After an off-week, the drivers of the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour resumed their battle on Tuesday night, on the sim version of one of the all-time great Modified battlegrounds, New Hampshire Motor Speedway. After some close calls, and hard racing, it was one of the real world’s up and coming Modified drivers, from one the sport’s most recognizable families who took top honors.
Michael Christopher Jr. has become a serious force in SK Modified competition at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut the past few years, and he has shown that same skill on the sim side, this time breaking through for his first Speed51 Elite Modified win after a number of close calls.
After starting 16th, Christopher dodged a mid-race pile up, passed mid-race dominator Brandon Wilkinson, and held off Chad Frankenfield and Marcus Fruchtenicht in the late laps, before the 75-lap race ended under yellow.
“Qualified bad, obviously. Didn’t have a lot of practice, I guess. Start of the race I just bided my time until the wreck happened off of two. Luckily, I missed that, and somehow came out third. From there on I said, ‘Alright, it’s time to put the hammer down’,” said Christopher after the race.
While the classic ‘Magic Mile’ white flag final battle was negated by the yellow flag, Christopher was ready for anything before then as the laps began to wind down.
“I knew the right moment was going to come with about two to go, maybe three. That’s when Chad went low in turn three, but didn’t make it happen. It’s unfortunate that these races under caution, it was going to be a good race between the three of us, we checked out from everyone. But, those are the rules, I just play by them.”
For Frankenfield, even if the race had stayed green to the checkered flag, he knew that getting by Christopher would have been no easy task.
“Really tough to say, it’s really hard to pass. With the restrictor plates on the cars, it makes it difficult to get any kind of run off the corner, and my only hope was to try and force him into a mistake, or try to slidejob him.”
The good news for Frankenfield is that he is still within striking distance, 11 points back of points leader Geral Campbell, while being tied with Wilkinson for the runner-up spot in the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour points with four races remaining in the 2019-2020 fall/winter season.
“It sucks, but as far as the championship is concerned we made a lot of ground up, and these big tracks seem to be where I’m stronger with the Modifieds, so it seems the place to be for me. With some of the chaos that happens, the best place to be is the Top 5, and if we can stay up there, we can stay out of the chaos.”
For third place finisher Fruchtenicht, the possibility of a podium finish seemed out of reach halfway in the race, when a pit road penalty sent him to the tail of the field.
“It was a pretty good night, I had a pretty fast car, I was pretty happy with the way I was in practice. I didn’t qualify as well as I would’ve liked to, but I got up to the front, and shot myself in the foot when I sped a little on pit road.”
But like Christopher, Fruchtenicht took advantage of on-track chaos to get back into contention, only wishing that he could have had those final laps under green.
“I missed some carnage and then was fighting there with Michael Christopher and Chad there at the end. Just got a little loose with a couple of laps to go, I was hoping it would go green to the end, because we were in store for a pretty good finish.”
You can find an on-demand replay of the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour at New Hampshire Motor Speedway by clicking here.
The Speed51 Elite Modified Tour takes on Bristol Motor Speedway next Tuesday, December 17 before taking a two-week holiday break, and then finishing with the final three race stretch in January.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT