In Memory: Short Track Racing Has Lost An Irreplaceable Giant In Ted Christopher

Ted Christopher and myself (Photo: Tiesha DiMaggio/Vault Productions)

When I started helping out covering auto racing at the Hartford Courant in the mid-1990’s Dave Heuschkel – then the lead reporter covering motorsports – gave me a tip.

He told me if I wanted to get the best stories around the local racing scene that I needed to connect with Ted Christopher.

It was a piece of advice I took to heart as a young reporter learning my way around the pits at local tracks.

I sought out Christopher weekly and built a deep bond – dare I say a guarded, careful friendship. And I quickly learned that the layers to Ted Christopher were far deeper than many around the sport gave him credit for or ever would have realized.

There was the cocksure swagger like nobody else I’ve ever met in short track racing. It was a confidence that was bulletproof.

And then there was a wit that was just unmatched around the pits. That pestering jokester that could get under the competition’s skin long before they got on the track with one of his short but biting barbs, often in quick passing, always with a Cheshire Cat grin on his face.

And there was the friendly, dependable, welcoming, thoughtful, warm gentleman. That side that he often hid from the competition.

And then there were the quotes. Christopher was a reporter’s dream. His quotes, his one-liners, his quick hits, his colorful descriptions, they all proved epic, forever.

In July 2005 I spent four consecutive days essentially embedded with Christopher for a feature story. It was a string that saw him race Thursday night at Thompson Speedway, Friday night at Stafford Speedway, Saturday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and then back to Stafford Speedway for a makeup event on Sunday.

At one point during his afternoon at the Speedbowl that weekend someone told him another driver was complaining the night before about how he raced at Stafford.

“I should get a Kleenex sponsorship,” Christopher told his crew upon hearing of the complaints. “Then we can have a big box of Kleenex out on the trailer every week so all the drivers crying about me after every race can come get some. I want to know what they’re going to cry about when I’m gone.”

The crying now is real tears for the loss of Ted Christopher, who was killed Saturday in a plane crash.

As questions turned to terrifying rumors and then horrendously devastating reality Saturday afternoon, tears flowed from my eyes. The sobbing hit when I reached Ted’s twin brother Michael and heard the pained sorrow and despair in his words, and heard his crying, as he tried to get home to break the news to their mother.

Ted Christopher and myself (Photo: Tiesha DiMaggio/Vault Productions)

Devastated. Just devastated. I don’t know of other words to use beyond that. Amazing driver, greatest personality in short track racing, a reporter’s dream to cover and a great friend.

As a journalist you’re not supposed to get close to those you cover. Objectivity is paramount. One thing I’d always respected Christopher for is that he understood that. He understood that I had a job to do, and sometimes that meant being critical of some of the things he did. Over 22 years of covering him there were plenty of times I had to be critical in stories about things he had done. Only one time do I remember him being sincerely angry at me. It was in 2001 and he found me in the pits and screamed at me about a column I wrote about him.

He told me he’d never talk to me again. About a half hour later he walked by me in the pits and apologized, smiled, and said he understood why I wrote what I wrote. And in that well known sarcastic voice of his he said “Stop being a freaking jerk to me” and mockingly pushed me away and laughed.

He was the Dale Earnhardt of New England short track racing. There was no in between for fans. You loved him or you hated him. And plenty hated him, and he reveled in that. He loved the boos. He loved being the villain. He embraced the role with a glee that proved priceless to local racing promoters because that nature sold tickets. It made people show up to the track.

The layers are endless. There was the showman. Always a consummate showman. Always knew beyond trying to win, the race was as much about putting on a show for the fans.

There was the guy that loved his ice cream. The guy with the nicknames. TC. The King. Terrible Ted. The Tornado. Tipper. And there was Ted’s three-tap rule. First tap is telling you I’m here. Second tap is telling you to pick a lane. Third tap, I’m picking the lane for you.

Ted Christopher

At 59 years old the guy that was still as feisty and fiery and determined to win as ever.

On July 15 he was involved in an early wreck during a Whelen Modified Tour event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He raced the final 86 laps of the event with a broken hand.

The next morning he said to me: “I’m not too right sometimes.”

Short track racing is not right without Ted Christopher. Short track racing has lost a giant. I’ve lost a friend. The tears are real.

I will miss this man for so many reasons. I’ve often tried to explain to people that my love of covering auto racing is not about watching the sport, but rather for conveying the passion of those involved. Ted Christopher illustrated that fact in every way. In good times or bad times or ugly times there was never any lack of passion from this man and never once did he hide it. Short track racing’s greatest showman, on and off the track. There will never be another like him.


  1. love him or hate him, and I’ve done both, you had to respect his talent. RIP TC

  2. Nice job Shawn, this sucks.

  3. Shawn, this might be the best article that you have written. I also think that you have written some great articles. I am also devastated. I was hoping that I got to see him race one more time before I die. Not to be. I am so sorry for everyone that knew him, even a little bit.

  4. Can’t believe it, don’t want to believe it. Just shock and absolutely devastated. Local racing, the tour and anything TC related will not be the same for a long long time. Painful to say the least. Being a huge fan of his, don’t know if this will ever settle in. So Damn sad

  5. Shawn your comment on T C brought a tear to my eye. I think you feel every race fans pain, thanks for writing this comment.

  6. Absolutely gutted. A phenomenal talant, bigger than life. A true wheelman that made every race he ran in eccitibg. My deepest sympathies go out to Quinn, Mike, Mikey and the rest of his family,friends and fans. TC you will be missed.

  7. Mike Harelik says

    Great article Shawn. Love him or hate him, the man drove hard and put on a show. Maybe sometimes overdid it, but he put on a show. Isn’t that what the fans buy a ticket to see? At New Smyrna, when everybody got single file and bumper to bumper the first guy to pull out of line and try the outside was Teddy. Didn’t always work, but the fans got their money’s worth watching him try. He wasn’t always my favorite but I came to respect the man’s talent. RIP Teddy

  8. Very Well Put Shawn. Loved it !!!! So True!!!!

  9. John Beetham says

    Devastated. Don’t even know what to say. Great article. Teddy and Bob battled for many years at Stanford. I was there every Friday night from 1989 to 1995. They were rivals but there was
    always respect. Took my son to the fall final 1 year. Went over to talk to Ted and my wife was already talking to him. This was when he tore the medicarpul in his. We chatted and line started to get long. I said we would come back later aand take a pic with him and my son. His reply was no we’ll do it now. My wife was trying to find that pic last night. That was the type of guy Teddy was.
    My thoughts and prayers to his family.

  10. John Beetham says

    It was stafford and he tore the medicarpul in his hand.

  11. Ray Skoglund says

    Great read Shawn.
    TC was a guy people went to see race.
    Some loved him some not.
    But he was the guy you always watched as he made his way thru the field.
    Rest in peace Teddy.
    You will be missed.
    Prayers to his family, and friends

  12. What a wonderful article and clearly spoken from the heart. TC was the driver many loved to hate but respected. “The Intimidator” will live on as a legend.

  13. I sat in the stands at Thompson with Jack Arute Sr. and watched Teddy start last and win the super modified race in the first time out in that car, and I was cheering with every pass. Jack was amazed at my excitement as we were competitors – but he put on a show that was just incredible and if you love racing that is what you want to see. The best show that I have ever seen at any level and I will never forget that race.

    But many people have a memory of a special “Teddy moment” – they are countless.

    He was a great racer with more dedication and drive than anyone else.

    You will be missed.

  14. Well done, Shawn. Can you repost the 2005 article? I remember reading it at that time.

  15. Jason Kingsley says

    Great story Shawn. Absolutely no words to describe how i feel. I would regularly drive from Central New York to Stafford and Thompson to watch TC. always a fan. he will be missed. RIP

  16. MazdaJ,
    I actually planned on doing that at some point today.

  17. So I wake up, grab a cup of coffee, open my web browser and what’s the first thing I see? Ted Christopher dies is a plane crash. My first reaction was selfish. Racing at my favorite track, Stafford will never be the same. It can’t possibly be quite as good without Ted Christopher. He was the guy I spent decades loving to hate. Hate in the racing sense which is more like admiration.
    Having lost a father to a small plane crash I know exactly what the inner family circle is feeling. Shock and disbelief. Too young, too soon, no time to prepare. A grenade to what had been a normal day in a normal life with no hope of things ever being the same again. My heart goes out to them.
    I join all those in praise of Shawn, Mr. Objective, for breaking out of the mold and putting this loss in some kind of perspective with a passionate article at precisely the right time.

  18. John Piekarczyk says

    Teddy, I’m in shock! I remember giving you and Mike your first flags at Pomfert, your dad saying,”John,give them the black flag when they take each other out”. I did, the lesson didn’t take!
    It was great reconnecting with you the past three years at TSMP
    Mrs Christopher, Mike, I’m so sorry for the loss of Teddy, great racer,great friend, great man.

