Ted Christopher scored two victories for two legends synonymous with Northeast Modified racing Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway. Christopher of Plainville, Connecticut opened the night by winning the 44-lap SK Modified feature in memory of legendary car owner Mario Fiore who passed way earlier this week. He completed the sweep later in the night by winning the 80-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series feature, his first win in the No. 00 since the passing of legendary car owner Joe Brady.
Since 1986 Christopher has become well known for winning races at Stafford Motor Speedway. Through June 2014 Christopher had amassed 122 career wins at Connecticut’s half-mile, but since that time Chrstistopher came up short, including a winless 2015 season. Friday night, Christopher put all that behind him scoring win number 123 and 124.
Christopher started the night off with a strong car in the 44-lap SK Modified feature storming to the front and then taking the lead back from a fast Ryan Preece. Christopher led the final 20 laps and held off a number of challenges from Preece to win his 102nd career race in the SK Modifieds. The race was extended by four laps from its regular 40 lap distance in honor of Fiore.
“I was really hoping I could win this race for him, it’s sad to see that he passed away.” said Christopher in victory lane. “I want to thank Ryan Preece for running me clean tonight, it’s always a joy racing with him. I know he’s going to run me as hard as he can.”
Christopher carried that momentum right into the 80-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series, which featured multiple lead changes throughout the race with drivers like Keith Rocco, Woody Pitkat, Dave Etheridge, and Rowan Pennink making strong bids at the front.
In the end it came down to Christopher and a hard-charging Jon McKennedy who worked his way forward from the 12th starting spot. After shadowing Christopher for six laps, McKennedy drove past Christopher for the lead in turn three with four laps to go, but Christopher had the momentum down the front straightaway and made a brave inside move on McKennedy while also passing the lap car of Roy Seidell who was down by the grass. Christopher pushed McKennedy up just enough that the No. 29 lost his momentum, and Christopher led back to the checkers.
“I think I had a good run because I was underneath him, but I think more importantly that sort of helped me because we got together and that sort of ran him up and gave me the distance I needed to get away from him for a while,” Christopher told the media after the race. “We weren’t rolling the center as good as he was, but we had great drive up off. It was fun. I’ve used lapped car picks through many years, little bit more experienced that way than he is. I wouldn’t say rough, I wasn’t too rough, it’s racing right?”
A disappointed McKennedy also knew that the race was far from over even when he had taken the lead.
“I knew as we were approaching turn one the lap car was down there and I gave us enough room to go to the outside of him,” McKennedy told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Ted barreled it off in there and sandwiched in between both of us and kind of rolled me up a little bit. Whatever, we’re both going for the win, so I kind of saw it coming.”
For Christopher, it was a night many emotions as he dedicated the MRS victory to Joe Brady, the owner of the No. 00, who passed away over the winter.
“I’m glad I could win for Joe, tough year trying to keep that thing running through the races I want to run with it. That meant a lot, just a good night.”
It was the second career VMRS victory for “TC” at Stafford and 124th overall, extending his all-time winning record. It was a moment that Christopher had tried so hard for over the last two years.
“It’s a great feeling, not that I haven’t been fast enough to win. It’s a tough game I tell everybody, this is one of the most humbling sports that you will ever be in because there’s just so many things that go wrong. It’s not like the first quarter, guy goes out, okay we’ll get somebody else to come in and you get another down to do it. You don’t have reruns in this. It is what it is when you race it and hopefully you finish whatever laps you have to run, you get in a good position. It’s a tough sport to run.”
With the sweep Friday night, Christopher joins Rowan Pennink on the list of drivers to sweep the SK Modified and VMRS features at Stafford this season.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series heads to Monadnock Speedway (NH) for its next outing on Saturday, July 2 and returns to Stafford for the third and final time on September 2.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen