The string of wrecks put a damper on a day when the racing was otherwise great.

“I’m disappointed that 30-laps into the race, everybody was out of control,” said Flemke.  “It ended up putting somebody in the hospital.  If they don’t say something to us next race in the driver’s meeting, shame on them.  I don’t know if they [the drivers] have been watching too much Busch racing or Truck racing, but there was way too much banging and slamming and pushing and shoving out there.  It’s just too bad because we hurt somebody today.”

Now, the Modified Tour has two weeks off before heading to Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) for the Spring Sizzler.  How the drivers in Sunday’s race will spend their time before then varies.  Some will be fixing their racecars, some will probably be thinking about how they drove over their heads at Thompson.  Others will no doubt be blaming other drivers, but Ted Christopher probably won’t be celebrating his victory too much during that timeframe.

Instead, he will be jumping on an airplane to North Carolina late in the week to head off to Caraway Speedway (NC) and a stop on the NASCAR Southern Modified schedule.  TC will drive that race for the #79 Hillbilly Racing team.  They joined up to win the season opening Southern Tour race last month and will be back together this coming Saturday night.

With opening day victories in the North and South Modified Tours, a Florida Speedweeks championship at New Smyrna Speedway and a win in an open Modified show at Friendship Speedway (NC) last week, Christopher’s 2005 season has gotten off to a very good start.
car.  Thankfully, fans could see movement from the driver compartment before track workers arrived on the scene to cut the roof off of the car and lift Beers from the wreckage. 

Beers was transported to a local hospital for a battery of tests.  A broken collarbone was determined to be his injury.  The #3 car was impounded by NASCAR for examination, but judging by the wreckage, it was obvious that the safety equipment did its job and prevented major injuries.
But Before The Field Could Get to The Closing Laps, There Was Plenty of Carnage
The Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway (CT) had its share of good, bad and ugly moments and all three traits were pretty strong in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series season opener.
The good was a green-white-checker run to the finish that resulted in Ted Christopher beating Zach Sylvester to the finish line by less than a foot.  Chuck Hossfeld had a front row seat for it in third; he waited in the wings in case the two leaders got together. 

The bad news was a savage crash in turn four which sent Eric Beers to the hospital with a broken collar bone.

The ugly part was that although Beers had the only injury of the race, he was not alone when it came to having torn-up equipment.  By the one-third mark of the race, more than a dozen cars were out of the race or badly wounded, with the majority of those problems resulting from a string of wrecks.

The finish was worth enduring the early race outbreak of yellow flag fever.  In fact, Hollywood might not have been able to write a better script.  There would be a two lap dash to the finish among three very different characters and all three were lined up right in line for the final restart with two laps to go.

In first, there was Zach Sylvester, the quiet and polite sophomore driver who was looking for his first career victory on the Modified Tour.  The second-place driver was Chuck Hossfeld, a consistent threat for victories on the Tour in the past few seasons who has stepped up his game for 2005 by taking over the potent #50 car owned by Don Barker.  Behind both of those guys was Ted Christopher, the hardcore veteran racer whom Thompson fans love to hate.

When the green flag dropped, Sylvester tried to protect his line but Hossfeld dove low into the first turn.  Upon the apex of the corner, Christopher dove even lower and created a three-wide battle going down the backstretch.
Then, things got really exciting.  Ken Barry spun down the frontstretch but no caution flag was displayed.  Sylvester crouched up to Christopher’s bumper in turn four and dove underneath him exiting the corner.  The momentum put Sylvester into the lead going to the finish line, but Christopher edged ahead just a little bit more at the last second.  They were side by side at the line and fans had to wait for confirmation by track announcer Russ Dowd before knowing who actually had won the race.

The drivers involved also weren’t sure of the finish.

“I didn’t know,” said Sylvester.  “The guys were talking on the radio and they finally said that Teddy had it.  But it’s still a great run for these guys.  I’m very happy.” 

The photos showed that Christopher had the victory by only a foot or two.

“It was a little too close,” said Christopher.  “I thought that I had won; I looked over and it looked like I did.”

The fans got a little wild at that point.  The man in the black car, Ted Christopher, came out on top ahead of the rising star on the Tour, who lives from only 40 minutes away from the track.  Both camps had different messages for the fans after the race.
“Normally I do
Two different emotions are seen as a Sylvester crew member hangs his head after seeing his driver come a little bit short.  (Top - 51 Photo) and Christopher celebrates in victory lane after the win.  (Bottom - Hodge Photo)
“I was going to try to dive bomb Chucky [for second}, but he dive bombed Zack and that moved him up the track so much that it made my job easier,” said Christopher. “I didn’t look like the bad guy.”

Hossfeld led down the backstretch, but got passed by both Christopher and Sylvester in turns three and four.  The final lap actually started out relatively tame, with TC leading Sylvester and Hossfeld in single file fashion.
“That’s great,” said Christopher.  “They booed at me even when I was introduced.  That’s the best, I love it when they do that.  It doesn’t get me down at all.  I like it because I’m the one who gets the most boos and cheers.”

Still, Christopher doesn’t think that the fan reaction is any extra motivation for him to drive the wheels off a racecar.

“I don’t need any juice,” said Christopher.  “Just getting into the car is the juice that I need.”

The close finish was enough to ease the sting of what, at times, had been a very ugly race.  Before the 50 lap mark, the infield was littered with broken racecars from multiple wrecks.  Some guys like John Blewett and Tony Ferrante were knocked out because of damage.  Others, like Eddie Flemke, limped around with battered racecars.

On lap 53, Eric Beers hit the frontstretch wall very hard in his Boehler #3 car.  The wreck was violent and virtually destroyed the
A lot changed in the course of a few short minutes.  First, Christopher (#13) enters the white flag lap with a decent lead.  Then Sylvester makes a charge in his #15 at the finish line.  The Sylvester goes to victory lane to congratulate his rival.  (51 Photos)
“We put on a heck of the show for the fans and that’s what we are here for,” said Sylvester. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be doing this.”

Meanwhile, TC was getting booed loudly by the crowd.  He has been known to wind up the Thompson fans in the past and they showed that they remembered that during victory lane celebrations.  Still, Christopher didn’t mind in the least.
Some of the fans weren't too happy about TC's win.  (51 Photo)
“It’s been pretty good so far and I hope it keeps going,” said Christopher.  “It’s a weird game, it bites you when you don’t think, so you have to take the good when it comes to you.”

Stay tuned for this week for a super-sized portion of leftovers from Thompson and photo galleries from the race weekend.

Fans were concerned about Beeers' hard hit (Top), Beers was transported to a local hospital (Center), but his car was destroyed.  (Bottom)  (51 Photo)