DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – You’d be hard-pressed to come up with the name of a driver more deserving of a turn of good luck at Bristol Motor Speedway than Ted Christopher.
In the previous six editions of the annual combination race between NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tours at Bristol Motor Speedway, no driver has found more speed with nothing to show for it than the Plainville, Connecticut, veteran.
Christopher finished second to Donny Lia in 2009’s inaugural event after leading a race-high 110 circuits, then had to settle for an 18th-place result in 2010 when he again led the most laps – 80 – but suffered a late-race engine failure. Christopher did not participate in the 2011 race, but came back in 2012 to lead 46 more laps before getting wrecked out on Lap 105. Despite missing the 2011 race, he is still the event’s laps led leader with 236, which is 107 more than two-time Bristol winner Ryan Newman.
Combine that with the fact that Christopher, who ranks third on the Whelen Modified Tour’s career wins list with 42, has seen his drought reach 51 races.
So does the “World’s Fastest Half Mile” owe one to Christopher?
“If you wanted to say that you could,” Christopher said. “I’m going with a good team that I can hopefully get that win with. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Christopher has teamed with Our Racing to drive the No. 22 Canto Paving/Ferguson Waterworks Chevrolet in Wednesday’s Bush’s Beans 150. The team won at Bristol in 2013 with Mike Stefanik behind the wheel, and repeated a year ago with Tommy Barrett Jr.
After current No. 22 driver Keith Rocco was recently injured, Christopher inquired about the ride for this race. The team’s crew chief Brad Lafontaine feels fortunate with the opportunity ahead.
“We were lucky enough to be able to replace our injured driver with another driver that’s capable of winning Bristol,” Lafontaine said. “We’re really excited about it and he’s excited about it, so I think it makes for a good combination.”
Christopher has won at 12 different tracks during his distinguished career, but adding a Bristol feather to his cap like Stefanik did two years ago would be a milestone accomplishment.
“I think that’s why he was calling me, because he wants to win Bristol,” Lafontaine said. “That’s been one of the things he wants on his resume, and I don’t blame him. If you win Bristol, that’s one of the best.”
Lafontaine’s history at Bristol is what doubled Christopher’s interest in the opportunity. Not only has the Rhode Island crew chief led the team to victory the last two years, but he was Christopher’s crew chief with the former No. 36 team when he led all of those laps the first few years at the .533-mile oval.
“Obviously he’s got the good setup for the race, and I’ve always run really fast there,” Christopher said. “The combination should be good.”
The shared history also has Lafontaine confident heading down to Tennessee this week.
“We’ve had some real good cars there,” Lafontaine said. “The first race down there  we led the first half of the race but ended up second because we tightened up the car too much, which was a mistake. But with the experience we have there, and with a good setup, everything has gone the right way the last couple of years to have success.”
With all of that said, Christopher’s uncanny ability to break things down in the simplest terms perhaps best sums up his thoughts on Bristol.
“It’s just flat-out fast, and that’s good for me.”
RACE: Bush’s Beans 150
PLACE: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
DATE: Wednesday, Aug. 19
TIME: 6:15 p.m. ET
TELECAST: NBCSN, Aug. 28, 7 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: .533-mile, high-banked concrete oval
2014 WINNER: Tommy Barrett Jr. (NWMT and overall) / JR Bertuccio (NWSMT)
2014 POLESITTER: Justin Bonsignore (NWMT and overall) / Burt Myers (NWSMT)
EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice 10-10:55 a.m., Final Practice 12:30-1:15 p.m., Qualifying 3 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 4:45-5:15 p.m.
TRACK CONTACT: Dana Landry, 423-989-6991, [email protected]
TRACK TWITTER: @BMSupdates
The Race: The seventh annual Bush’s Beans 150 will be the 11th of 15 races for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the seventh of 14 events for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the lone combination race for the two tours this year.
The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 30 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (79.95 miles). The race will have a five-minute midway break at or near the conclusion of Lap 75 and the tire change rule is four tires, any position.
The Track: Nicknamed the “World’s Fastest Half Mile,” Bristol Motor Speedway is a high-banked concrete oval. The track opened in 1961 as an even half-mile with 22 degrees of banking in the turns. It now features progressive banking approaching 30 degrees through the corners and a distance of .533 miles.
Race Winners: Donny Lia was victorious in 2009’s inaugural Bristol running and Ryan Newman is the event’s only two-time overall winner. George Brunnhoelzl III has twice been the highest-finishing Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver, and received credit for a win for that tour. Each of the first six editions have been won by a Whelen Modified Tour entry.
Pole Winners: Qualifying was rained out for the inaugural event and Justin Bonsignore took the first Coors Light Pole at Bristol in 2010. Lia holds the Whelen Modified track qualifying record at 14.806 seconds (129.596 seconds), set in 2013.
Bush’s Beans 150 Notes
Combo Race Format: Combination races are nothing new to NASCAR’s regional touring series. The NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours have contested combination events since 2005, first at Martinsville Speedway and presently at Bristol Motor Speedway, while the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and K&N Pro Series West have two annual combo dates at Iowa Speedway. In these combination races, the teams race for an overall finishing position and purse, but compete relative to their own tours for championship points. For example, last year Tommy Barrett Jr. took the checkered flag at Bristol and earned a win for the Whelen Modified Tour while JR Bertuccio, who crossed the finish line 13th, was credited with a Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory as that tour’s highest finisher.
South Still Searching for Combo Victory: Wednesday’s race will mark the 13th head-to-head, points-paying combination race between the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours. Through the first six editions of the Bush’s Beans 150 at Bristol, and the six combo races between the two tours at Martinsville from 2005-10, the southern contingent is still seeking its first victory over its northern counterparts. James Civali – a Connecticut native – has the highest finish of a designated southern driver at Bristol when he crossed the line third overall in 2010 and was credited with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory for his efforts.
Northern Points Standings Extremely Close: Woody Pitkat brings the Whelen Modified Tour points lead to Bristol by the slimmest of margins – one point over Ryan Preece. Defending tour titlists Doug Coby is also right in the thick of things, eight points out of first, with five races remaining and is coming on strong with wins in two of the previous three events. Pitkat, Preece and Coby have combined to win eight of the season’s 10 events to date.
Myers Bros. Top Southern Standings: Heading into Bristol, Burt Myers leads the Whelen Southern Modified Tour point standings as he continues his quest for a second title. He leads his younger brother, Jason, by just four points after overtaking him in the last event at Bowman Gray Stadium. Burt won his lone title to date in 2010 while Jason’s best finish in the 11-year history of the tour is third in 2011.
Brunnhoelzl in Need of a Turnaround: George Brunnhoelzl III holds the distinction of having the highest overall finish of any full-time Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver in the six-race history of the Bristol combination event. The West Babylon, New York, native came home fourth in the inaugural 2009 running, and he could use another finish like that this week. The four-time champion has already accumulated four finishes outside the top 10 this year and he only had four between the 2011-2014 seasons combined.
Home Tracks: McCarty Leads Volunteer State
Ronnie McCarty’s run of success this year at Kingsport Speedway has him the leading contender for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series state championship in Tennessee. Through the latest national points standings updated on Aug. 11, McCarty accumulated 506 points to lead the Volunteer State standings by 54 tallies over Zeke Shell out of Kingsport’s late model division. McCarty had six wins in 13 starts, which was tied for the state lead with Kres VanDyke, who is third in the standings, 64 points back.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com