Mike Stefanik's impact on the world of motorsports cannot be denied. That was apparent Sunday evening when the tragic news was delivered that the nine-time NASCAR champion had been killed in a plane crash in Sterling, Connecticut. As the news spread, the reflections and comments from those he impacted began spreading on social media.
Today, we take a look at how those in the racing industry will remember the man, and the driver, "Mighty Mike" Stefanik.
"Deeply saddened to learn we lost another great one today. Thoughts and prayers go out to the Stefanik family. 💔"
"On the redeye home reading all the kind words about Mighty Mike Stefanik. Hall of Fame driver, more importantly a Hall of Fame person. A great friend of my family, one of my dad’s toughest rivals and one of my brother’s heroes that he looked up to and tried to emulate. RIP Champ!"
"Hard to put into words what Mike Stefanik meant to our racing community and to me personally from the time I was in quarter midgets until today. I’m just flooded with memories right now - from watching and learning from him in the car, to receiving advice on how to get better and eventually how to handle racing success. Mike was the absolute definition of a champion - fiercely competitive but ever so helpful to his competitors. The lessons I’ve learned from Mike extend well beyond driving race cars. My thoughts are with Julie, his daughters, his family, former crew members and close friends."
"The news of that really cut me out at my knees yesterday. I got word from my ARCA car owner Chris Our, who Mike Stefanik finished out his career with. Definitely just absolutely beyond words. First of all, he's who everybody wants to me. Not just the success but a model of hard work and professionalism. We didn't have a lot of communication but the little bit we did was always very productive. Not always positive if he wasn't happy with me but he just would shed light on how you could be better. You feel for Julie and the girls and everybody that was close to him. Some things in life just don't make sense.
"The world is just not going to be the same without Mike Stefanik. But luckily we were there to witness his greatness and his class, above all. Like I said, the professionalism, he's just who everybody would want to be. There's not anybody out there who's going to say anything bad about him. To win that many races and championships and have such a positive image is pretty impressive."
"It's absolutely heartbreaking that we have lost Mike Stefanik.
On the track he was one of, if not THE best to ever do it in a modified. Grew up in the stands watching and appreciating him as a kid, then got the chance to race with him, and then against him. Mike was going to race your guts out, but all while being clean and respectful. Afterwards he would critique you, compliment you, and chew your ass if needed, but he did it because he genuinely wanted to help.
I always appreciated when he would take the time for any of those talks with me, and appreciated his advice on how to be able to stay in this game and be successful.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Julie, and his daughters, as well as the entire Stefanik family, his past race teams, and all his race fans!"
It’s hard to put into words what Mike Stefanik meant to #NASCAR - he was simply one of the best. It’s even harder to put into words what he meant to a skinny 15 year-old kid like me who was just starting out in the biz. Mike was a racer, but also a great family man & a friend.
"Mike Stefanik was one of the most complete short-track racers of his generation. He could build cars, maintain them, and, as the record books prove, he could drive the hell out of ‘em. He won seven NASCAR Modified Tour championships and two NASCAR Busch North titles, and since we’re about the same age, I was lucky enough to see a huge chunk of his career. His biggest post-retirement kick was zooming through the skies in a little kit plane he’d put together. One of Mike’s great joys was taking his boyhood hero and longtime pal Bugs Stevens on a flight last year; I talked to them both by phone that afternoon, and they carried on like teenagers. Now phone calls and text messages and Facebook are telling me that Mike lost his life today, doing what he loved so much: flying. Thinking tonight of his wife and best friend, Julie, and their two girls. It’s little comfort right now, but this much I know: That guy LOVED the career he had, and the life he led. His loss will land like a thud in the Northeast racing community, and a lot of hearts are heavy this evening. RIP, Champion."
-Photo credit: Rick Ibsen