STAFFORD – Ryan Preece won the battle, Ted Christopher won the war Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway
Preece did everything he could do to win the 2014 SK Modified championship Sunday, unfortunately the Berlin driver had no defense for the dramatics of Christopher.
Ted Christopher has been putting on drama shows at Stafford since the mid-1980’s and Sunday the track’s all-time winningest driver showed once again, even at 56 years old, he can still put on a show with the best of them.
Christopher, of Plainville, rallied from the back of the field after an early race penalty to finish third in the 40-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified to capture his ninth SK Modified championship at Stafford.
“That was probably the best way to win a championship,” Christopher said. “Coming from dead last and getting to the point where we had to be and almost having a shot at winning.”
Preece, of Berlin, got his sixth win of the season. Dan Avery of Somers was second.
Christopher earned 46 points for the third place, finishing the season with 710 points. Preece got 50 points for the victory, ending his season with 708 points.
It was the second consecutive season Preece has finished second in the division’s standings by two points. In 2013 Pitkat edged Preece for the SK Modified championship.
“By two points both years,” Preece said. “But I can’t say enough for [my team]. They worked their butts off, came up a little short, but I can’t say anything more better. We won six races this season and did all we could do.”
Christopher, who has 101 SK Modified victories at the track and 122 feature wins overall, won his first SK Modified championship at Stafford in 1987. He also won titles in 1996, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2012.
Christopher had one victory in 2014 but finished in top-10 in all 17 events this year. Christopher said the championship was made even more gratifying by some of the struggles faced by his team away from the track during the season. Medical issues mid-way through the season forced longtime crew chief Mike O’Sullivan to step away from the while recovering.
“I’ve had a year here where I’ve won nine races and didn’t win the championship,” Christopher said. “This year we were very consistent. We finished every race in the top-10 and only won one race. It was a great race that I won because Ryan and I battled back and forth. With Mike getting sick it sort of us put us in a pretty big turmoil with guys, you’re trying to get people to do stuff at the shop and get the racecar ready every Friday. … It’s a really really gratifying year to win the championship. One for the team and one for [O’Sullivan]. He’s a big part of all the cars. … Now I’ve got nine, I guess I go for 10.”
Christopher started sixth in the field and Preece seventh. Preece was up to the lead by lap four. On lap 11, while battling for second, Christopher made contact with Eric Berndt, sending Berndt spinning in turn two. Christopher was penalized for aggressive driving and put to the rear of the 27-car field.
“I’d like to know how [Stafford Speedway director of racing operations and competition Tom Fox] came up with that one,” Christopher said. “[Rowan Pennink] was leaking water so bad, we were so loose. I barely got into [Berndt] on that deal. I guess they saw it differently.”
The penalty hardly cooled Christopher though, as he methodically clawed his way back through the field. By lap 28 he was up to seventh. On a lap 31 restart he went from sixth to fourth. On lap 32 he went by Todd Owen for third, to put himself in position for a championship clinching finish.
“I did everything I could,” Preece said. “That was probably the most bittersweet victory lane I’ve ever had.”