Turning Back To 2003: Burning Moment In Ted Christopher / Bo Gunning Rivalry

Bo Gunning / Ted Christopher

Bo Gunning / Ted Christopher

One thread of the fabric that is the history of SK Modified racing at Connecticut’s short tracks was the long simmering rivalry between Ted Christopher and Bo Gunning.

But when it comes to the long rivalry between the two, there’s one night that sticks out among others: June 19, 2003 at Thompson Speedway.

Take a look back with this story republished from the June 20, 2003 edition of the Hartford Courant.

Feud Takes Back Seat With Life On Line; Gunning Aids Christopher In Thompson Crash

By Shawn Courchesne
Courant Staff Writer

June 20, 2003

THOMPSON – Ted Christopher screaming at Bo Gunning is nothing new on a racetrack.

The drivers share a disdain for each other that goes back 20 years. Their battles have been nearly constant over the last two seasons at both Thompson International Speedway and Stafford Motor Speedway.

But their feuding ways were briefly forgotten Thursday when they crashed together into a turn-1 light standard at Thompson.

After the wreck, the screams Christopher directed at Gunning were not in anger, but in fear for his life.

It was Gunning, Christopher’s bitter rival, who hurried to the aid of the Plainville driver after a wreck on the third lap of the 30-lap SK Modified race.

Christopher, hanging upside down while still strapped into his mangled car, began to panic when he realized fuel was pouring out of his motor and there was a good chance his car was about to become a fireball.

Gunning, whose car was also ruined, rushed to unbuckle Christopher from the car before it went up in flames.

“I could hear him screaming that he couldn’t get out,” said Gunning, of Bethlehem. “Even though I really don’t like the guy, I didn’t want to see him burn on the track.”

The incident started with Christopher running second and Gunning fourth coming to the line for a lap-3 restart. As the green flag waved, race leader Bobby Drown drifted up into the lane held by Christopher. With nowhere to go, Gunning, 45, crashed into the back of Christopher’s car.

Both cars slid to the infield at speed, heading directly toward the concrete blocks surrounding the light pole.

“Me and Teddy had a run on the outside and [Drown] took him right into the wall,” Gunning said. “After that, we just slid. Me and Teddy came across, we hit and then I saw [the barrier] coming and I just lost it. Teddy just went right over the top of me.”

Christopher, 45, called it the wildest crash he’s had in 21 years of racing.

“I couldn’t do anything,” Christopher said. “I don’t know [if the steering broke] or what, but I was just going straight towards [the barrier]. I was just trying to steer it and it wasn’t steering. I just said, `Oh, shoot.’ And then boom!”

Christopher’s car hit head-on and shot up about 20 feet before pancake flipping directly on its roof. Gunning’s car ended up destroyed in the same barrier.

“The next thing I know I’m upside down,” Christopher said. “The worst part was I couldn’t get out from underneath it. I was just hanging on my head.”

Then panic took over.

“I was trying to figure out how to get out,” Christopher said. “You’re so used to getting out of the car one way. Then you’re upside down thinking, `How do I get out?’

“So I’m sitting there upside down and all of a sudden I can smell the fuel coming down on me. Then I saw the fire under the hood. I’m thinking, `I’m going to burn right here on the track.’ Then Bo came in and got me unstrapped.”

Safety workers arrived on the scene before the fuel ignited. Christopher walked away from the wreck with a sore right wrist.

Jeff Malave of Manchester went on to win the race, his second victory of the season. Bert Marvin of Waterford was second and Eric Berndt of Rocky Hill third.



    I was there that night. I remember after the crash Teddy went towards Bo and they both hugged each other really tight. It was a special moment. One of many special moments I will never forget about Ted Christopher.

  2. darealgoodfella says

    Shawn, these Turning Back moments are good.

    There’s another you might consider. It was an article you wrote about a Lime Rock Tour Mod race, TC had a really tough day with numerous off road excursions, and Mike Stefanik made some really funny comments.

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