Monday Sept. 19, 2005

ARCHIVES

By Brian Danko

LOUDON, NH-----The NASCAR Whelen modified tour has always been the best division racing at the New Hampshire International Speedway but right now, Teddy Christopher is out to prove he is one of the best drivers at the demanding one mile oval.
 

On Friday afternoon, Christopher captured not only the NASCAR Whelen modified tour 100 lapper but earlier in the day won the Busch North 125.

In another classic modified event, Christopher of Plainville, CT was able to hold off Mike Stefanik of Coventry, RI to win his third straight race and increase his points lead over Tony Hirschman.
 

"The crew gave me a real good car. In the beginning, the car was real loose but we tightened it up and here we are." Christopher said sitting in the media center with runner up Mike Stefanik and Chuck Hossfeld who finished third.
 

The win was also the first time since September 2, 1990 when Mike McLaughlin became the only driver to win both a modified race and Busch North race in the same day and that history wasn't lost on Christopher.

"Mike was always a hero of mine. I've thought about it for years. Now to do the same thing as Mike is definitely a big accomplishment in my career." Christopher said.
 

Ironically, it was Christopher, who back in 1990 when he was an up and coming driver at the Stafford Motor Speedway and other Connecticut tracks was asked to qualify a car owned by Art Barry and driven by Mike McLaughlin. Mike couldn't qualify it but would race it on Sunday. Christopher solidly put the car into the field.
 

There he began to strike up a friendship with the driver called 'Magic Shoes'. One day he too wanted to be able to not only drive but also win in all forms of Motorsports much like McLaughlin had done in his career.
 

Christopher got a bump draft by Mike Ewanitsko on lap 85 to propel him past Stefanik. From there Christopher used all of his knowledge and experience at the track called the 'Magic Mile' to earn his ninth win at New Hampshire and the last four modified races to be run at NHIS.
 

"Mike (Ewanitsko) gave me a good shot, that's for sure. That happens with the modifieds (referring to the bump draft), that's the way that we race these things."
 

Christopher, like both Stefanik and Hossfeld sitting at the table were thrilled to have Ewanitsko back after almost four years on the side lines with health issues.
 

"I love racing with Michael. It's good to see him run that good in his first time back right out of the box after this many years."
 

Stefanik chimed in on Ewanitsko's return adding, "It's nice to have Mike back and have Reggie back, they certainly raise the bar on the modified tour. Mike is a class act, it's good to have him back."
 

Stefanik, who is competing for the Busch North title finished sixth in the Busch race earlier in the day and he was the driver that McLaughlin beat to win the double double back 15 years ago.
 

The modified race finished under the threat of not only darkness but rain as clouds and mist persisted a lot of the day on Friday.
 

The NASCAR rulebook set the modified 100-lap feature when qualifying on Thursday was rained out and that put Christopher and Tony Hirschman on the front row.
 

Christopher quickly jumped out to the lead but Renée Dupuis looped her car in turn three and that collected a couple other modifieds including that of Reggie Ruggiero, who sustained sheet metal and other damage as well.
 

The race went back green on lap 6 but Rick Fuller slowed as he began having throttle problems in his machine and just two laps later, the fans began to see what they waited all day for as Mike Stefanik went drafting by Eric Beers and into second.
 

Doug Coby, coming back after the controversial accident at the Thompson International Speedway one week ago with Donny Lia showed no ill effects as he powered into third.
 

Doug Coby then slipped into second on lap 10 and slip streamed past Christopher on lap 14 and into the lead but Christopher, not wanting to be outdone repaid the favor one lap later.
 

Stefanik jumped into the lead on lap 18 but again, Christopher powered back in front on lap 21.
 

The lead would be jumbled three more times in the next few laps but with the lead trio swapping positions with each other, it allowed others to close up on the leaders.
 

On lap 40, Christopher began to fall back as Stefanik took over the lead and Mike Christopher, Ted's twin, moved into third.
 

The second caution of the day came out on lap 43 and that sent all of the leaders into the pits for tires.
 

Mike Ewanitsko and Eddie Flemke, Jr. decided to stay on the track. Doug Coby also pitted but he had a bad stop and came out around 22nd.
 

A couple of quick cautions on the restarts slowed the field but many drivers and teamed sighed a breath of relief when the cars clicked off lap 51 signifying an official race in case of rain or darkness.
 

Eddie Flemke on the restart went by Ewanitsko to claim the lead on lap 58 but drivers with the freshest tires were now on the rear bumpers of Flemke and Ewanitsko.
 

Ted Christopher regained the lead on lap 65 as Mike Ewanitsko dispatched Flemke for second with Tony Hirschman now fourth, Mike Stefanik fifth and Jerry Marquis sixth.
 

Mike Christopher began to slow on the track and he would be sidelined with rear end problems in his Pontiac.
 

Mike Stefanik had now worked his way into second and with it getting darker by the minute, Stefanik knew that not only were the laps clicking off but so was the daylight.
 

On the 77th circuit, Mike slipped under TC as the duo headed into turn one but Christopher with the preferred line was able to hold position. On the next lap, Stefanik tried the same move but this time the two touched with both holding on despite sliding up the track.
 

Stefanik would be able to sneak by Christopher for the top spot on lap 86 but Mike Ewanitsko, despite not pitting, and showing no ill effects of the time off stormed back into third and then bump draft Christopher past Stefanik and into the lead on lap 87.
 

That would be all that Christopher would need to notch the win despite one futile effort by Stefanik off turn four on the last lap.

Chuck Hossfeld, who for most of the race was a non-factor showed he had the right stuff at the end to come home third with Ewanitsko fourth and fifth to Eddie Flemke, Jr.
 

The rest of the top ten was Tony Hirschman, Doug Coby, Donny Lia, Eric Beers and John Blewett, III.
 

As the media surrounded Christopher for one on ones, the thought of what transpired wasn't lost on TC.
 

"I have thought about this for years. There was a lot of times when we'd win the modified race but we weren't running our Busch car. Usually, I'd do good in one and worry about hoping I'd do good in the modified race."
 

When Christopher was told that Tony Stewart stayed on top of his Home Depot hauler and watched the entire modified race, Christopher wasn't surprised.
 

"Tony is a racer. He loves watching the modifieds and its nice to know that someone like him is watching you run your race and he's still here when everyone else is gone."
 

MOD TOUR NOTES

Mike Stefanik in his past three races has two runner-ups and a fifth but it never gets old for him to run in a modified. A division he has conquered six times with point's championships and has the most series wins with 66 but getting number 67 has been hard.
 

"We had a real good car today. We marched to the lead when Teddy got loose and were able to stay up front." Mike said of his second place run worth $10,400.
 

"We had an outstanding pit stop and the car was good after the stop."

When Stefanik was asked about running with Christopher and in a modified at New Hampshire, he smiled.
 

"It's a blast racing with Ted. We're sliding into each other in turn one. He pinched me a couple of times but that's racing here."
 

Stefanik did say that his car would overheat a bit if he stayed right on the bumper of Stefanik so he would let just enough air hit the radiator to cool the engine.
 

"I had to lay back a little which still helped Ted and me but I couldn't get the bite needed on the inside to make a couple of those moves work."
 

Chuck Hossfeld of buffalo, NY came home third and was thrilled to have a perfect seat to watch veterans Christopher and Stefanik do their thing.
 

"I had the best seat in the house. I am really glad to see Mike Ewanitsko have the run that he had. New Hampshire is a fun track to run but it can be hard on you, especially when you've been away like Mike was."
 

Hossfeld said the car needed four tires on the stop to have a shot.
 

"We were able to get four tires. Some guys took two tires but we took four.

 "We were struggling before that so all in all, third is a good day for us."
 

Hossfeld did bring the media center to laughter when he said not only how good Ewanitsko drove but also how he looked.
 

"Did you see his hair. All wavy." As Hossfeld was brushing his hands through his own hair.
 

As the cars pulled into the inspection area after the race, Mike Ewanitsko sat in his car with a couple of crewmembers talking about the race and for Ewanitsko maybe gathering his composure.
 

