Whelen Modified Tour Mystic Missile Ride Remains Without Driver For 2015 Season

Bob Garbarino

Bob Garbarino

Will he or won’t he return?

It’s become almost an annual question as it relates to NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team owner Bob Garbarino and his Mystic Missile organization.

Garbarino’s Mystic based operation has been a cornerstone of Modified racing in the Northeast, but once again it’s unclear if the team will be hitting the track when the Whelen Modified Tour season opens on April 12 at Thompson Speedway.

The on again, off again, on again, off again relationship between Garbarino and Lia hit an off again point at the end of the 2014 season when Lia announced he was leaving the organization after a season that saw him finish 11th in the standings.

Asked what the plans are for 2015, Garbino was succinct.

“I haven’t made any decisions,” Garbarino said. “I haven’t really given it a lot of thought this winter to be honest with you. That’s where I’m at. I just don’t know, and I’m not pushing myself to make a decision either.”

Lia had done three separate stints with the team, winning two championships for Garbarino.

Lia won a series title with the team in 2007 and then left the organization. He returned in 2009 and won another title for Garbarino. In 2010 Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass. drove Garbarino’s entry to the team’s third Whelen Modified Tour title, but Lia replaced Santos in the car prior to the 2012 season.

Many names have been rumored as a possible candidates for the Garbarino ride for 2015, but the team owner wasn’t revealing any directions he may even be leaning.

“I’ve had some conversations,” Garbarinos said. “I don’t know, I’m not inclined to make any decisions I guess.”

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  1. former scale guy Bob says

    Get Mikey Stefanik out of “retirement”!!!!

  2. I couldn`t agree more Bob… good choice !!!!!

  3. got to have the missile out there , stefanik be great.need to wear my mystic missile hat this year. be a shame not have the 4 out there

  4. must have the 4 out there it wont be right without the missile and must wear there racing hat this year

  5. I third that motion!!! Stefanik can use a great team, and Garabino can use a great driver. ‘Nuff said!!!

  6. James Osterhoudt says

    Guys, I like Mike Stefanik too, BUT the guy is older than dirt. That is the MAJOR problem with the WMT. Lets get Brian Ross to come out of retirement.
    How about Steve Massey or Jon McKennedy?
    Stewart Friesen would be a great choice, he wins in everything he drives.

  7. What’s going on with the former crew chief Dan LaFerrer . Is he still with the team or has he left with Lia ?

  8. I think Mr. Garbarino should think outside the box those are all great names but retired names how about and up and comer from New York Andy Jankowiak finished 3rd in the ROC at Chumung Speedway (we know the drivers that came from there ) and the kid won the 1st nite of the Gambler Classic in AC,won it all at Trenton the kid deserves a good looking at…. JMO

  9. former scale guy Bob says

    All Good James, But Mike is my neighbor and friend……..And He Won Bristol just last year, Not bad for older than dirt….

  10. Rick Kulesa says

    Markie Stewart, out of the Turbush family. Kid been winning everything out in Riverhead Raceway!!

  11. Add one more to the Jankowiak motion.

  12. Any potential driver will have to bring something to the table. Talent doesn’t pay the bills. Money does. I hope the 4 does come back but we all know one of these yrs they won’t. I hope its not this year.

  13. Live right near Mikey as well. Always see him. He isnt driving because he didnt get a ride worth his time. This ride would be. Hes got plenty of gas left in the Tank.

  14. peggy druar says

    Andy Jankowiak out of Tonawanda NY he has the talent and needs the back up – don’t miss the opportunity – ANDY J is your man!

  15. Andy Jankowiak has more than proved hes capable of running that car. Hes won most big races all over NY, NJ, Canada, etc. If anyone deserves a shot at that spot, its him. He runs dirt and asphalt successfully. Won multiple championships at 4 different tracks. an on top of all hes accomplished, he does it with the lowest budget, a pizza delivery job, and many long hours. He has the biggest passion for racing youve ever seen.

  16. seekonk fan says

    I thought Stefenik was talking retirement when Our replaced him with Barrett? Great driver in his time, but let it go. Might be hard attracting sponsors after the nutty he took at Daytona on tv. Just saying.

  17. MIKE STEFANIK! One last run! lets go!

  18. Hey James take your head out of your ass with that comment I guess age makes all the difference to you but Mike can still get it done like Ted & some other “older than dirt drivers” your an idiot period..How about Jerry or Reggie I suppose they suck too? Really shows how much you don’t know about modified racing d- bag lol!!!

  19. How about TC in the Missile this year?

  20. Todd Szegedy ain’t no slouch, no full time ride either.

  21. Andy Jankowiak is the beat choice.

  22. seekonk fan says

    Chewy, gotta side with James on this one. Can’t keep recycling all the old drivers any longer, time for fresh faces. Here’s the real problem, WMT is what they call a “tweener”, it’s just to expensive for small,local sponsors to foot the bill, and the larger , new england-national sponsors get no return on their $$$$. So what you have is a bunch of wealthy, mod loving,owners that keep this series running. Barrett getting the 22 ride was the best thing to happen to the series, now I hear he is only running a partial sched. go figure.

  23. Best**

  24. Crazy in NY says

    I’m with Peggy, Andy J all the way.

