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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



Thompson International Speedway
by Polly Reid

It may have been a while and it may have not been the easiest way to get there but two time Tour champion Donny Lia from Jericho, NY driving the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile found his way to victory lane taking down the win in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Budweiser King of Beers 150 at Thompson International Speedway.

Lia qualified ninth, suffered issues on pit road, went down a lap, got a free pass getting his lap back, then made his charge to the front and the winning pass to become the final leader on lap 129.

Following Lia was Ron Silk who held off Doug Coby for second, point leader Coby crossing third with Ted Christopher in the Boehler 3 fourth and pole winner Mike Stefanik fifth.
“It feels really, really good,” said Lia about being back in victory lane, his first win since October of 2009 at Stafford. “I want to thank Bob Garbarino for sticking with this program, giving us what we need, I love the guy and I’m so happy to win this for him. All these guys, they’ve been busting their butts in the shop- this means a lot to me- my first win since both my sons were born.” Lia acknowledged long time crew member Jimmy Savage, welcoming him into victory lane with the entire Mystic Missile team. “I wanted to get to victory lane for him, for everybody. This is what it’s all about.”

While it is Lia’s sixteenth career win, his third at Thompson, it is the first win for Dan Laferriere as crew chief of the legendary Mystic Missile. “We have two motors, one went back to Hutter to get rebuilt after the rainout at Riverhead- that one’s not ready,” said Laferriere. “Then last week at Stafford we broke a tranny, so we were down to no motors. Luckily Al Heinke was kind enough to lend us a motor. But, it wasn’t one of our motors so it didn’t exactly slide right in. We spent a lot of time in the shop getting everything right.” Laferriere has been with Garbarino since 2007 and was part of the team that earned two NWMT Championship titles with Lia in ’07 and ’09. “It feels good,” said Laferriere about his first trip to victory lane as crew chief. “We kind of got used to being there then the last couple of years, it’s been quite a while, now that we finally got back, it makes it that much more rewarding. It’s an honor to be the crew chief of this car. This is a car that has its own fans, made history; it’s an honor to be calling the shots.” Laferriere learned under Bob Mueller, the former crew chief of the Mystic Missile. When Bob stepped aside, he recommended Laferriere to Garbarino. “I’m glad Bob gave me the chance.”

Coors Pole winner Mike Stefanik led the entire first half of the Budweiser King of Beers 150. Lia challenged for the top spotaround the 59 lap mark but Stefanik fought back and the seven time champion kept his lead in the Ed Marceau entry. Stefanik pitted on lap 90 and was in a solid 8th by lap 100. The Coventry, RI driver made his way to fifth by lap 128 and ran with the pack taking down a solid top five finish.
It was when the caution fell on lap 62 that things got interesting for Lia.

“The first time we came in, we were planning on taking our tires and we stripped out a lug nut, we couldn’t get the tires off,” said Laferriere. “We left our time trial tires on, went back out and we put together a game plan on how we were going to get it off. We came back down, we had to change how we did things and we got it right. It was all in the drivers hands from then on.”

“We couldn’t get a tire off so they decided not to put any on, not get the change set out of cycle,” said Lia. “It took another two pit stops, we went a lap down but we were lucky no one else was a lap down and we got the lucky dog right away. It’s kind of like our season in one night, in a nutshell, it’s been a tough year. I know everyone says their guys work hard, but these guys have been in the shop since Stafford every single night until two in the morning working on this car. My guys, hats off for even getting here today.” Lia became thoughtful when talking about his mindset coming into evening. “After qualifying, I sat in the car just thinking, shaking my head, after a while, every driver, I don’t care who it is, goes through a point where ‘is it me? Did I forget how to do this?’ You start doubting yourself. Tonight was a really good night to get back on track and give these guys a win, it means so much to me.”

“There is nothing like victory lane,” said Garbarino.“Everybody wants to be there and everybody should get a shot at being there.” Garbarino was not sure about the night when they had the trouble on pit road. “I was thinking, what else could go wrong? We had a decent car but we couldn’t get the lug nuts off, but it worked out. We got that caution, got him in, tires changed, got the lucky dog, it kind of fell our way a little bit there as far as that was concerned.”

After the red flag incident involving Ed Flemke and Wood Pitkat, Lia lined up 10th, for the restart on lap 92. Todd Szegedy was the current leader with Ron Silk who put on a spirited side by side battle with Szegedy, Silk taking over the top spot on lap 95. Up to fifth by lap 100, Lia made his way forward to second fifteen circuits later. A caution on lap 117 that collected the field, Silk electing the outside row, Lia inside on the restart with 28 circuits left in the event that became pivotal. “I got a little run on him, just drove it into the corner, got underneath him, he was nice enough to give me a lane there,” said Lia. Lia became the final leader of the night on lap 129. The confidence is re-ignited.

Coby, in the Wayne Darling, Reynolds Auto Wrecking/Furnace & Duct sponsored Chevrolet had another good points night, the seventh consecutive podium finish for the Milford, CT driver keeps the points tally 41 ahead of Silk who moved up a notch to second place. “It’s a night where you stay out of trouble,” said Coby who took the green fourteenth. “It was a good honest effort from our team- anybody who knows Wayne or how our team works knows they are a real fun team to be around, level headed, never snap out at anything, it’s really fun to be around them because it’s one of those deals where you can just go to the track and whatever you have you have. Tonight it was a third place car. Six races to go, we’re trying to keep this streak going, top threes, it’s pretty cool. I’ve never had anything like this in my career. The wins are one thing, they’re in the books, its nights like tonight where you start fourteenth and finish third that means a lot too.”

Rowan Pennink was sixth followed by Jimmy Blewett seventh, Bobby Santos, digging deep from an earlier spin crossed for eighth, Ron Yuhas who ran as high as third bringing home ninth and Szegedy who led nearly 20 laps just past the half way mark claimed tenth.

The next stop for the NWMT is the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 in Bristol, TN on August 22nd.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: August 10, 2012

©2012 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.