TC “FIRST” FOR NASCAR SOUTHERN MOD TOUR by Matthew & Bob Dillner
Northern Boy Beats Southern Contingent for Inaugural Win at Caraway
A new chapter in the NASCAR history books has been opened. The inaugural Whelen Southern Modified Tour is now in full-swing and the optimism surrounding the series is as big as the hype. Race number-one is already in the book. 21-modifieds took the green Saturday night at Caraway Speedway in North Carolina, the field filled with the "King of the Southern Modifieds," former SMART champions, past winners, future superstars and some Northern invaders.
The Northern boys looked good in the 150-lap race. One led early, another marched forward from the rear of the field and yet another, namely Ted Christopher, won the battle in the Southern territory.
“It’s almost like I rode into town on a horse, took the money, and rode out,” said Christopher, laughing as he joked with us. “In one sense it’s sort of like that, but I don’t like to brag. I’m here to do a job and that’s win the race.”
TC did not only win, he dominated the event. Christopher always likes to stir the pot a little bit; that’s what makes him so charismatic, but the bottom line is, he did crush the competition.
“He ought to; look what he’s driving,” said Southern Modified driver Jason Myers, who finished 20th after engine problems. “Let me in that car. They got more tires with stickers on them in that truck right now than I’ll buy in the next three races. They’re supposed to win because they do it for a living. We make a living to do this. It’s a big difference.”
There has always been a discrepancy between the Northern and Southern Modified divisions; not in terms of competition, but in the amount of money spent. The Northern teams have traditionally had better engines and better equipment and although the winds of change are sweeping through the Modified world and that gap is closing, it will take a while to do so.
“Apples-to-apples I think we would be in a little better situation. Right now I think we are along the apples-to-grapes line,” stated pole-sitter and Southern Mod driver Burt Myers, who finished 14th. “We are not where we need to be, but when we get there, to where I can do what I know I can do in a car; I think it’ll be a different story.”
The story though, is that TC won the first-ever NASCAR Southern Modified Tour event and that puts another notch in the belt of his already accomplished career.
“This win is special because I’ve been racing Modifieds for a long-time and I remember Richie (Evans, nine-time National Modified champion) and all those guys,” explained Christopher. “I always want to win, but NASCAR has come in here and done some good things for Southern modifieds and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
He’s also happy for a couple of other reasons. First, his brother Mike will now take over that ride on the Northern Modified Tour this year, and secondly, he was able to help that team out in a time of need. Roger Hill (team owner) and their driver for the past several years, Eddie Flemke Jr, parted ways this week.
“I was hoping I could come down here and win for them because they have been through a lot this week with their driver being fired and people saying a bunch of stuff,” explained Christopher, who driving for Hillbilly Racing for the first time. “I’m sure that was on their minds a lot. I don’t play into that stuff on what happened in the past. I race so many different cars for different people; I just do the best I can no matter whose car I am driving.”
Yet, it was ironic to see Christopher wheel the same mount he is at war with every race on the Northern Whelen Mod Tour.
Christopher climbs out in victory lane at Caraway as the winner of the inaugural Southern Modified Tour race with NASCAR. (51 Photos)
“Everybody said, ‘what do you mean you’re driving that 79? That’s your enemy.’ I said it’s only the enemy if Eddie is driving it. I’m driving it so what the hell, I can’t be my own enemy.”
Christopher’s main competition in the race might have come from Jay Hedgecock. The Southern competitor led early and actually handed the lead to Christopher when the 41 went up in smoke with engine problems. But it wasn’t all easy for Christopher, who battled up through the field from his 12th-place starting spot.
“This is the first time I ever drove one of their cars so I didn’t know how it was going to act,” said TC, who drives the Mystique #13 on the Northern Tour. “If you drive your own car you know how many laps it is going to be good for and you can alter your driving style to it, but I had no idea going into this race and was probably a little more conservative because of it.
“After I got in the lead I found a line that really worked good and I started pulling away from everybody, I drove it like 80-percent there until lap 125 and then I said, ‘Ok, it’s going to go or it’s not going to go.’ And I went. I drove the sh-t out of it and it held together.”
Southern Mod boys Jason Myers (#4) and Burt Myers (#1) run together at Caraway on Saturday. (51 Photos)
Jamie Tomaino, the ’89 Northern Modified Tour champ, finished third and another Northerner, J.R. Bertuccio, led early on before his engine expired. But second-place finisher Jay Foley was quick to point out it was by no means a Northern romp.
“That car is not a Northern car and a lot of people have to understand that,” stated Foley of the #79-team, which is called Hillbilly Racing and is based out of North Carolina. “I’ve known Roger (Hill) for a long time; I’m about 30-miles from his shop and I know this means a lot for him to win here. It ain’t so bad when somebody like that comes in and beats ya.”
Jay Foley was the top Southern Mod guy with a 2nd place finish. (51 Photos)
Hill, a former Mod racer himself, never won a race at Caraway, a track nestled in the hills near Asheboro, NC and he was pretty proud of the fact that his car wound up in victory lane.
“We won the first Whelen Southern Modified race and that feels real good,” said Hill, whose Northern team finished second in points last year with Flemke. “This means a whole lot to me. I’ve led a lot of laps here when I was driving but unfortunately I never won one of them at this racetrack. That’s why we came here, plus we wanted to help the Southern Tour out.”
As far as TC goes, he just loves being a racer.
“I try to support these guys cause I like what they have going on,” admitted Christopher. “I did that even last year by running with the SMART series. Hopefully I can help them out by bringing new people in whether they love me or hate me. I think this is a real good deal for Southern modifieds and hopefully they’ll get a little more purse money in there for them.”
“We have a practice on Thursday at Thompson (CT, with his Northern Mod Tour team) and as long as that is good, then I’ll come back down Saturday. I already have my plane ticket so I’m coming.”
Look out if he does, because everyone will be gunning for him. And look out racing world too, because the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour is ready take you by storm.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We will have more on the race and everyone involved in it early in the week on Speed51.com)