"I felt great all day." Mike said still sitting inside of his brand new modified. "Come to think of it, we had no problem at all. It was fun running up there with those guys again."
 

Ted Christopher with the win extended his points lead to 61 over defending series champion, Tony Hirschman with just three race remaining. There are just two at Thompson and one at Stafford.
 

Ted also notched his 23rd career modified tour race and in the Busch North tour, the win was his 10th. Not bad for a part timer who dabbles now and then in the full fender series.
 

Christopher did draw the wrath of Ryan Moore who finished third but it was Christopher who moved Moore out of the way to get the win.
 

"He hit me in the left rear. The car just wasn't driving after that. I guess that I need to start racing like he does, but that's not how I like to do it."
 

When Christopher was told of his comments, TC basically said he needs to shut up and drive.
 

"His father (Kelly) took me out in July and has taken me out at other places. I didn't say anything about it. Whatever happened, happened on the racetrack and I go on to the next race. He can say what he wants, I'm in victory lane."
 

Christopher earned $13,500 for his modified win and $17,000 for the win in the Busch North.
 

Christopher also won the $5,000 New Hampshire International Speedway modified track championship with Mike Stefanik winning the Busch North track title.
 

Ted will also compete in the Nextel Cup race driving a Cup car for William Edwards.
 

Doug Coby once again might have had the fastest car on the track but a bad pit stop caused by a broken shifter saw Coby come home in seventh.
 

Coby restarted after the pit stop in the middle of the pack but steadily moved his way to the front but he scrapped the wall late in the event thanks to a lapped competitor and his car was much too tight after that.
 

It was good to see former modified stand outs Steve Park and Jimmy Spencer. Both now compete full time on the Craftsman Truck series.
 

Longtime friend, Todd Bodine, also a full time runner on the Truck series ran in his first modified tour event but dropped out just before the midway point of the event.
 

Geoffrey Bodine was on hand to promote the Bo-Dyn Bobsleds that are built free of charge in Oxford, CT for the USA Olympic teams.
 

Bodine, who was a former modified terror in the 70's and 80's and Daytona 500 champion was always an innovator in racing, has taken on redesigning the bobsleds for the American men and women.
 

As part of a fund-raiser to build more sleds, Bodine is seeking corporate support for a NASCAR drivers bobsled race to be held at Lake Placid, NY on January 6-8th.
 

Whelen Engineering, a sponsor of both the modified tour and the southern modified tour jumped on board to sponsor the first bobsled with Boris Said to drive it.
 

Tony Stewart has also signed off on it and will compete. About 10 drivers are expected to compete in the bobsleds.
 

The crowd for the modified/Busch North doubleheader was about 10,000. Not as good as July but with schools back open and the weather dreary, many people don't show up at Loudon until Saturday in September.
 

The Sylvania 100 presented by Lowes was the 42nd time the modified have raced at the New Hampshire International Speedway. There have been 13 different winners with Tony Hirschman winning seven times while Mike Stefanik and Reggie Ruggiero are tied for second with six wins apiece.
 

The modified race had 12 official lead changes among five different drivers with Christopher averaging 92.267 MPH.
 

The series record for lead changes at NHIS is 30 set back in 2000 and 10 different modified drivers shared in that impressive record for just a 100 lap event.
 

In the 42 races held at NHIS since September of 1990, there have been 511 lead changes, which averages out to 12.167 per race. No wonder the modifieds continue to thrill the thousands of fans that flock to New Hampshire to see them each year.
 

Also a big thank you to the Bahre family who own the New Hampshire International Speedway and to the entire public relations staff headed by Fred Neergaard who makes the two modified visits with the Nextel Cup series always an enjoyable event.
 

The modified tour will enjoy this weekend off after three grueling races that has taken the tour from Martinsville, VA to Loudon, NH with Thompson, CT thrown in the middle.
 

The modified tour will make their final Stafford stop of the year the weekend of October 1-2nd at Jack Arutes Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Carquest Fall Final.

BRIAN DANKO'S COLUMN CAN BE FOUND EACH WEEK IN AREA AUTO RACING NEWS.  FOR THE MOST IN AUTO RACING NEWS SUBSCRIBE BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW.