Donny Lia Muscles to North-South Shootout Victory Says Claims of Traction Control Are False HUNTINGTON, NY (November 8, 2004) -- When Donny Lia and the ...
Donny Lia Muscles to North-South Shootout Victory
Says Claims of Traction Control Are False
HUNTINGTON, NY (November 8, 2004) -- When Donny Lia and the #18 Lia Motorsports team marched south of the border for the second annual North vs. South Shootout at Concord Motorsport Park (NC), they took no prisoners. The #18 car was fast off the trailer. Lia won his heat race, the team had a great pit stop and Lia muscled his way to the front in the latter part of the race. To say that it was a dominant weekend would be an understatement. And to think it came in one the country's largest Modified events of the season made it all the more special.
"I know we just beat the best of the best in Modifieds out there right now," said Lia. "To win it is something to be really proud of. This is by far the biggest win for me; nothing even comes close to this. Winning two Tour races at Riverhead meant a lot to me, but this is something different. To be able to come to a place as fast as this and so different and win means a lot to this entire team. I am just blown away."
Lia won the pole position for the first running of the event in 2003. He crashed out of that race after a fierce battle with eventual winner John Blewett III. This year, those two drivers were fast again and put on a wheel-to-wheel battle throughout much of the race.
"It was a battle out there," said Lia. "John and I have raced together quite a bit and we got together at the Shootout last year. He is a driver that just won't give up. We were going at it every lap out there. He was on the outside of me for a while there and it is not friendly out there, trust me, I was out there a lot and I didn't like it. There were a couple of times I thought we were done. We were sideways, and he was nearly in the wall. It was just unbelievable."
Despite the dominance of those two drivers, it came close to neither of them visiting victory lane. As the final laps clicked down, both racers had dropped back in the pack, but a great final pit stop by Lia's team helped to save the day.
"When I came in, they ripped off a stop and a half," said Lia. "We came in seventh and the guys got me back out fourth. That was a pit stop! I mean we were in and out. We not only changed tires, but we adjusted the spoiler and put some wedge in. After that I was so pumped man! I'll tell you, that changes a driver's attitude so much. When you come in and they do what they did, it makes you want to go out there and drive it straight to the front."
With that attitude, Lia was ready to muscle his way to the front of the pack. On the restart, he dropped back slightly, but as the tires heated up, he was a man on a mission. In a mere two laps, Lia moved his Modified from fourth to the lead. In fact, he passed second-place Eric Beers and leader Jerry Marquis in a single lap on the tricky tri-oval.
Fans at Concord don't get to see Modified racing like this every week and Lia is sure they enjoyed the show from this year's event.
"We raced hard and I guess that's just Modified racing," said Lia. "That's all I have ever raced and I'm just so used to it. Rubbing like that and beating on each is a lot of fun with these cars."
Lia had a little extra motivation for this race in the form of his friend, the late Tom Baldwin, who in the final triumph of his career, muscled his way to a big Featherlite Modified Series win on ESPN.
"It was up in Stafford (CT) for the 300 (in 1996) and Tommy just charged through the field at the end," said Lia. "Brad LaFountaine (crew chief) had put a set of gumballs on the car and he just drove through the field. I mean, he literally drove through people. Sometimes you just have to do that and tonight it worked for me like it did for Tommy that race."
In fact, Lia's charge to the win was so perfectly choreographed that a few of his critics even said that he must have had too much help, but Lia met those accusations head on.
"We are not using traction control--. Bottom line," Lia said on Monday. "On top of that, everything we have is so basic it is ridiculous; nobody would believe what we run if I told them. My team and my crew chief have this car hooked up and they are not getting the credit they deserve. I don't want to run anything like that because I wouldn't learn anything as a driver.
The key was being able to flat foot it off of turn two and not lift until I got down into three. Everybody was saying 'big motor, he's got traction control'. I'm telling you, this car was balanced perfectly. There is no value you can put on being able to flat foot it coming out of two, turn it with the throttle and then hold it wide open through that tri-oval. You carry so much more momentum. I was getting on the throttle a full car-length ahead of anyone down there and that's what it takes.
The victory was Donny's third of the season. The LMI team has also won a NASCAR Modified Series event at Riverhead Raceway (NY) and a Race of Champions Modified event at Thompson Speedway (CT).
"This win and this season says a lot about my team," added Lia. "It is everything we have worked for. This is what it's all about... winning. The team was nothing two or three years ago; this is something my father and I put together from scratch. Now we have some of the best cars out here and some of the best people out here. You can have all of the money in the world but that's not going to do what we did here with this program. You still have to put it together and get it done and we did."
Donny wasn't the only member of the 18-team one to get it done at Concord. Crew chief Kevin Crowley's daughter, Shawna, pedaled a replica #18 car to victory in the Mini Shootout race on Saturday afternoon.
That winning attitude will make a long winter even more restless for the young team. "This win here is going to be key for next year," said Lia. "It sets the tone. It is everything we have worked for."