Young Modified Star Looking for More Full-Body Stock Car Experience INDIANAPOLIS, IN (August 12, 2005) -- Donny Lia has visited victory lane at some pretty impressive tracks. He's won NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at a pair of tight ...
Young Modified Star Looking for More Full-Body Stock Car Experience
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (August 12, 2005) -- Donny Lia has visited victory lane at some pretty impressive tracks. He's won NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at a pair of tight bullrings -- Riverhead Raceway (NY) and Waterford Speedbowl (CT). He's been victorious during Florida Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway; he's won a Race of Champion's Modified event at the wide-open Thompson Speedway (CT) and he bested the field in a $10,000-to-win open Modified race at Seekonk Speedway (MA) this summer. His most prestigious victory came in last year's North vs. South Shootout at the one-of-a-kind Concord Motorsport Park in North Carolina.
But all of those wins in all of those places is nothing like one of Lia's next events. The young New York driver will be entering the August 24th USAR Pro Cup race at the one-and-only Bristol Motor Speedway. Lia will be driving for the Hagans Racing team for the Wednesday night show.
Recently, Lia got his first laps at the high-banked oval during an open test session.
"I thought it was an extremely challenging racetrack. It's hard on a driver both physically and mentally. It beats you up. It's a rough racetrack and there's a lot of stuff going on at once there. It's just a tough place. You know when you get in there and go."
What were Lia's first impressions of one of the best-known speedbowls in the country?
"I underestimated it. There is so much banking. It's a little intimidating and takes a little bit of getting used to. Plus, I still had to get used to the car. I still have very few laps in a full-bodied racecar. Just getting in a car with smaller tires and more weight is always an adjustment whether it's a Pro Cup car at Lonesome Pine or a Busch North car at New Hampshire. No matter what I get into, it's a challenge, but I like that."
Lia's learning curve wasn't very steep, though; just like when he qualified third and finished a solid 13th in his first, and only to date, Pro Cup event earlier this year at Lonesome Pine Speedway.
"It took about 12 laps to get used to the track," said Lia of adapting to Bristol. "It was just a matter of knowing how hard I could drive the racecar without wrecking it."
Lia didn't waste anytime going fast either. The Hagans Racing car, led by crew chief Patrick Donahue, was among the quickest cars during the test, despite the fact that they packed up early after an engine failure shortened their day.
"We were as fast as anyone," said Lia. "I think that we definitely would have had the fastest car if we hadn't blown the motor and had more time to adjust on the car. We were probably the most consistent car there."
The Hagans team has been fielding ARCA RE/MAX Series machines this season for Joey Miller. They have two victories on the year and are second to Frank Kimmel in the point standings. Lia knows that it's a solid raceteam that will put the National Alliance for Autism Research Ford under him at Bristol.
"They've got the best of everything. They have great equipment and great people. With Matt Hagans and Patrick Donahue heading up the whole deal, we're in good shape. Everyone is there to win. That is a boost to my confidence. We're not in the points' situation, so we're going there to win. If we can't win, we'll try and get the best finish possible. It's just like their ARCA team; they will do what it takes to win."
Lia had some help in getting up to speed. First off, crew chief Donahue shared his experience with the young driver. Since that experience has come turning wrenches for guys like Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers and Robby Gordon in the past, it's very valuable. But he wasn't the only one who aided the New Yorker at the session.
"Patrick helped out a lot and there were some drivers who I spoke to that helped. Matt Crafton helped me. Ken Butler took me around in a van and showed me the line. I didn't know them and they didn't know me, but they helped me get going in the right direction."
Maybe they helped a little too much.
"I heard some comments by the end of the day, 'who's driving that blue car?' People started to notice us and that was cool."
The Food City 150 for the USAR Pro Cup Series is scheduled for 7:00pm ET on Wednesday, August 24th.