NASCAR Champion Mike Stefanik Dies In Plane Crash

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NASCAR champion Michael "Mike" Stefanik died in a plane crash near Rhode Island this weekend, TMZ has confirmed. He was 61.

According to the celebrity gossip outlet, the pro stock car racing driver took off in a "single-engine, single-seat Aerolite 103" aircraft from the Riconn Airport in Coventry, Rhode Island, on Sunday (September 15) when something went tragically awry. Stefanik evidently tried to return to the airport when his plane veered in the woods near the runway, the impact of which killed the pilot.

In addressing the tragedy, NASCAR chairman Jim France provided the following statement to the media:

"Mike Stefanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport. His tough, competitive nature and excellence on the race track won him the respect and admiration of fans and competitors alike. His career stretched more than 30 years, bridging the generations between Jerry Cook and Richie Evans to our current drivers. He recorded achievements in this sport that are likely untouchable, and his legacy as a champion will endure. We will keep his wife Julie and his family and friends in our prayers."

Lauded as the second-greatest NASCAR champion of all-time, the legendary racer made NASCAR history in 1997-'98 after winning dual titles for both the Modified and K&N Pro Series East divisions. He is also tied with Richie Evans for the most NASCAR championships ever with nine wins in total.

His final run was in 2014's Whelen Modified Tour, achieving 74 career victories in 453 starts (1985-2014) in his lifetime.

Photo: Getty Images

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