Donny Lia Drives Wheel Off Car to Finish Second at Stafford Young Long Island Driver Starts Last and Finishes Fall Final on Three Wheels HUNTINGTON, NY (October 3, 2005) -- The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is one of the most competitive...
Donny Lia Drives Wheel Off Car to Finish Second at Stafford
Young Long Island Driver Starts Last and Finishes Fall Final on Three Wheels
HUNTINGTON, NY (October 3, 2005) -- The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is one of the most competitive forms of short track racing in the country. Some of the best drivers in the Northeast have spent their entire careers there. In fact, many good cars go home every week after not being quite fast enough in qualifying, but fans get to see some great battles throughout the season.
To finish well, you need a talented driver, a great team and the best of equipment. In most cases, if you are a tick off, you're fighting to finish in 20th place. So when Donny Lia finished second in Sunday's Fall Final at Stafford Motor Speedway with only three wheels left on his racecar, it was unusual to say the least.
Lia was running in second place entering turn three of the final lap when the spindle on his #18 Liacars.com/Wisk Modified sheared away. Lia kept his foot on the gas and crossed the finish line in a shower of sparks on three wheels. Unable to control the car completely, Lia spun after crossing the finish line, but was still able to take the runner-up position.
"I lifted going into the corner when it broke off, but then I realized that I had to get back to the start-finish line without losing many spots. I had to get there and I did what I needed to do."
The wheel and hub assembly cleared the Stafford catch fence after the incident and landed on a vehicle in the parking lot. It also hit Lia's racecar before going airborne.
"I felt the tire come off. It broke and and hit the racecar pretty hard. It bounced right off the hood. That wasn't good."
The crazy finish capped off a roller coaster weekend for the team. Lia won the pole for the race, but had to start in the rear of the field after he missed the driver's meeting on Sunday morning.
"I had to start in the back. I missed the driver's meeting because I was with the car at the Pit Party signing autographs. Then I realized that there were no other drivers out there except for me. It's my fault. I should have known when the driver's meeting was and made sure that I was there."
Lia worked his way up through the field twice actually. He made steady progress in the early stages of the race before pitting under caution at the one-third mark of the event. Lia's team had a great pit stop and the #18 was the first car that exited the pits. Little did Lia or his team know at the time, but the rest of the race went green and Lia had to chase his way to the front without the benefit of any caution periods or pit stops by the leaders.
Lia made it up to second place before time ran out.
"I would have never thought that the race would have stayed green so long. With a couple of yellows, we probably could have challenged (Tony) Hirchman for the win, but it's easy to say now. I started in the back and just wanted to get to the end for a good finish. That's all that I wanted to do. We've been through so much lately that this is like winning a race."
After a string of races plagued with bad luck, incidents with another driver and other circumstances which have kept the #18 team from getting the finishes that they are capable of, Lia is thrilled with this weekend's end result and thankful to his team for it.
"I've got to say a big thanks to my team. We've had some problems lately and these guys have worked their butts off. They kept the faith and have done a great job. I especially need to thank my crew chief Kevin [Crowley}. He puts up with a lot of stuff and you've got to hand it to him."
There are two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events left for 2005 and both will take place at Thompson International Speedway. One of Lia's biggest goals this year is to win a race at Thompson and that is what he is aiming to do this coming weekend.
"I really want to win there," said Lia. "I think that we'll be good there. We're going to run this car and we need to get it fixed and back to where it was. When we do that, I think we'll be strong."
The Twin 100's at Thompson for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Busch North Series will take place on Saturday, October 8th.