Ted Christopher Adds a New Track to His Win List by Mike Twist
All Star Challenge Victory is His Latest in a Brady Bunch Modified
Christopher (#00) skated by when Matt Hirschman spun at the hands of a lapped car. There was no looking back for him after that. He faced a few challengers, but still led every lap to the end. (Jim Dupont Photo)
Ted Christopher has become something of an expert when it comes to knowing where to pick up the winner's trophy and check at short tracks up and down the East Coast. At the moment, he has scored 99 career wins at his home track of Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). He won 28 races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and 10 in what is now called the NASCAR Camping World East Series. He's got a pair of wins on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and too many wins during Florida Speedweeks to count.
But before Saturday night, he had never won at All-Star Speedway (formerly Star Speedway) in New Hampshire. There was a pretty good excuse for that though. Despite being within three hours of his Connecticut home, Christopher had never raced there before new track owner Bobby McArthur put on a series of Modified open shows at the track last year.
Right away, Christopher adapted well to the track. A variety of circumstances kept him from winning in his first three starts there, but on Saturday night during Round Two of the 2008 WaterSnoGo All-Star Modified Challenge, TC showed that for him the fourth time was the charm.
Christopher inherited the lead when Matt Hirschman got collected by a lapped car just before halfway and despite challenges from Jimmy Blewett and Kirk Alexander, nobody else would lead a lap from that point on.
“I've only raced here a couple of times,” said Christopher. “I never came here before this deal. So it's only my fourth time here. I've run well. I was second to Matty
Christopher (R) and Joe Brady (L) celebrate their victory. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
“We had a good race there at the end,” said McKennedy. “I was a little bit better, but I couldn't quite get by him. Maybe with a few more laps, we could have gotten by him.
“The car started getting a little loose at the end. We used up a lot of rubber coming through the field twice, so we'll take a third.”
TC LEARNS - EVEN WHEN THERE'S NO RACE
Ted Christopher didn't get a chance to race Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT), a fog that resembled pea soup kept teams from getting their feature events in. But he still managed to make the night a productive one, learning tricks during SK Modified practice that helped at All-Star one night later.
“I found some stuff last night on my SK at Stafford that related over to this car tonight and it worked,” said Christopher. “The car turned and had forward bite all race. I had a good car tonight. It was a really, really good car.”
TC faced challenges from Jimmy Blewett (Top - Jim Dupont Photo) and Kirk Alexander (Bottom - Rick Ibsen Photo) at various points in the race.
Hirschman] that one time. That last time here, we got wrecked out early. That was a weird deal because it happened so early. “
Fittingly, Christopher's victory came in the #00 Brady Bunch Modified owned by Joe Brady. Christopher might drive for dozens of car owners - sometimes even in one season - but he always hops into the #00 for his share of events year in and year out.
Each time he does, it's a winning formula. The Brady/Christopher combination has now won races together at tracks from Florida to New Hampshire.
“That bond goes back a long ways,” said Christopher. “I won my first Tour race and Joe won his first Tour race together. We won Richmond together.
“We've raced a lot of races together. Joe and the guys who work on the car - Scott, Rob and a select group - are old guys who have been around a long time. We've been around together, so there is a good bond there. The best part about Joe is that he's been around me for a long time and he knows how I race. Sometimes, we tear s---t up, but sometimes we win races.”
“I just respect him so much and he has a lot of respect for me,” said Brady, who has also had his share of drivers through the years from Mike Stefanik to Steve Park. “All of the guys give him 100%. Ted is just a natural talent and he's unbelievable. “You can't take anything away from the man. He can drive any kind of car anyplace and he gives you 110% and nothing less than that.”
While Christopher has nothing but love for Brady, the same hasn't been true in the past for his fellow competitor Blewett. It always seemed that if those too hardcore racers would be within a position of each other on the track, they would find a way to bang into each other. This time though, Christopher and Blewett raced hard and clean throughout the late stages of the race. Christopher edged ahead at the end, but not before the fans were treated to some entertaining racing first.
“He ran me clean,” said Blewett of Christopher. “I was just a little too tight to get the job done. In years past, we've had our differences. I might jinx myself to say that we've turned over a new leaf racing against each other, but I hope we have. He was very respectful to race against tonight.”
Christopher was happy with the way that the two raced as well.
“I'm not the best friends with Jimmy Blewett, so I was trying to give him as much room as I could,” said Christopher. “I wanted to race him clean. “
TC is cautiously optimistic that any feud with Blewett might be in the past.
“I hope it is. I hasn't been on my end. I haven't done anything to him. He's done things to me, so that is the leaf that needs to be turned. Maybe he's learned that. I race hard, but I race clean with a lot of people. I don't like getting taken out. People always bring up the past, but the past is the past.”
One thing that Christopher has learned through his years of racing is how each track is different. Automatically, most observers would think that things like track surfaces, banking and corner angles would be the biggest things on a driver's mind. But there is more to that than getting around a racetrack well. Sometimes, seemingly small items make a difference in performance - like lighting for example.
