November 1, 2008

ARCHIVES                                         

By Brian Danko

PLAINVILLE------If you prescribe to the theory in sports, that in order to first win a championship, you must first lose a championship.

As Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT headed into the season finale at the Thompson International Speedway with the championship on the line, it must have seemed like the movie “Ground Hog Day” where everything kept repeating itself.

But this time, Christopher didn’t lose the title and captured his first ever NASCAR Whelen Modified tour championship, as he not only won the title but the race too.

“Being a modified racer, this championship is the ultimate. It is what we all strive for at the beginning of the season.” Christopher said from his business. “We have been running the modified tour for the last 8 or 9 years and we have always been close but this year we were able to close it out.”

The Whelen modified tour is the oldest division in NASCAR and the modifieds are the most popular form of racing in the northeastern parts of the United States.

In 2005, TC as he is known to his friends, entered the final race of the year with a 39 point advantage over Tony Hirschman of Northampton, PA but an accident on lap 11 ended Christopher’s bid for the title and handed it over to Hirschman, giving him his fifth championship.


Ted Christopher starts on the pole on his way to winning the Whelen 150 in Mansfield, Ohio.
 (Photo Credit: Mary Hodge/NASCAR)

This year, Christopher entered with a 35-point lead over Hirschman’s youngest son, Matt and this time, Christopher was full aware of the ramifications.

“I knew we needed to get past lap11.” Teddy said with a laugh. “You learn from your mistakes and I did.”

While the modified tour title is the first for the 50 year old driver who stated racing almost three decades ago, winning races and championships are no stranger to him as he has captured six track championships at the Stafford Motor Speedway and another three at the Thompson Speedway in the SK modified division. Both tracks are located in Connecticut.

While TC has won races and championships, he has almost never won over the hearts of his fellow competitors with his aggressive style of driving, that made him not only one of the most feared drivers but also one of the most loathed.

“I have always been aggressive. That is the way that I drive. Sometimes I went too hard when I should have backed off but in the last race, I was falling back and I said you know what, this isn’t the way I race and went back and attacked the track.”

Although Christopher could have finished six spots behind Hirschman and still earned the title, in true Christopher style, he charged to the front and when Hirschman pulled into the pits with an electrical problem, the title for all purposes was his but Christopher went on to win the race.

“What a better way to win the championship.” Teddy said.

While Christopher during his driving career, for the most parts, has always driven the best equipment available, that doesn’t mean that his career hasn’t had it ups and downs.

In 2006, his car owner, James Galante, was indicted in Federal Court on racketeering charges in the trash hauling business and the FBI confiscated all of the cars that Christopher drove.


Ted Christopher starts to celebrate as he pulls into Victory Lane at New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR)

The remainder of that year, TC was able to come up with a ride in the Ed Whelen owned modified but at the end of the year was ‘fired’ despite winning three races.

But when the next year rolled around, Christopher and Whelen had gotten back together and have been together since.

“This title means a lot to Ed. It is also his first championship and it is because of him that I was able to keep racing when everything else was going on. He’s been a good car owner and while we have won, we are already pursuing sponsorship for next season.”

Although Christopher didn’t take over the points lead until midway during the season, he thought his title hopes might have taken a serious hit when he blew the motor at Stafford in mid-August.

“I really thought that we were in trouble but all of my closest competitors had some sorts of problems and finished down in the finish and I didn’t lose a lot. I had some other problems in a race at Chemung Speedway in New York but I knew what we needed to do once we got to Thompson for the last race.”

When Christopher was asked if he lost the title, what it would have been liked, the easygoing driver said, “well, we will try for it again next year. I don’t worry about things like that. If I won a race on Friday and I have a race on the following day, what I did the night before doesn’t mean anything. It’s always been about the current race for me.”

While Christopher is one of the most feared and respected drivers in the country, that has never gone to his head but he wished he could have had a shot in NASCAR’s top three national series

“I have driven in the Sprint Cup series six times but always in sub par cars, I drove in the Nationwide series and also the Craftsman Trucks but I wish that I would have done it in first class equipment because I know that I could do the job, even now at 50, I know that I could drive with the best of them.”

Just how good a driver has Christopher been in his career, he has nearly 300 feature wins including 31 on the Whelen modified tour, another 100 or so at the Stafford Speedway and countless others at tracks like Thompson and Waterford as well as tracks in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

He has driven and won in modifieds, SK modifieds, midgets, supermodifieds, Camping Series East cars as well as pro stocks, literally anything with wheels on it.

When asked if now that he is married for less than 2 years and is hitting the half-century mark in age is going to slow him down, he snickered.

“Oh no, I’m not slowing down. I plan on doing the same thing next year. I will probably race in 65 to 70 races next year but I guess that is down from the usual 90 to 100 that I drove a few years back.”

Going slow has never been any option for him.

After the race at Thompson, many of his fellow competitors congratulated him on his well-deserved championship, something that didn’t go unnoticed by him.

“I feel very appreciative that drivers that I have rubbed wheels with and raced with came up to me to say we deserved it. That means a lot.”

In December, at the Mohegan Sun Casino, Christopher and his team will be feted for their title and he will collect the applause from his peers and competitors and while he may have clashed with many of them over his career, they will salute a driver who is a throw back to the tough drivers from a by gone era that took no prisoners and never backed down from a challenge.

Ted Christopher is the epiphany of what a modified driver is all about.


Ted Christopher celebrates his Championship and win in Thomspon Speedway's Victory Lane with his twin brother Mike.
 (Photo Credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR)