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

Today we honor and celebrate the legacy of one of the most legendary short track drivers in the history of motorsports. A giant in racing, and a true gentleman who had an impact on so many.

Republished from RaceDayCT from Sept. 17, 2017

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.

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