The Christopher brothers have terrorized the Modified racing scene in the Northeast for years. Ted has been a NASCAR National Weekly Racing Series champion; he’s won a bunch of track championships and has a bucket of wins on the NASCAR Modified Tour.
Twin brother Mike, on the other hand, has a few track championships and a ton of wins in NASCAR’s Weekly Racing Series Modifieds at places like Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway (CT). Yet, TC’s accomplishments have overshadowed Mike’s at times and because of that, some have thought he had given up on a shot at a full-time Mod Tour ride. That is far from the truth.
“It’s killed me to stay home,” admits Mike. “I’ve always wanted to run the Tour; I just never had the opportunity. I want to race; I love to race. I have a passion for it like you can’t believe. But, I’ve got a family; I’ve got a brand new house I built and I’ve got a business to run (M&T Auto Sales). When I leave, like I did this weekend, the business shuts down. So that’s tough because I lose money.”
Now Mike has the opportunity he has always wanted, a full-time Tour ride with a top-flight team. Mike takes over the #79 Modified ride on NASCAR’s Whelen Northern Modified Tour, just days after team owner Roger Hill and Eddie Flemke split up. The deal between Hill and Christopher was cut Saturday at the inaugural Southern Modified Tour race at Caraway Speedway, where his brother Ted won in the 79-Modified.
“I have tough shoes to step into,” explains Mike at Caraway. “Edward was very successful with the car; he was second in points last year and won some races. Teddy gets in it tonight and wins. Geez, make it harder for me you know.”
Mike and Teddy are as tight as brothers can be, but once on track, the gloves are off. At the same time, TC was Mike’s biggest cheerleader while he was trying to get the ride.
“He’s a good racer,” stated Teddy. “We’ve raced hard and done a bunch of stuff together and he really needs this chance to drive for somebody where he can just bring his helmet bag and jump in the racecar. He really relates to a racecar and it’ll be good for both him and these guys. They have good racecars, good motors; the only thing that sucks is that I have to race against him on the Tour. But, I’d rather race against him than race against Eddie.”
“A little over a week ago Teddy calls me and tells me he is going to driving the car here (Caraway) and that Eddie is probably going to be out of the car,” explains Mike. “And he said ‘I think they want to talk to you Mike, cause I think they want you to drive the car.’ I said, ‘Wow.’ The next day I got the number from my buddy and I called David (Hill) and told him I was interested in driving the car and he said they would like to do that.
“He wanted to do a press release right away and I told him I need to call Jimmy (Galante, Mike’s car owner last year) first. I wouldn’t be here without Jimmy and he gave me his blessing to go and talk to the Hill’s about it. We talked about it right when I got here and now I’m driving it.”
“That helped,” admitted team owner Roger Hill. “He came down here to talk to me and watch what we had going on. We made the decision today, me and my wife, because we liked him. We’ve had a lotta phone calls but we like our decision.”
Roger Hill has been around Modifieds for a long time, but one thing he has not done is win at New Hampshire International Speedway. Mike runs well there, in fact, he finished second to his brother in July of last year at the Magic Mile, and that might have helped the Hill’s decision making process.
“I watched him run up there last year and he showed me he can race there,” said Hill. “And before I quit I’d like to win New Hampshire. I don’t know how long that is going to be, but I’m gonna keep trying.”
Mike Christopher is all smiles now after cementing one of the top rides on the NASCAR Northern Modified Tour. (51 Photos)
Keep in mind though, the season is now less than two weeks away and there’s a lot of work to be done.
“I just ordered some shoes and some gloves today to satisfy all the safety stuff that NASCAR just came out with,” Mike explained. “I just got off the phone with Tammy (Hill) and I’m going back down there on Monday and check everything out. I want to get the cockpit to where I want it, the seat, the steering wheel position, the pedals in the right spot; all that stuff is very important to me.”
Then it’s off to New River Valley on Tuesday to test and up to Thompson Speedway for the opening “Icebreaker” event during the weekend (April 9th & 10th).
Mike (left) and Teddy (right) pose for pictures after TC's Southern Mod Tour victory Sat. at Caraway.
“I know I’m a good racer; I just needed the right opportunity with good equipment. And this is nice because I can just sit in it, drive it and tell them what it needs and they do the rest of it,” Mike said. “We’ll crawl a little bit before we walk. You know how racing is though; I could get in it and fall on my face because of luck, but I do not foresee that.”
Neither does Roger Hill.
“We like Mike’s looks as far as driving and stuff. He’s been real interested in getting in my cars and he can stand on the gas. We’ll see how good he is.”
The deal is signed, sealed and delivered: Mike Christopher, the New England native, is now officially a Hillbilly (The name of Hill’s team is Hillbilly Racing).
“It doesn’t bother me one bit,” says Mike with a laugh. “Those are great guys and they have a great car. They are really, really nice people; I’m sure we are going to gel. It may take a little while, but we’ll get there.
“Everything I’ve done, I’ve done by myself. Last year I borrowed a truck and trailer to get to a race; that’s just tough. It gets hard. And I’ve got my own business and a family and I have to take care of that first. So this is perfect for me.”
Mike Christopher can be thankful for a lot of things right now; his family, a good business, his brother and a good ride on the Modified Tour. But, he’s also thankful for another thing. The Hill’s are changing their typical pink paint scheme to florescent orange and white this year. See, everything is good in Mike Christopher’s world right now.