  25. darealgoodfella says

    TC in the Missile does sound rather interesting.

    What does TC have for sponsorship these days?

  26. Why not Ron Silk….. ? Most consistent on the tour.

  27. I like Todd in that car,to good of a driver to be outside looking in……lets go Todd number 4 looking good………

  28. Mikey is the man! His age isn’t a factor the man can wheel a race car. Oh yeah and by the way if you need more convincing he has 9 NASCAR titles albeit not all in a modified but I do believe he is tied with Richie Evans with 9 titles.

  29. right on Chewbacca. well said

  30. Youhavenoidea says

    Tc runs his own deal although he does bring a ton of sponsors to the table not to mention in sure if he wanted or needed a ride it’s always a phone call away along with the sponsor funding. He may be the most hated but give him credit where credit is due he has run every nascar class both regional and national and if you look he will race anything he can and for 50 something he still has moves of the 20 year olds. Don’t discredit mike stefanic or the regg either just sometimes family comes first and people enjoy the part time driving when they can or just run the races with money. I blame nascar for that

  31. left no name so I must be "spineless" says


  32. Richie Evans was a mentor too Tony Jankowiak…his son Andy Jankowiak is a modified trapped in the body of a human

  33. Tony Membrino says

    Have no connections to anyone on the 4 team nor have I heard any chatter about this, but I’m gonna go off on a limb and take a guess that a full-time ride in that car costs a good deal more than just about all potential candidates can bring to the table… an unfortunate trend in the racing world. Although one thing I have heard is random criticism about Mr. Garbarino not wanting to switch to spec engines, which is strange because unless I’m mistaken, didn’t non-spec engines win the most races last year? Either way, it’d be great to see that car on the Tour full-time this year, regardless of the driver (or there age).

  34. I think it would be cool to see TC in the mystic missile. He also has a spec engine that he can bring and how two good options on which motor to use, his spec or Bob’s non spec. The one problem with this scenario is that he has already committed to split his rides between Bob Katon car and his own just like last year. Never know with TC though he could change his mind. He always said he would like to drive for Bob one day.

  35. There is no one driving it, or anything else without bringing money. Whether it is TC, Jeff Gordon, or some new kid, not driving without paying. Keep that in mind, with your “suggestions”…Continue conversation…

  36. left no name so I must be "spineless" says

    Hutter horsepower is second to none.

  37. I had not heard that TC & Katon are definitely teaming again this year. TC had expressed manpower concerns, while suggesting that he’d like to work with Katon again.

  38. darealgoodfella says

    Interesting thread, just shows how important and admired Bob Garbarino and the Mystic Missile are to Modified racing.

    What about Tony Hirschman? What has he been up to lately? He’d be awesome in the Missile.

  39. darealgoodfella says

    What about Erick Rudolf? He ran a couple seasons ago.

    Anyways, there are plenty of driver options out there. The Mystic Missile is a potent car, only capable drivers need apply.

  40. hutter hp is second to a NASCAR SPEC MOTOR

  41. darealgoodfella says

    With the car counts as low as they have been, look at New Smyrna with just 15 cars, there are lots of drivers looking for a ride.

    Maybe Jerry Marquis… he has been seen at some races.

    What about the Crew Chief position? Is that another staffing opportunity? It would be awesome if that guy Barry Kuhnel would come back. He could make cars run pretty quick.

  42. Peter Kelley says

    Bob could reach out to one of his former crew chiefs, Brian Bachand, Brian Ross or Pete Buckley to fill that void. As far as filling the seat, whispers through Rochester could have Stewart Friesen landing the ride. If healthy, Tim Connolly would most likely have been in the seat over a year ago. As anybody who knows him, Bob never shows his hand early. With Bob, you have to think the opposite; He looks so close to being done… that I have him all in!

  43. Andy Boright says

    Stewart Friesen is making too much money racing dirt modifieds to screw up his deal by taking a ride on a 14 race series.

    As much passion as some of you have for the WMT, the reality is drivers like Rudolph & Friesen have much better options on dirt that what the WMT represents. If you are racing to put food on the table, then you won’t be racing on the WMT, no matter who the car owner is.

    Matt Hirschman doesn’t have a steady ride for the series, and he is far from heartbroken about that fact – that should be a wake-up call that this series isn’t very healthy.

  44. darealgoodfella says

    Andy, when was the Modified Tour ever about racing to put food on the table? And especially for the driver? List all the Modified drivers whose sole source of income was from driving a modified tour car.

  45. darealgoodfella says

    Pete K., yeah, Connolly is another good name.

    There are plenty of pretty good drivers available. There are less cars, leaving a surplus of drivers.

  46. Andy Boright says

    darealgoodfella, someone mentioned the names of Stewart Friesen & Erick Rudolph as potential candidates for the Garbarino ride, and my point is that those guys race dirt to put food on the table so it isn’t reasonable to expect either driver would be willing to run the tour and mess up their dirt deals where they have more/better opportunities for a weekly pay check.

    There are short track racers out there that actually race for a living. They don’t race on asphalt, or in New England on a touring series, but they are out there.

  47. Sarah naylor says

    Mike would kick some ass in the number 4,let’s see it happen

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