When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour kicks off its 2014 season at Thompson Speedway on April 6, the division’s all-time winningest driver expects to be in the starting field.
Seven-time series champion Mike Stefanik confirmed to RaceDayCT Monday that he will race part-time this year for team owner Ed Marceau.
Stefanik said at this point the team has no concrete plan for any certain events, but the Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150 is what Marceau’s team is shooting for to start the year.
“Ed Marceau wants to run a couple races this year and a guy that work on his car asked me if I would drive it,” Stefanik said. “So that’s about it. We really haven’t figured out which races we want to run. Maybe just a couple. I don’t think he wants to run very many. I told him I’d do it. I just want to help out some friends that helped me out during my career. They want to go racing and have some fun and they want me to drive their car. These guys are like ‘It been all about you, now it’s about us.’ I chuckled at that.”
After finishing fifth in the Whelen Modified Tour standings with two victories in 2013, the 55-year old Stefanik parted ways with Whelen Modified Tour owner Chris Our following the season. He was replaced on the team by 18-year old former Valenti Modified Racing Series competitor Tommy Barrett Jr.
Even after parting ways with Our, Stefanik has refused to use the word “retired” as it relates to his career in racing. He emphasized Monday not to expect anything more than a few events to come out of the deal with Marceau.
“It’s no big deal,” said Stefanik, who was recently announced as one of 20 nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014. “They’re just working on the car to get it together. The Icebreaker is not 100 percent, but it’s what they’d like to do. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to get together before that happens. It’s what they want to have happen, but it’s no big deal, if we go there we go there. If we don’t go there you might see us at the next one. There’s no urgency. It’s what they’re shooting for, but if it doesn’t happen it’s not a big deal. It’s a pretty casual deal.
“But most likely we will be there. The car was pretty much ready to go last year. He got the motor back from Billy the Kid and he wanted to see it run at the World Series [at Thompson] and Ed really couldn’t get it all back together in time to get something together. So the motor has been in the car since last Fall. Obviously a few updates have to be done, the seat has to be changed and a few other things, but realistically, if he wants to go to the Icebreaker it’s certainly a reasonable race to get to.”
Stefanik, who won his first Whelen Modified Tour title in 1989 and his last 2006, is the division’s all-time winningest driver with 74 career victories. Reggie Ruggiero is a distant second on the all-time wins list with 44 victories. He also has Whelen Modified Tour titles in 1991, 2001 and 2002.
In addition to his seven Whelen Modified Tour titles, Stefanik also has two NASCAR K&N Pro Series East titles. In a remarkable span, Stefanik, in both 1997 and 1998, won championships on both the Whelen Modified Tour and the K&N Pro Series East. He also has 26 career NASCAR Nationwide Series starts and 26 career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts.
Stefanik said he and the Marceau team could be running Modified Tour events, Valenti Modified Racing Series events or even open shows in 2014.
“I think it’s one thing at a time right now,” Stefanik said. “It’s like, let’s get to the Icebreaker and then if an open show comes up, or an MRS race, or another Tour race we want to go to, then we’ll figure that out. It’s one race at a time. There’s no schedule. There’s no ‘Let’s run four races and see where we stand.’ There’s nothing like that. Let’s run a couple races this year. It could be two, it could be three or four. It’s just a very laid back approach.”