NEW TEAM - BUT SAME OLD TED CHRISTOPHER by Matt Kentfield
Q&A With TC Sheds Light on New Start After Losing Ride
Two weeks ago, the king was without his crown.
One of the most dominant Modified drivers of all-time, Ted Christopher, found himself in search of a ride on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and without a weekly Modified seat when his car owner Jim Galante was arrested as part of a federal investigation into organized crime’s role in the Southern Connecticut trash hauling industry (which landed Galante's name on the pages of Sports Illustrated in relationship to his ownership stake in a minor-league hockey team).
events of the season. Christopher went out in his first start with the new team and showed that just because he was in a new car, it was the same old Ted Christopher behind the wheel and in Victory Lane.
Speed51.com caught up with the all-time Stafford Speedway Modified wins leader and current WMT points leader and found out just how hectic and emotional the last two weeks have been for Christopher.
Speed51.com: “How did the whole deal with Eddie Whelan come about? Who made the first phone call and how did it get to this point?”
Ted Christopher: “I always wanted to run some of the True Value Modified Series races and they were running at Waterford on Saturday. I like running all kinds of different series and I was thinking of running that Waterford race, but I realized that it conflicted with the Jennerstown race. That’s when I thought, 'hell, I’ve got nothing to do this weekend' (with no Tour ride) so I called up Joe Brady. I asked if he wanted to go to Waterford on Saturday and he said he’d love to. He made a couple phone calls to the crew and calls for some sponsors for the tire bill and stuff. He’s got some guys that, if I drive, they’ll definitely do stuff. Joe said, ‘alright, I’ll call you back.’ That was on Tuesday.
Federal officials came to Christopher’s Connecticut race shop and seized all six cars, the trailer and other equipment belonging to the Galante-owned Mystique Motorsports team. Christopher, who was coming off a sixth-place finish in the Stafford Speedway (CT) Spring Sizzler, sat second in points but had nothing to race but a couple of his own machines that were in no shape to run. He made a few phone calls and received just as many for opportunities to drive, but the phone call from Eddie Whelan was the one that made all the difference.
Two weeks after being without a ride, Christopher teamed up with Whelan, who had been competing on the WMT with rookie driver Mike Andrews, Jr. for the first two
TC took a backup Mike Andrews #36 renumbered #86 and took the win at J'town.
“Thursday he calls me in the afternoon around 4:00 and he said everything’s all set; we’re gonna go. It hadn’t been even 15 minutes after I talked to Joe that the phone rang and it was Eddie Whelan. He goes, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Not really too much.’ He goes, ‘Do you want to do something for Jennerstown? You’re second in points and I’d hate to see you leave.’ He wanted me to at least go to this race.
“I could’ve gone with Joe, but that was just too far. I didn’t want to put him in the situation to go all the way
out there. He doesn’t really have the sponsorship money
Ted Christopher (left) was more than happy to shake Eddie Whelan's hand after the car owner gave him a chance at Jennerstown (Howie Hodge photos).
to go out to Jennerstown. It would’ve been $1,000 in fuel the way fuel prices are. I could’ve gone to Jennerstown with Eddie, but what happens after that? What happens for Thompson or Stafford? Where do you go after that? You can sit there and hope that you’re going to do this or that, but as we all know in racing, plans change and different things happen.
“Eddie said he could bring a second car, but I had to come up with tire sponsorship money and hopefully bring a few guys or something. I told him I’d see what I can do. I got a few favors from some people and got the tire deal and we went out there. Okay, looking back it turned into a great race for me, and that was good.”
51: “Were you surprised to get that phone call from Eddie?”
TC: “I was surprised to get that call from him. I could’ve done something with Joe and Gary Cretty offered me his car and a motor, but I had no real way to get it to the track and stuff like that. I was surprised when Eddie called me and I wasn’t really looking for anything. I had decided in the first part of the week that I wasn’t going to do anything for Jennerstown. I wanted to do Eddie’s deal, but I just wanted to see if it could work.
TC: “It’s like losing a family member for me. I’ve been with Jim for 10 years and he and I had a great relationship. That’s not to say that we won’t again down the road again, but that guy provided me with the best possible team, bar none, that will never ever be replaced in racing. Eddie’s a good guy and all, but I don’t think that type of team can be repeated. He left me in charge to do stuff, hire people, whatever. We built our own race cars and he provided us with anything that we needed to be the best at what we were doing. And everybody knew that.
“I don’t care what anybody says, but when we went to the racetrack, everyone knew that car was going to be the one to beat. We had the best possible equipment; motors, everything. Losing that team was tough. It was freakin’ real tough. Like my accountant told me, 'don’t ever quit racing because you made a pretty good living racing.' It hurt me in that way too because I was making a good living racing with Jim.”
