It’s been about 48 hours since the passing of one of the all-time great modified drivers in the country, let alone in New England, and I still haven’t figured out the words to use to describe how I feel about it.
To say the least, it’s been a rough couple of days for the modified community in New England.
Growing up as a young reporter (which I still am), having the chance to interview drivers is a luxury. Some won’t want to talk to you until they get to know you a little bit, and I’m fine with that. I’m not in the business of journalism to make friends with drivers. I’m in it to cover the sport I love.
But for many, I know it was hard not to love Ted Christopher. This was the man they called ‘The King’ of New England.
I had my first encounter with him as an upcoming journalist years ago. I attended one of the Indoor Auto Racing events in New Jersey and Christopher was competing, like he did every year. Ted finished on the podium in the feature and he was really one of, if not the first, driver I spoke to with a recorder in my hand.
I’ll admit, I was pretty nervous walking down to the track after the race knowing I was going to be interviewing Ted. Hell, he hadn’t had the best relationship with plenty of reporters I had talked to before I went there. A lot of them told me to talk to him, but make sure I caught him at a good time. I figured finishing on the podium and celebrating a top-three run would be a good time to talk to him.
When I finally got down to the track, Ted was just about ready to head back to the pits. The walk from the press booth down there was long. I walked up to him and asked him if he had just a minute to talk to me. He looked at me, smiled and asked me what I wanted to know.
I took a small audio segment with him, which was less than two minutes. I was a little bit nervous and I didn’t want to take up too much of his time. But when I was done and I turned around to walk away, I had a smile on my face. I had watched Ted race for years in New England as a fan attending races at Stafford, Thompson, Waterford … even Seekonk. I had seen what he could do on the track and I knew he was something special.
All you have to do to know that is check out some of his statistics. In 372 career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts over 29 years of competition, Christopher visited Victory Lane 42 times. He went to the winner’s circle at tracks like Stafford, Thompson, Jennerstown, Nazereth, Waterford and Riverhead. But that isn’t all of them. Ted won at every different style of track and all different sizes of them.
I know those victories at Stafford, Thompson and Waterford were definitely some of those that were the most important to him. But victories at New Hampshire and Martinsville ranked right up there with the others.
Putting the Whelen Modified Tour aside over the last few years, Ted focused on New England short-track racing as part of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series, especially at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson. This season especially, Christopher showed he was still on top of his game at 59 years old.
At Stafford, Christopher captured six victories in the SK Modified division in 2017. The most recent of them came just eight days before his tragic passing. Ted had to start from the rear of the field following a penalty he received for an argument with Rowan Pennink the week before, but it didn’t stop him from rolling right to the front.
The victory was the 109th SK Modified win for Christopher at Stafford and was his 131st career overall victory at the half-mile.
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