DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo — Ted Christopher knows how to win.
He’s done it more at Stafford Motor Speedway than any driver that has participated in the long and storied history of the Connecticut oval. This Sunday he’ll have two significant opportunities to add to the legacy at his home track.
With 42 triumphs overall, Christopher ranks third on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s all-time wins list. The last checkered flag on that roll, however, came in the 2011 Stafford Fall Final – 40 races ago. Considering his résumé of success at the historic half-mile, Sunday’s 42nd Annual NAPA Fall Final 150 will provide perhaps the best opportunity of the season for Christopher to end the second-longest winless drought of his distinguished career.
Should Christopher’ reach Victory Lane for what would be a 13th time in tour competition at Stafford, it could also provide a boost to his championship aspirations. The 2008 titlist is 34 points behind leader Doug Coby with two races left on the schedule.
Christopher, from Plainville, Connecticut, also has an opportunity Sunday to extend his legacy in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at Stafford. The 56-year-old competitor brings a six-point lead on Ryan Preece into the SK Modified division’s season finale with the hope of adding to his record eight track championships. His first Stafford weekly crown was earned in 1987, and the most recent came in 2012.
Christopher has 12 total Whelen All-American Series track championships. A 13th would place him in a tie for fourth in series history with Larry Phillips and Donny Reuvers.
The Race: The 42nd Annual NAPA Fall Final 150 will be the 12th of 13 races on the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule, the final of four events at Stafford Motor Speedway and the 114th all-time tour appearance at the historic half-mile.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 33 cars, including provisionals. The first 28 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (75 miles) and the tire change rule for the race is three tires, any position.
The Track: A half-mile, slightly-banked oval, Stafford originated as a horse racing track in the 1870s. After seven decades as a horse track, the dirt oval started holding automobile races following World War II. Stafford became a NASCAR-sanctioned track in 1959 and was paved for the first time in 1967.
Race Winners: There have been 32 different race winners at Stafford all-time, led by Mike Stefanik’s 20 victories. Donny Lia is the defending winner of the NAPA Fall Final 150 while Bobby Santos, Doug Coby and Woody Pitkat have reached Victory Lane in this year’s first three Stafford events.
Pole Winners: There have been 42 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik’s 17. Preece holds the tour’s track qualifying record at 17.924 seconds (100.424 mph). Tommy Barrett Jr. was the Spring Sizzler polesitter and Santos was the top qualifier in both of the summer events.
Stafford Race Notes:
Big Points Swing at Loudon: Last week’s F.W. Webb 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway had a sizeable impact on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship chase. Doug Coby entered the race with a slim four-point edge on Justin Bonsignore, but his podium combined with a blown engine DNF for Bonsignore, extended the margin to 26 tallies entering this week’s next-to-last date on the schedule.
Deuces are Wild for Pitkat: Woody Pitkat has an opportunity to go for two-in-a-row, times two, in Sunday’s NAPA Fall Final 150. Pitkat will look for a second-consecutive Stafford Motor Speedway win after he drove to Victory Lane there on Aug. 8, and he’ll vie for wins two weeks in a row following his New Hampshire triumph last Saturday.
Stafford Success for Coby, Santos: Coby and Bobby Santos have combined to win 11 of the last 18 Whelen Modified Tour races at Stafford since 2010, including eight of the last 11. Six of the 11 checkered flags have gone to Santos, including this year’s Spring Sizzler, while the June 125 is among Coby’s five triumphs.
Past Winners Looking for a W: The list of competitors with multiple victories in recent seasons that have yet to reach Victory Lane in 2014 is significant. In addition to 42-time winner Ted Christopher, the roll also includes: Matt Hirschman (2 career wins), Donny Lia (17), Ryan Pennink (2), Ryan Preece (9) and Ron Silk (9).
Home Tracks: Rocco Positioned for Connecticut Crown
Six-time defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Connecticut state champion Keith Rocco is well-positioned to keep the run of success going. Entering last week’s racing action – the final weekend where points count toward the state and national standings – Rocco had forged a lead of 695-629 on Ryan Preece in Nutmeg State points. Rocco ranks fourth in points at Stafford Motor Speedway, but is in contention to take home track titles at the other two Connecticut ovals: Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Waterford Speedbowl.
Last Time Out: New Hampshire
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour visited New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second and final time in 2014 on Sept. 20. Here are some highlights from the F.W. Webb 100:
- Woody Pitkat held on through two green-white-checkered flag finish attempts to secure his second career victory, and first at the “Magic Mile.”
- Defending F.W. Webb 100 winner Todd Szegedy came up one spot short of repeating as he crossed the line second.
- Despite being involved in two different incidents of contact during the race, Doug Coby finished third and extended his championship lead to 26 points.
- Ryan Newman earned his fifth Whelen Modified Tour Coors Light Pole – all at NHMS – in qualifying Friday. He finished 20th Saturday after a late-race incident.
Next Time Out: Thompson
Following the NAPA Fall Final 150, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will close the 2014 season with the Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart on Oct. 19 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Rowan Pennink is the defending race winner and Justin Bonsignore was victorious in the first two tour races this year at the .625-mile oval in northeast Connecticut.