Monday February 26, 2007

By Brian Danko                                 

Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT always makes the trek to Florida during Speedweeks in Daytona. While Teddy goes for the fun, the sun, he is usually used to bringing back a lot of hardware from the week but 2007 at the New Smyrna Speedway didn't shine brightly on the veteran driver.

Last week, I caught up with the Northeast terror of the short tracks to get his views on the recently completed Speedweeks.

"It wasn't the best week we'd ever had." Teddy joked when asked; "We had some issues down there with parts falling off and some wrecks." Christopher's best finish of the week was second place in the Richie Evans Memorial 100 lap race while he also had 2 fourths, a 15th, 16th, 19th and 21st in the modified tour type division. Christopher, who is known for his ability to drive and win in just about anything with wheels on it also drove a Super late model during the week-long activities at the newly paved New Smyrna Speedway, located about 20 minutes from the world famous Daytona International Speedway. New Smyrna Speedway, a place that many northeastern drivers have flocked to for many generations had been in a state of disrepair but recently a lot of money has been put into the fast half mile track and this past winter, the speedway was repaved.

New Smyrna has always been fast, and with the new surface, the track just got faster, much faster. "The new pavement is really good." TC said when asked about the speeds and the grip, "I started in the back a lot and was able to move up on the outside but it was a fine thread that you used to get up front. The track is really fast." Teddy had just as much, if not more success with the super late model than he did with the modified. "We had a real fast car down there. We sat on the pole two or three times and broke the track record during the week."

While some of the NASCAR modified tour regulars were running at New Smyrna such as Eric Beers, who captured the modified track championship along with the Blewett brothers, Jimmy and John. While TC said his car was tour legal, he doubts that some of the other cars were. "We had our tour car, we should have brought our Ford Motor out earlier in the week, and while a lot of the guys will say that their car was tour legal, it wasn't." New Smyrna Speedway has long had a reputation of a track where anything is legal with track officials doing little to curb the rough riding and according to Ted, this year was no different. "There was the typical beating and banging going on. It wasn't much different than normal. It wasn't too bad wrecking car, but then again, they always judge from me." Ted said with a laugh. When he was asked if you can learn anything from New Smyrna Speedway that you can bring back to run the tour, Christopher said flat out, NO. "You can't learn anything there. They run a different tire but we went down with crew chief, Brad LaFontaine so that we could all get on the same page when the modified tour season does start."

While many teams go to New Smyrna Speedway with high hopes, many or most teams return home out of money for the start of the season and wrecked cars that need to be fixed. "It cost about $20,000 to $30,000 to run the full week at New Smyrna. It's gonna cost you around $6,000 in tires and it will cost another $4,000 to rent a house for the guys. Then you have to rebuild the motor when you get back because of all the sand and dust from down there, throw in pit passes for the week and that's if you don't wreck during the week."

While Christopher was racing down there he got a chance to see the new Joe Gibbs development driver, Joey Logano of Middletown CT, which will run the entire Busch East schedule. "Joey is a good kid, I thought he did great." TC said, showering the 16-year-old with praise. "He certainly adapted well. One thing he showed was a lot of respect to other drivers. Something that is sorely missing from other tour drivers." According to Christopher, Logano might run some NASCAR modified tour races if his schedule permits.

So although Speedweeks 2007 wasn't what Christopher wanted, he is anxious for the 2007 modified tour schedule to start."I can't wait for the season to start, we are ready to go."

Although a new promoter runs it with a new name, the Speedway Expo will return to the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA. This coming weekend, March 2-4th. Tickets for the annual three-day affair are $15.00 with children 10 and under admitted free of charge. Discount coupons are available from Town Fair Tires, costing adults just $10.00. per day.

Todd Bodine, the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck series champion will sign autographs on Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. while on Saturday, Kenny Wallace and Clint Bowyer will sign from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Local Whelen modified tour drivers and Busch East drivers will also be signing autographs on Saturday at 1 p.m. Show hours are Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. while the show opens on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday the show opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m.