When you race in New England and your last name is Christopher you're expected to win. In his first season racing Legend Cars at the Waterford Speedbowl (CT) in 2013 young Mike Christopher, Jr. went winless. But he's more than made up for that in 2014.
The son of longtime Modified racer Mike Christopher and nephew of Northeast racing legend Ted Christopher has scored a total of 25 wins in a Legend car this year. Most of those wins, 23 to be exact, have come at the 1/3-mile oval on Connecticut's shoreline. Those 23 wins are a new track record for Waterford's Legends division. Jason Palmer set the previous record in 2009 when he won 22 times.
Christopher Jr. has locked up the Saturday night and Wednesday night Legends championships at Waterford. He's just the fourth driver to pull off the season sweep. He's the 12th different champion in the past 12 years on Saturday nights and the sixth new champion in as many years on Wednesday nights.
The 15-year-old second-generation driver from Wolcott, CT said he's almost in disbelief at how successful this year has been.
"It's insane to think that we got zero last year and we've got (23) so far this year," Christopher told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
"I thought maybe we'd get maybe three wins," he said. "Maybe five if we were lucky. And we have two at Stafford (CT) in the Legend car. It's just a great feeling."
Mike Jr. is already starting to move through the ranks. He's made two starts in a SK Light at Stafford and he said the plans are to go full time in that division next year.
"After this season we are done with Legend cars unless some big national race happens at Waterford," he said. "If something like that happens I guess I'll hop in someone else's car. But other than that it's going to be more focused on SK Lights up at Stafford the last few races at Stafford this year and then next year full time SK Lights."
While many would think that having the Christopher last name would add a lot of pressure, but the young Christopher said that isn't the case. He said it instead just drives him even more.
"Having the Christopher last name is just motivation for me," he said. "It doesn't bother me what people think of a Christopher, whether it's my dad or my uncle."
His uncle Ted is known for being a very aggressive driver. He's known for his "Three Tap Rule." He'll tap a driver once to let him know that he's there. He'll tap him a second time to let him know that he better get out of the way. If he taps that driver a third time? Well, they don't really want that third tap. So how does Mike Jr.'s driving style compare?
"A lot of people say that I'm a combination of my father and uncle," he said. "My dad used to be real patient to get to the front, unlike Teddy. But if it comes down to the fact that I have to use the bumper, I will. And then comes my Teddy part of me when I'm racing."
Ted always garners a reaction from the crowd. Similar to Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon in the '90s, half of the crowd is cheering and the other half is booing when Ted gets introduced. A few weeks ago at the Speedbowl the reaction was much the same for Mike Jr. Later on in the race when he and the leader got together and spun out with six laps to go it was all boos, thumbs down and even some middle fingers. But then Mike Jr. came back from the rear of the field to take the lead and the win in under five laps. The entire crowd was on their feet roaring with applause.
"Once I got to the lead and got taken out there that some people were happy because they don't like winners or something like that," he said. "In that six lap period that I went from last to the lead the whole stands got up and cheered. And when my mom told me that it was great to hear in realizing that people do like winners."
His winning has also changed how his classmates view him and view what he does. He'd always get the "you're just going in circles" line from his friends. But not anymore.
"Over this season they've seen on social media and everything and Instagram pictures and all of that they've seen first wins and then I got second, third, all the way to now and 23 wins," he said. "This guy did an article for me for my town paper so once that got out everyone read it. It's pretty interesting for people that I don't even know at school like upperclassmen and stuff to come up to me and say, 'Hey I saw you in the paper.'"
Pretty soon Mike Jr. might be more popular at school than the football team.
"I don't know about that, yet," he said with a laugh.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Regional Editor (Long Island, CT, and NJ) -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Mike Christopher Jr. Facebook.