The late Mike Stefanik from Exeter, RI will receive the call to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night, an honor that recognizes his racing accomplishments as a nine-time champion at the regional series level.
Stefanik excelled in cars with fenders and those without – thriving in the former Busch Grand National North Series and the open-wheel NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. That dominance led to a handful of national series starts in what’s now called the Xfinity Series, and a brief stint in the Camping World Truck Series. He became that circuit’s Rookie of the Year in his lone Truck season, a standout newcomer at age 41.
Stefanik never ran a Cup Series race, but he was exceptional at the tracks where NASCAR’s top division competed. At tiny Martinsville Speedway, Stefanik won five times when the northeast-based Modified Tour ventured south to Virginia. Closer to his Rhode Island home, he was an eight-time Modified winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, adding a pair of Busch North wins to his tally at the relatively flat mile track.
Both of those totals top the all-time win list at Martinsville and New Hampshire since the Modified Tour’s modern era was established in 1985. The last of his 74 tour victories came at another Cup Series mainstay – Bristol Motor Speedway in 2013. He died six years later in an ultralight airplane crash near the Connecticut-Rhode Island border.
Winston Kelley, the NASCAR Hall’s executive director, has often said the shrine is a NASCAR Hall of Fame and not solely a Cup Series Hall of Fame. Stefanik fits that all-encompassing description, but his success on the grand stages of Cup Series tracks – especially at Martinsville and New Hampshire — is a distinction all its own.
With Stefanik’s induction night approaching Friday (8 p.m. ET, streaming on Peacock) along with fellow honorees Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Red Farmer, NASCAR.com spoke with two longtime institutions in the racing industry with deep connections to those tracks, gathering their remembrances of Stefanik’s enduring excellence. Their interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.