Return Man: Mike Stefanik Back Behind The Wheel With The Whelen Modified Tour At NHMS

Mike Stefanik celebrates victory at Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2013 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Mike Stefanik celebrates victory at Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2013 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

LOUDON, N.H. – Let the opening words of Public Enemy’s Chuck D in the song Bring The Noise be the chorus of the introduction.

“Once again back is the incredible …”

A face not often seen this year around events of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was back in the garage on Friday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Though nobody needed any sort of reintroductions when it comes to the Whelen Modified Tour and Mike Stefanik.

Stefanik, who retired from full-time competition after the 2013 season, was back at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Friday preparing to run the Whelen All-Star Shootout exhibition Friday and Saturday’s Sunoco 100 points event for the division in Loudon.

Stefanik’s only other appearance this season came in the season opening event on April 6 at Thompson Speedway.

Stefanik, a seven-time Whelen Modified Tour champion and the division’s all-time winningest driver, is competing this weekend for car owner Ed Marceau.

“Like I said at the beginning of the year with these guys, whatever races they wanted to run I would run them for them,” Stefanik said. “They looked at this race as being one of the races they wanted to compete at and here we are.”

The 56-year old Stefanik has 74 career victories in 450 career Whelen Modified Tour starts. He had victories at Thompson and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway last year and finished fifth in the series standings before parting ways with the Chris Our Motorsports organization in the offseason.

He said he has no regrets about his decision to step away from competing full-time with the Whelen Modified Tour.

“Racing does put a lot of excitement in your life, some good and some bad,” Stefanik said. “But it does put a lot of excitement and it’s hard to replace that excitement. But also, not racing gets rid of all the drama and aggravation that comes with it too. There’s always pros and cons to it.”

Stefanik said getting out of competition full-time has afforded him the chance to get out and see some other types of racing as a fan that he often couldn’t get to in the past. He said this year has been to an NHRA drag racing event, a World Of Outlaws race, a NASCAR Nationwide Series event and even a weekly event at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway.

But, one place Stefanik hasn’t been to as a fan this year is a Whelen Modified Tour event. He said he’s not sure he’s ready to sit in the stands and watch a Modified Tour event as a fan.

“I’m not a fan,” Stefanik said. “I might be able to do that down the road in a year or two or something. Everybody that has been a real fierce competitor in racing, I think when they get out of it they need to get away from it for a while to reset everything.”

Stefanik was 11th fastest of 31 cars in the first Whelen Modified Tour practice Friday morning. He was 17th fastest in the second practice.

“The car was really good,” Stefanik said. “I went a few laps and everything felt pretty good. It felt really good. I have no complaints. If you don’t have any big problems then don’t make any.”

He said he isn’t getting caught up in the excitement of those happy to see him back in competition in the All-Star event and regular race.

“I don’t get caught up in the stuff going on around us,” Stefanik said. “I do the same thing all the time. Thirty-eight years, I come to the racetrack with the same mindset. Half the time if you ask most drivers they don’t even know how many laps the race is that they’re running. As a driver I’m here to focus on my job and let the team do their job and work with the team as much as possible and let the cards fall where they may.”

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