Ted Christopher opened the 2009 racing season in a big way by winning the Gambler’s Classic TQ Midget/600 cc Micro Sprint Car race at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night.
The defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion earned $5,000 for claiming his first-career indoor race at the New Jersey shore.
“I’ve won a lot of things over the years, but this one surely ranks up there as one of the best,” Christopher said. “This race has so much history and it’s a hard event to win.”
Christopher, 50, of Plainville, Conn., started 14th in the 25-car starting field and topped two-time Gambler’s Classic winner Joey Payne at the finish.
“Joey is a master of the race and any indoor event,” Christopher said. “I knew he would be right there, trying to get the win.”
Christopher, though, had a dominant car as he topped Payne by four-car lengths at the end of the 40-lap race.
Payne of Fairlawn, N.J., settled for a well-earned second after flipping his race car early in the event, but the team made repairs quick enough for him to return to the feature. Mike Lichty of Innerkip, Ontario, was third, while Jeff Heotzler of Wallkill, N.Y., was fourth and Ryan Smith of Kunkletown, Pa., was fifth.
Pole-sitter Matt Janisch had the advantage from the pole-starting spot as several of the mid-pack racers, including one-time winner and pre-race favorite Lou Cicconi Jr. were involved in crashes.
However, Janisch’s efforts were turned on a lap 21 when he was spun from contention on a restart.
Christopher restarted the race alongside Heotzler and powered into the lead on the restart.
He proceeded to lead the final half of the race while Payne wrestled with Heotzler to get the second position.
Earlier in the evening, Frank Fischer, Christopher, Pat Bealer and Payne won the feature transfer races.
Paul Lotier Jr. of Lebanon, Pa., started 15th and won the Briggs and Stratton Slingshot feature, earning $1,500 in the process.
Lotier topped Marc Daniels, Todd Dippel, Michael Butler and Kyle Heiber in the final tally.
Ryan Kendall of East Greenbush, N.Y., won the Champ Kart feature race. Norman Hynes was second, followed by Todd Root, Eric Zeh and Coby Cressinger.
TQ Midget/600 cc Micro Sprint Feature Finish, 40 Laps: Ted Christopher, Joey Payne, Mike Lichty, Jeff Heotzler, Ryan Smith, Timex Morgan, Tim Proctor, Matt Janisch, Glenn Heverin, Jeff Kot, Bobby Santos III, Jon Holquist, Billy Pauch, Joseph Lord Jr., Chris Arnold, Stewart Friesen, Ian Cumesn, Heath Hehnly, Frank Fischer, Pat Bealer, Don Zrinski, Lou Cicconi Jr., Mike Tidaback, Brent Marks, Bob Watkins Jr.
Slingshot Feature Finish, 25 Laps: Paul Lotier Jr., Marc Daniels, Todd Dippel, Michael Butler, Kyle Hieber, Ryan Godown, Anthony Perrego, Jesse Hartman, Willy Evernham, Rick Yard, Ricky Yetter, Rick Laubach, Shannon Smith, Michael Glass, Danny Bohn, Kyle Rohner, Billy Weaver, Vernon McLaughlin III, Billy Vanwegen, Gary Hieber, Bobby Butler, Kevin Van Walkenburg, Joel Smith, Jim Housworth.
Champ Kart Feature Finish, 25 Laps: Ryan Kendall, Norman Hynes, Todd Root, Eric Zeh, Coby Cressinger, Nick Herriven, Michael Burdick, Cameron Merriman, Tom Ervin, David Pantanella, Chris Daley, Keith Blumenstein, Tim Stoudt, Tyler Robertson, Matt Remick, Ryan Arsenault, Ron Midford Jr., Alan Purser, John Hillman, Greg Simmons, Justin Bonsignore, Andrew Berkholder, Andrew Hutchinson, Josh Tapscott, Kyle Kania, Billy Allen.