51 Leftovers: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler
Stafford Gets Its Season Going With a Classic Race
By Mike Twist
A CLASSIC PERFORMANCE FOR TC

With 70 laps to go, Ted Christopher restarted from the back of the field at the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) after pitting for a flat tire.  He still came back up through and notched the victory.  It was a performance that many observers called one of TC's greatest drives ever.

But what did the man himself think?

“Yeah, it was,” said Christopher.  “To come from 24th or so after we pitted.  That is a tough run.  I don't think that there are too many people who could do that, but I'm happy to be one of them who can.

“It was tough, but I never give up.  I just keep trying and trying and when I got to fifth, I thought I might get to third.  Then on the restarts, I'd get a few more and then I knew we could get to the front.”

The fact that this performance came at Christopher's home track of Stafford might have made it easier…or then again, maybe not.

“I figure out stuff no matter where I'm at,” said Christopher.  “It probably was a little easier maybe.  Maybe I do know this place a little bit.  But I don't know.”

A few laps after his pit stop and that restart, Christopher had to go to the rear of the field yet again.  This time, it was after he needed to slide through the backstretch grass to avoid the spinning car of Carl Pasteryak.  This incident had the potential to end Christopher's day - and he thought for a moment that it just might.

“Yeah, almost.  I kept going, but they put me back.  So what are you going to do?  I just kept going, that's all.”

AN INSPRING PERFORMANCE FOR PASTERYAK - AND HIS CREW

Nobody would have blamed Chris Pasteryak and the #52 Darling Racing team if they had skipped the Spring Sizzler.  Their leader, crew chief John McKenna, was seriously injured after a pit road incident in the season-opening Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway.  On that day, word had spread through the pit area at Thompson that his injuries were relatively minor, but that turned out to be far from reality.  It turned out that McKenna had to be placed into a medically induced coma and his injuries were both very serious and multiple.  He faces a long recovery ahead of him and his team's hearts are heavy these days.

But they kept on racing, not only just showing up at Stafford to go through he motions, but putting forth an amazing performance - leading Pasteryak to only his second career top five finish.

“It was pretty eventful and it was very inspiring.” Said Pasteryak, who finished fifth.  “I just wanted to bring it home in one piece, so to bring it home in the top five is really cool.”

Pasteryak credits his team banding together for the strong result.

“Everybody on this team from the car owner to Zip, Josh, Smoke, Timmy…I don't want to forget anybody because they work so hard.  All of the guys who come to the shop and help out were up there just about every day.  John did everything - he drove the truck and trailer, he set the cars up and he knows every nut and bolt on them.  When he got hurt and we lost him, there went a really big piece to the puzzle.  I've got to thank Dave Silvia for driving the truck and trailer here today and the rest of us pulled together and did the best that we could.  We got through it.”

Even with all that extra help and effort, McKenna is missed at the track sorely - as both a friend and a crew chief.

“Hopefully, we can get him on the phone soon and he can tell us what to do, because I think that we could have been even better than we were.”

Next up fro Pasteryak will be a run for his family's race team in the True Value Modified Racing Series event this Saturday night at Waterford Speedbowl - his home track.

“I'm looking forward to Waterford," said Pasteryak.  "It will be nice to go to a track with a tire that we can pass on instead of fighting for the bottom and riding around hoping that you don't get stuck on the outside.”

ANOTHER SOLID PERFORMANCE FOR PREECE

Teen racer Ryan Preece finished on the podium at Stafford, nabbing third -place honors in the Spring Sizzler.

“It's a good day.  A top three is always a good day,” said Preece.  “We [just] lacked long green flag runs.  These new tires are different and we need to find something to get the car turned and get some forward bite on off the corners.”

The third place finish at Stafford comes on top of a fourth-place result in the season-opening WMT race at Thompson.

“We're on a good track right now with a fourth and a third,” said Preece.  “Hopefully, a second and a win are coming up.  So we'll be looking for a good run next month.”

RUNNER-UP FINISH IS ALL SHE WROTE FOR SZEGEDY AT THE SIZZLER

Sometimes, a second-place finisher will agonize over what could have been done differently to win a race.  But that was not the case for Todd Szegedy at Stafford.  Ted Christopher put on such a strong performance that Szegedy was very direct when asked what it would have taken to hold him off for the victory on that particular day.

“No, there was absolutely nothing.,” said Szegedy.  “Teddy was by far better than I was.  I wasn't going to fight him to get by.  When he got a run, I let him go.  There was no point.  He was good and we were happy with second because we've got some work to do.  I'm confident that the guys will figure it out.  We've got some of the best equipment on the Tour and best guys working on it.  We'll figure it out.”

Although Christopher might appear to be unbeatable, Szegedy doesn't buy into that theory.  He does hold a lot of respect though for the man who is currently on top of the Modified world.

“Anybody can be beat,” said Szegedy.  “There is nobody who is unbeatable.  He's one of the best that I've ever seen though and it's amazing that he can keep that spark and that fire burning.  That is an amazing fete.

HOMETOWN SUCCESS STORY DEFLATES FOR REEN AT STAFFORD

During his rookie season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Glen Reen was satisfied to gain experience, stay out of trouble and finish races.  That approach helped to earn him the 2008 WMT Rookie of the Year title and with that out of the way, Reen is now looking for results.

Reen was hoping to post one of those strong results at his home track of Stafford.  He was poised to finish within the top five in the Spring Sizzler there before his hopes deflated along with one of his tires.  Still, Reen was thankfully for his eventual 18th place finish all things considered.

“We were fighting being a little tight in the center, but the second pit stop fixed it and it was real good.  We came up through and ended up in the top five.  That was going to be out run towards the front and we would have been fine, but our left rear [tire] went flat.  We came in and there were only three pounds of air in it.  [Crew Chief] Jimmy [Fuller] said that he had never seen a tire with that little air not come off the bead.  So the man upstairs kept us safe and I can be thankful enough for that.”

Racing at Stafford was a real treat for Reen, who honed his skills in the SK Lights division there.

“It was good to be home and that's nice.  I know where I can pass here while some of the tracks where I don't have as much seat time, I have to figure out where I can pick off cars and that's going to be okay…you figure out where you are going to wash up and where you won't wash up.”

PITKAT STAYS OUT OF TROUBLE AND BRINGS HOME A TOP TEN FINISH

Staying out of trouble on a day when plenty of equipment was sacrificed on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour paid big dividends for Woody Pitkat and the #28 King Racing team at the Spring Sizzler.  Pitkat used his talent, a good racecar and the right decisions of his team to record a seventh-place finish in the second WMT event of the 2009 season.

“We were trying to figure out a gameplan for what actually happens in this race,” said Pitkat.  “It seems like there are usually a lot of caution early and our strategy was to come in early and then with 75 laps to go.  But in the end, there were so many cars on the lead lap, so we just tried to hang on and get a top 10.  I wanted to rebound with a top 10 after Thompson.”

Ted Christopher (#36) crosses the finish line at the Spring Sizzler.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Chris Pasteryak's #52 Modified.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Todd Szegedy congratulates Ted Christopher in victory lane at Stafford.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Glen Reen's #17.  ( Jim Dupont Photo)
The mascot on Woody Pitkat's car.  (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Ryan Preece's #3 Modified.  (Jim Dupont Photo)