Friday the Plainville driver rolled that momentum to take over the throne reserved for the winner of the biggest SK Modified event of the season at the historic facility.
Christopher, the track’s all-time winningest driver, held off the charges of Rowan Pennink in the closing laps to win the third NAPA Auto Parts SK 5K Friday at Stafford Motor Speedway.
It was Christopher’s first victory in the event. Pennink won the first running of the event in 2014 and Ryan Preece was the victor last year. Christopher collected just over $11,000 on the evening between the $5,000 winner’s purse, contingencies, the additional $5,600 bonus money from the Dunleavy’s Gambler’s Challenge program and another $250 bonus from Wheeler’s Auto for winning his heat race.
“This is great,” Christopher said. “I could use the money. … It’s big. A shout out goes to [Dunleavy’s Truck And Trailer owner] Doug Dunleavy for putting up the extra money like he does and John Rufrano [from Wheeler’s Auto] for the heat races. It’s becoming a pretty good deal. A real good deal.”
It was the all-time track leading 125th career victory overall at Stafford for Christopher and the all-time leading 103rd career victory in the SK Modified division.
Pennink, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. was second and Eric Berndt of Cromwell third.
Christopher, the nine-time SK Modified division champion at Stafford, took the lead from Berndt on lap 36 and looked on cruise control for much of the event before beginning to endure bunched up lapped traffic at about lap 70.
“I sort of tried to pace myself a little bit but I’m not too good at that,” Christopher said.
The most dramatic passing for Christopher on the night came in dealing with the maneuverings of his old rival at track, three-time Stafford SK Modified champion Bo Gunning, who was making his first start at the track in about four years.
Christopher held a nearly two-second lead over Pennink on lap 75 when he rolled up on Gunning at the tail end of the lead lap. Gunning gave Christopher all he could handle in keeping him from putting him a lap down. All the while, Pennink closed the two-second lead to two car lengths.
Christopher finally put Gunning a lap down on lap 78 and then was able to get some room again between himself and Pennink, the reigning SK Modified division champion. But Pennink was able to close again and on lap 90 the lapped car of Frank Ruocco gave Christopher more fits, allowing Pennink to make an outside run for the lead in turn three. But Christopher defended the top spot.
“You know they have spotters, I don’t know, they’ve just got to make it hard on you I guess,” Christopher said of the blocking by Gunning and Ruocco. “The problem with those guys is they’re never going to have it on the other foot so they just want to make your life miserable. I don’t do stuff like that. But I’ve got it. I’m just happy with that.”
Said Pennink: “I really wish we could have gotten the win for this team. We had to pit, I wasn’t quite happy with the car at the beginning of the race. I pitted and the guys did a great job in the pits. They gave me a car to drive back to the front. Then I got alongside Ted there for the lead and he kind of just cleaned me right out. That was that.”
The caution flew again on lap 95, but Christopher was able to stave off the advanced of Pennink over the closing laps.
“He worried me,” Christopher said. “I knew he pitted early and he made his car better. Right now it seems to be like him and I have two of the best racecars here. … I’ll take the money.”