today we did."
Lia knew his unsponsored Chevrolet was going to run well, with the car being fast right from the start of practice. "It was never perfect, but we were in the top five in practice speeds. It was just a little tight, but it had a good balance to it and was really good on long runs." Donny qualified eighth fastest, his best qualifying effort on the tour since he started sixth at Martinsville in October 2001, while running a limited schedule. In the traditional redraw of the fastest qualifiers, he drew the outside pole. He and his crew then went to work getting the car set up for the race.
"We gambled on the setup changes, loosening up the car for the race" he said. "The track loosened up as well, and because it was so tight all day, the combination of the changes we made, and changes in the track made for a really good race car, luckily."
Starting outside of John Blewett III, Lia hung tough in the outside groove and led the race's first eight laps. The race's second restart saw him encounter trouble, but only briefly. "I restarted on the bottom, but slid up into the 12 car [Bo Gunning] that was outside of me," he explained. "We made some contact and I hit the kill switch on the steering wheel, accidentally shutting the motor off. I was really fortunate not to get collected from behind, got the switch hit again and wound up only losing about five spots on the racetrack. I got real lucky there."
When most lead lap drivers made a mid-race pit stop under caution, Todd Szegedy and Lia elected to stay on the track and took over first and second. When the race resumed on lap 85, it stayed green to the finish. "The long green run at the end wasn't expected," Lia said. "We figured if we got a caution with fifty to go, we'd come in, and still be able to get back into the top 5, and maybe even have a shot at winning. At that point, most of the front runners had already made their pitstops and about only half of the field was on the lead lap.
"But we never got that caution, and I just concentrated on keeping the tires on it, keep the nose clean and hang on and get the best finish I could for my team." Lia continued. "We're excited to get our third top twelve, second top ten, first top five and third straight Rookie of the Race Award in a row. Finishing races is key, and that turns into momentum, which we have a lot of right now. Our game plan is to finish these races." Lia knows that If they keep it up, the good finishes and points will take care of themselves.
The next event on the Featherlite Modified Series is a 200-lap race at Lia's home track of Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. "I ran the whole season there in 2001 and ran a partial season in 2002," he said. "and my crew chief, Richie Neimeic, has been racing there and at Islip for twenty years, you can't put a price tag on that. We already have two career wins at Riverhead, it's the best shot we've got to win a Featherlite Modified Series race yet."