It’s safe to say that Ted Christopher is one of the most aggressive short track drivers of our time. Christopher has won in everything from a Midget to a Super Late Model. Quite a few of those victories have involved banging a fender, wheel or even an entire car. So when it comes to fierce battles, TC could tell dozens of war stories.
So when Christopher talks about a battle involving two other competitors as being a tough, you can bet the farm that he’s not telling tall tales.
Saturday night after the conclusion of the Mr. Rooter 161 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Waterford Speedbowl (CT), Christopher’s first comments were all about the battle between race winner Bobby Santos, III and runner-up Donny Lia. Christopher finished third and had the best seat in the house for the beating and banging between his two competitors.
“Those guys were brutal on the restarts,” said Christopher. “It was fun to watch them. The #44 (Santos) was grinding the #4 (Lia) and the #4 was grinding the #44…I just let them do what they would do and hoped that I could just drive underneath them.”
Christopher didn’t get that chance. Somehow, both Santos and Lia made it to the finish in complete cars. Santos won, but had ruffled feathers in victory lane.
“We just had a great car…it was a lot of fun tonight,” Santos told track announcer Matt Buckler immediately after getting out of his car in victory lane. “I followed Donny the whole first part of the race. I tried multiple times to pass him clean and I felt he roughed me up. I had to pass him on the bottom because they (Lia’s #4 crew) told me that I wasn’t going by on the outside of him.”
A short time later, Santos didn’t back away from those comments. He explained them further.
“[With] Anything to do with Donny Lia, what do you expect?” said Santos. “Donny is a very aggressive driver. He’s very talented, but very aggressive.
“I try real hard to race clean, but sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. I feel like I’ve been pushed around for years on the Tour and I’m done with that. I knew the laps were winding down and I had an opportunity. I needed to take it…I made a pass that I don’t think any other driver in the pits wouldn’t have done.”
Lia felt that Santos took that opportunity and a few extra liberties as well. For a brief period of the race, Tommy Barrett, Jr. was also involved in the battle for the lead. He ended up hard into the turn one wall and out of the race after one of the late race restarts though.
After the race, Lia seemed more upset about the battle between Santos and Barrett then the battle between himself and Santos.
“What did the #22 (Barrett) do to him?” Lia asked. “He wrecked that kid….he raced me the same way. I had to turn left down the straightaways to go straight because he was turning so hard right into me. He did the same thing to the #22, but whatever broke on that car didn’t break on mine. I don’t know if it was a tie rod or something else, but I know that was from the #22 getting pushed around.”
The ironic thing is that the beating and banging might have not factored into the ultimate outcome of the race. Both Lia and Santos agreed that the better car at the end of the race was the one that won.
“Bobby’s car was better at the end,” said Lia.
“I felt that he gave me every bit that he had left,” said Santos of the closing laps. “We had a better car.”
Finishing behind Santos, Lia and Christopher were Justin Bonsignore and Patrick Emerling. With his top five finish, Bonsignore took over the point lead from Doug Coby and now leads the standings by two markers. Santos now sits third in the standings five back from Bonsignore.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action on Saturday night, June 28th, at Riverhead Raceway (NY).
– By Mike Twist, Speed51.com Correspondent. Photo credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com