51: “Friday night, you ran the NASCAR Busch East Series race for NDS Motorsports at Stafford and hopped onto a plane for Jennerstown, where you were going to be running a Modified you’ve never run before. What was going through your mind on that plane ride?”
TC: “It’s like anything; you’re just wondering how it’s going to turn out. You just hope everything goes smooth. I had only run Jennerstown once before (last year) and I didn’t even get to really race it because I overheated. I was basically just riding around, trying to collect some points. So I didn’t even have a racing deal at that place.”
51: “Tell us about your association with Eddie Whelan. You probably knew him before that one phone call, but were you friends before?”
TC: “I really only knew him from the track really. I always say 'hi' to him and he seems like a really good guy. He spends some money in racing, that’s for sure. But to be honest with you, I didn’t really know him that much.”
51: “What were your emotions from when you found out about what was happening with your old car owner Jim Galante a couple weeks back to going out to Jennerstown and winning the race?”
When TC celebrated his Jennerstown win, Mike Andrews, Jr. (right) was right there with him.
51: “Did any of the guys from the #13 (Mystique Motorsports) team go out there with you?
TC: “Two guys did. One was the tire guy, the other guy is our tire changer. It was a 100-lap race and not a pit stop race, so it wasn’t as if we really needed a lot of guys. Plus I had to fly out there because I was racing Friday night in the Busch East race. So I had to pay for a private plane to get out there, so it wasn’t like I could have everyone and their brother come out there with me.”
51: “Let’s talk about the Mystique team. Do you still have any of Jim’s equipment or was that all taken away from you in the investigation? Do you still have any of your own cars in the shop that you can run?”
TC: “I have an SK car, which is a good Chassis Dynamics car that is practically brand new, but I don’t have a motor for it. I have a Busch car still, but I don’t use that anymore because I drive for that other team. I have no truck, no trailer; but I have the shop and all the equipment like the brakes, benders, welders and all the shop stuff was always mine. What’s left are my cars. Everything that’s out of the shop now, like the six racecars, the trucks, trailers, and the spare stuff that we had, is all still there. I don’t know what the government is doing with those. I really don’t. That’s the million-dollar question.”
51: “Have you been able to catch up with Jim in the last couple of weeks to see what the status of the race team is?”
TC: “No, he’s still in jail. They’ve been talking with the lawyers trying to figure out what’s going to happen, but the racing thing is not the first priority for him.”
51: “Are you pretty much just working back in the transmission shop now and traveling to the track on weekends?”
TC: “Yeah, that’s basically what it is. First off, my business so far this year hasn’t done that well for whatever reason. The first three months of the year, we were real slow, so we’re way off on the business. Second of all, I’m not racing as much, so I’m spending more time in the transmission shop trying to make ends meet that way.”
experience and I’ve driven everything under the sun and raced at like 45 different racetracks in all different types of cars.
"It’s weird because, even when I raced go-karts, no matter where my brother and I would go, I always adapted well at different tracks. For me, I’m lucky like that. It’s like when I got into that Supermodified at Thompson. I had 20 minutes of practice. I never even drove the thing before and yeah, I know the racetrack, but I still won. Not to brag or anything like that, but I’m fortunate that I can adapt well when I go to tracks.
51: “Now the important question; are you going to be in the Eddie Whelan car for the rest of the season?”
TC: “We’ve got it for the full year. We even talked about doing some other shows outside of the Tour too, like some RoC races and the North-South Shootout. I’m driving full-time. Just bring the helmet bag. It’s great. Now I just have to work on getting something together for the SK at Stafford. That’ll make me feel a lot better. I have one of my own cars and we’re in the process of getting it back together.”
51: “Knowing that you’re in the car for the rest of the year, there’s no better way to get out of the box with a new team than with a win, wouldn’t you say?”
TC: “Oh yeah, it’s great. It shows that you definitely have credibility as a driver, right? I wasn’t trying to prove that I can win races. When I have something that is good and competitive and I can race my fellow drivers out there, I drive hard.
“One on one, in my mind, I feel that I will be the one that comes out on top. It’s not being cocky or anything because I try not to ever be that way, but I have a lot of confidence in myself. When it’s one on one and we’re at the same level, I just feel I have a little more drive than some of the other people I race with. It’s not to take anything away from them, it’s just determination.”
51: “Now back to the here and now. What do you think about working with Mike Andrews, Jr.? You saw him down in New Smryna and now he’s your teammate. So what do you think about being on that team with him now?”
TC: He’s a good kid. I got to know him in New Smyrna and he ran good there. He’s still young and all and I talked to him and told him that I wasn’t trying to take his job at all. When I go to the racetrack, I focus on one thing and that’s making the car as good as it can be so that I can win the race. It’s unfortunate because you’re comparing two different people. He doesn’t have much