“This place is darker, so it's hard sometimes to see your points,” said Christopher. “When you have a really bright and light track, it's really easier. Tonight, I hit the rumble strips a few times.”
But when Christopher could break free from the pack and really concentrate on taking on the track, he was flawless.
“Once I cleared him [Blewett] and got my rhythm going, I could pull away from him. Kirk [Alexander] got up there and got to me, but after a few laps, I'd get that rhythm back again and drive away.”
Blewett battled with Jon McKennedy for the runner-up spot at the finish, just edging ahead of him at the line.
Ronnie Silk, Matt Hirschman, Carl Pasteryak, Jimmy Kuhn, Chris Pasteryak, Kirk Alexander and Tommy Cravenho rounded out the top 10 finishers.
FROM THE BACK TO THE FRONT - AGAIN - FOR McKENNEDY
There seems to be a pattern for Jon McKennedy at All-Star Speedway. His #73 is always fast, but it always seems to get spun out. For the second race in a row,
McKennedy had to work his way from the rear of the field multiple times to grab a top five finish.
“I don't know what it is. The last few races, we've had awesome cars and we've gotten up to the top five and then spun out,” said McKennedy. “I have to come back up through and that is wicked hard on the tires. We had a good run though. We got back to third. “
McKennedy's battle for second with Jimmy Blewett at the end involved some of the best race all night long.
BLEWETT TURNS THINGS AROUND
The past month hasn't been fun for Jimmy Blewett. He's been wrecked in Tour Modifieds, SK Modifieds and in weekly Mod action at Riverhead Raceway (NY). His #19 team was disqualified from a carburetor infraction in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Stafford. Nothing has seemed to go right.
After finishing second at All-Star, Blewett hopes that brighter days are ahead for him and his team.
“My hat's off to my guys. They've been struggled every week getting the car back together. With everything that has been happening. I'm just happy to finally get a finish. Maybe I'll get that monkey off my back.”
KEEPING THE SHOW GOING
Track owner Bobby MacArthur carries the nickname of Showstoppa from his days as a Super Late Model driver. On Saturday night though, it didn't fit him very well at all. MacArthur was seen running around all over the facility in his signature neon pink sweatshirt doing everything to keep the show going.
During the course of the night, MacArthur was out doing everything from lining up cars before heat races to coordinating victory lane photos. When a phantom oil slick appeared during the Super Late Model, he even personally went on the track during a caution period to stop cars and climb underneath each one to check for leaks.
NOT THE SAME RESULT FOR STEFANIK AND SEUSS
In the first 2008 race for the WaterSnoGo All-Star Modified Challenge, Mike Stefanik beat Andy Seuss to the finish line. The two raced hard in the closing laps and never touched.
This time, the results were a little bit different. Both drivers struggled early on and on lap 25, tangled in turn four.
Seuss, who had been battling clutch problems but handled well in the corners, got a run on Stefanik's #66 going into the third turn. Seuss' #70 tapped Stefanik's car while both drivers were hoping to occupy the same spot on the track. Stefanik then spun and his front end latched on to Seuss' car, which then hopped over the front of Stefanik's Modified. Both cars received minimal damage and could continue.
“I don't know if I have to apologize to Mike Stefanik or not,” said Seuss. “I know that I stuck it in deep, but I didn't slide up the track and really thought that I gave him plenty of respect. I thought that he would give me some room. But ee got together and if it was my fault, I'm sorry for that.”
Seuss kept battling his clutch problems and finished 12th. 50 laps later, Stefanik would later find his way into the backstretch billboards after it appeared that something broke on his car while his was exiting turn two.
SUPER LATE MODELS ALSO ON THE CARD ALL-STAR
Also in action at All-Star Speedway were the weekly warriors of the Super Late Models division. A number of drivers with PASS North, PASS Outlaw or even NASCAR Busch North (now Camping World East) Series experience were in the field including Jimmy Rosenfield, Bobby Gahan, JR Baril, Jay Sands, Rich Eaton, Eric Hudson, Bobby Cabral and Jimmy Renfrew.
Eaton won the 35-lap feature with Sands, Hudson, Gahan and Ron Bolduc rounding out the top five.
CANTARA MAKES A NAME FOR HIMSELF
All Star Speedway weekly competitor Josh Cantara had a great night going with his #71me Modified. The track rookie was running in the top 10 of the talent-rich field and was poised to post a solid finish, but he dropped out of the race in the closing laps.
STEFANIK IS A RACE FAN TOO
Mike Stefanik is one of the greatest short track drivers that this country has ever seen, but he's also a race fan too.
Insead of hanging out in an air conditioned trailer as temperatures hovered in the 90's, the nine-time NASCAR Touring Series champion and his wife sat in the pit grandstands and watched the support division races the led up to the 100-lap Modified feature.
Mike Stefanik (#66) and Andy Seuss (#70) get together in turn four. (Jim Dupont Photo)
Jon McKennedy (#73) goes three wide during one of his many passes at All Star. (Jim Dupont Photo)