NASCAR champion Michael Stefanik was killed in a plane crash in Sterling, Connecticut on Sunday afternoon.

The tragic accident happened after the plane that Stefanik was flying crashed shortly after take off from Riconn Airport, just over the state line in Coventry, Rhode Island.

According to reports from, the plane was apparently heading back to the airport shortly after take off when the crash occurred in a wooded area of Connecticut near the airport.

Stefanik, who according to police was flying an ultralite Aerolite 103, single-engine, single-seat glider-type plane, was taken from the plane and rushed to a local hospital with severe injuries and burns and was later pronounced dead.

In his career, Stefanik won 74 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races in 453 starts, as well as seven championships between 1989 and 2006. He was also a two-time Busch North Series champion. Stefanik also made appearances at the national level, starting 52 total races between the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series.

NASCAR did confirmed Sunday that Stefanik was the pilot killed in the accident. He was 61.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France released a statement through after learning of Stefanik's death:

Michael 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.