  19. rip teddy

  20. Shawn,
    I echo the sentiments that this is perhaps your best article and i am sure it was very difficult to write. I was eerily reminded of when Dale Sr. passed away. These giants of the sport who seemed so infallible were just taken from us way to soon without a chance to say goodbye. We always ask ourselves – how will we go on? I know in the racing community, the motto is to always go on because that is what Ted would want. Nothing could be more appropriate here, I know Ted would want us all to recall a funny TC moment and know that he was passionate about his sport. We must go on an remember this legend as he would want – a champion. You will be missed TC.

  21. TC reminded me of my all time favorite driver – Daring Dick Caso. Each week we would attend a race at the Bowl or at Stafford and I couldn’t wait to watch Ted reign supreme wether he won or not. He was always spectacular! He was a race fan’s dream. I never met him but felt like we were good friends because he put on a show for me every week. Those are really big shoes to fill. My prayers this week are for his mama and brother and his family. All of New England’s short tracks will be somber for a very long time.

  22. Great article Shawn! RIP TC the GOAT to wheel a modified!!!!! 😢

  23. As a driver, we all wanted to be “TC”. He was the epitomy of the ultimate short-track racer. Confident, talented, aggressive, intimidating, smart and well-spoken with an uncanny sarcasm. Yet, we all knew that deep down inside we could never reach that bar. On so many levels there was and will never be another “TC”.



  25. Are. Oops sorry shawn

  26. Are an awesome WRITER

  27. Teddy will be miss I had the privilege of winning a championship the same year as tc at the bowl when he drove the 54 car and I will always have those memories rest in peace tc

  28. Surely agreed Marco,
    T.C. being the Dale Earnhardt of New England. Your column opened my deep feelings for racing.
    I also have a loud crowd of haters, and plan to keep on going to the podium.
    Next one is for T.C.

  29. Excellent article Shawn – thank you for the great job.

    When I heard the new yesterday I got the same feeling I got when Dale died at Daytona. I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now.

    There must have been a hellava feature at the Racers’ Heavenly Speedway last night.

  30. *news

  31. Great article Shawn, and you are absolutely right, the Dale Earnhardt of Modified Racing. There will never be another Teddy. RIP TC 13 . 🙁

  32. Some people loved him. Some people loved to hate him and those that did knew him only as Ted the racer. They didn’t know him as Ted the person. He was one of the funniest and big hearted people I’ve ever had the privilege of calling a friend. Our hearts are so heavy. Thoughts, prayers and love go out to Quinn, Mike Sr.,and the entire Christopher Family. Rest in Peace, Ted

  33. A great story about a great man. A SAD day in racing.

  34. Greg Colasurdo says

    Awesome job Shawn on what must have been a very tough piece to write paying tribute to your friend. You hit the nail on the head describing how we lost so much more than just someone who drove a race car. We lost a huge part of the sport yesterday. Modified racing in the northeast will not be the same for some time.

  35. Heartfelt…thank you Shawn.

  36. What a wonderful article. I have not always liked your articles. Kind of how people at times felt about Ted. Loved him or didn’t. This article shows me you also have a heart. Well done.

  37. Although roughly the same age as TC, I didn’t start following local short track racing until 2014. Quickly, I was “hooked” and TC was center of my attention whenever he was on the track. He was a great entertainer, and seemed to understand his place within the racing scene. What a loss …

  38. I remember Ted showing up at Riverside back in the day, And he used to put on such a good show. I loved it because he used to beat up on Reggie, Great memories. He will be missed.

  39. My shocked and stunned condolences go out to TC’s family and friends. Ted was truly the Dale Earnhardt of the New England racing scene. From winning “all the time”, using “Ironhead” moves to pass, having a great conversation with me at a pit party, and “getting the pole, starting at the back, coming to the front, pitting late, starting mid-pack, and coming to the front AGAIN”, he covered the full spectrum of my racing emotions.
    I was at Monadnock and they started announcing what happened. The instant the announcer (maybe Ben Dodge?) said “all time Modified winner at Stafford”, my gasp came out before most; I knew it was Teddy. They lined up the MTS cars in “missing man” formation, as TC was said to be the pole winner with an awesome buildup over the PA system. All I could do was raise my arms high and hold up one left finger and three right for my “13” salute, and try to keep my emotions in check. I guess Joe Brady got his driver back. Godspeed TC.

  40. A day and half of numbness for me. Like I have not felt since Richie passed so suddenly. Thing is
    I WAS a fan of RE and not of Ted’s but his impact on the sport today rivals that of Richie’s years ago.
    Still numb reading all the articles and great comments. Like Rich there will never be another TC.
    DAMN IT………

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