Christopher Hits a Grand Slam at Thompson's World Series by Mike Twist and Denise Dupont
Wins Season-Ending Race and Mod Tour Title
"TC" can now stand for "Tour Champion". (Jim Dupont Photo)
“It was hard because I like to win,” said Christopher. “In the beginning I was being just too cautious and dropping back. Then I said finally said 'screw this' and I started to drive like I always drive to work my way up a couple of spots and stay out of trouble.”
As Christopher got a little more aggressive as the race got further along, he used a lesson learned in 2005 as his guide. Back then, Christopher also entered the final race of the season with a slim point lead over a Hirschman (that time it was Tony Hirschman, this time it was his son Matt). However, getting wrecked early took away his chances at a title on that day.
“On lap 11 last time was when I got wrecked and I had that on my mind,” said Christopher. “I said to myself that I have to get past lap 11 here and then hopefully it will be clear sailing then.
Ted Christopher has hit a lot of home runs in his racing career. He's won in Tour Modifieds, SK Modifieds, the NASCAR East Series, PASS North Series, ISMA Supermodified Series, NEMA Midget Series and in a lot of other types of racing that we just can't even keep track of. He's won at tracks from New Hampshire to Florida.
On Sunday at Thompson International Speedway (CT), the man known in short track circles simply as “TC” hit a grand slam during the track's annual World Series. He won his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship. Christopher locked up the title by doing the one thing that insured him of scoring the most points possible - he won the race.
“It was in my fashion too because I won the race,” said Christopher. “[Crew chief] Brad [LaFontaine] wanted to be the only car in victory lane. It is a lot nicer that was when you are the only one there. Plus I could use the money.”
But the victory didn't look easy. Christopher was mired deep in the top 10 during the early stages of the event. Then he came to life and moved to the front as the laps clicked down.
“It didn't look that way [like he had a chance of winning] in the beginning,” admitted Christopher. I was pretty conservative counting laps down. I was probably the most cautious that I've ever been. I gave room to everybody I passed.
“You definitely think about it and you watch who you are racing with. You try to keep your wheels good. [Early on] Somebody missed a shift or something. Then somebody ran into the back of me and I ran into the back bumper of Matty [Hirschman]. Somebody hits me and I hit him and now my bumper is all bent. That makes it tough. I tried to keep the wheels all in one piece. I do not think that I touched anybody today.”
Being careful wasn't something that Christopher was used to…or something that he really enjoyed doing.
Ted Christopher (#36) takes the checkers with Chuck Hossfeld (#4) in pursuit at Thompson. (Jim Dupont Photo)
Christopher didn't even take command of the race lead until lap 135. Before that, the lead was shared by Ronnie Silk, Ryan Preece, Woody Pitkat and Jimmy Blewett.
Then, a rash of late race caution flags led to a green, white, checkered finish - where Chuck Hossfeld almost wrestled away the lead from Christopher.
“I'm too cautious on a green white checkered and Chuck got a good run there,” said Christopher. “On the ones before, I was pulling away and pulling away.”
“We gave him a little pressure and it was close,” said Hossfeld.
“I started to drop the hammer about 40 laps in. I was dropping back and I just don't like dropping back. So I said that I had to run it harder and I did. I knew the cycle that those other guys were on and I knew that I had better tires. When I have better tires, I'm going to beat them and I want to beat them. I wasn't just going to ride around.”
It may have appeared that Christopher got even more aggressive after his points nemesis, Matt Hirschman, dropped out. But Christopher denies that was the case.
“Nobody ever told me that the #59 was totally out of the race. I didn't care and I didn't want to know. I just raced the way that I wanted to race. At that point, there were a lot of guys already out. If I wrecked it, I wrecked it. But I was going to wreck it trying to win at least.”
Christopher's winning #36 ride. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Hossfeld ended up finishing second and was followed to the finish line by Silk, Doug Coby and Erick Rudolph.
It was no secret that this was Christopher's first Tour championship - which many people found shocking. However, Christopher really didn't think much of it.
“It (winning the NWMT Championship) has eluded me, but it's not like I have been running for it forever,” said Christopher. “If you look back, I have only been running nine years really to try to do it. We have been close a couple of years and stuff. I like to win races. If you look back in the past I have probably have the most races wins in the past six or eight years of running the series.”
The title might silence some of TC's critics though.
“This championship does not mean as much to me as it is too other people,” said Christopher. “They all say, 'you have not won this.' You have won everything else but
you have not won the championship yet. Now I can say, finally I have.
“This just means that I don't need to have people asking me why I didn't win a Tour championship. That's the main thing. It's really important and I like it because I love racing these things, but the biggest thing is that I don't have to listen to anyone asking those questions anymore.”
So now Christopher can go back to placing his focus on winning races…and maybe another championship or two.
“I'm looking at winning at Star Speedway (NH) next week and then the North South Shootout now,” said Christopher less than an hour after taking the checkered flag at Thompson. “I am looking forward to probably winning some more [championships]. We have a great team and a great car.”
The championship is also the first on the Tour for car owner Ed Whelan, who put
Christopher into his red #36 car midway through the 2006 season. Whelan had seen
his primary driver Mike Ewanitsko's return to the Tour get sidelined by an injury at
around the same time that Christopher's former team, Jim Galante's Mystique
Motorsports, shut down. So naturally the two sides joined forces and had immediate
success. They won their first race together at Jennerstown Speedway.
“It was unfortunate that deal with Jim fell out, but these guys were here and we won our
first race together,” said Christopher. “I tried to prove [to them] that I was a good
racecar driver and I think that I am. But sometimes, I just need to calm down. It took
me a little longer to grow up. I haven't quite grown up yet. But, maybe I've learned a
little bit more.”
And maybe, just maybe, TC has picked up a few fans along that journey. The racer who
admits that he loves to hear himself get boo'ed, actually heard quite a few cheers with his
performance at Thompson.
“There are a lot of people that do not like me and stuff,” said Christopher. “But I have to admit yesterday and today I was really surprised how many people wished me luck. If I need any help out on the track, people that I raced with offered things and that meant a real lot.”
But TC won't let that soak in for long. After all, he's got two more races to try to win in the next three weeks.
Matt Hirschman pits for electrical problems - handing the title to TC. (Jim Dupont Photo)