Ted Christopher Remembered Locally And Nationally Sunday For Short Track Racing Exploits

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 on Sept. 17, 2016

Ted Christopher (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

On Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway NASCAR’s premier level division kicked off their playoffs with the start of the Monster Energy Cup Series Chase for the Championship.

But before NASCAR biggest stars hit the track they stopped to remember a man who built a nationally renowned reputation playing the small stages of NASCAR’s short track racing ranks.

Plainville native and Northeast short track racing legend Ted Christopher, who was killed in a plane crash Saturday, was honored with a moment of silence prior to the running of the Tales of the Turtles 400 Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

While Christopher has been a dominant force in the ranks of Modified racing and at Connecticut short tracks for parts of the last four decades, his exploits across the full spectrum short track racing had remembrances flowing from some of the biggest names in motorsports by Saturday night.

Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among many nationally known NASCAR personalities turning to social media Saturday and Sunday to remember the 59-year old Christopher, who was flying to a Whelen Modified Tour event Saturday when the plane he was travelling in crashed near the North Branford/Guilford line. Charles “Pat” Dundas, who was piloting the plane was also killed in the crash. Christopher and Dundas were the only two onboard the small plane.

“It’s very difficult to process at this point,” said Todd Szegedy, who has competed against Christopher on the Whelen Modified Tour for the last 18 years. “When I first heard what was going on I was just like ‘No, it can’t be. This can’t be true.’

“We lost an unbelievable person. The sad part about all of this is that you don’t realize how important somebody is until you lose them. You just don’t realize it until they’re gone. I’m reading the stuff that Jeff Gordon said and [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] said and everyone in the NASCAR world. They all knew who he was. How many people can say that?”

Christopher was the all-time winningest driver at Stafford Motor Speedway, with 131 wins, and Thompson Speedway, where he had 99 career victories. He also raced regularly at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, where he had 48 career victories. The bulk of those victories came in each track’s weekly SK Modified division.

He was also the the third winningest driver of all time on the Whelen Modified Tour.

Christopher had a division leading six victories in the SK Modified division at Stafford this season, with his last win coming on Sept. 8. He finished fourth in the SK Modified feature at the track Friday night. He won one of two SK Modified features held at Thompson Speedway on Sept. 10.

Over his career he raced in everything from NASCAR’s top level Monster Energy Cup Series, to the top levels of Sports Car racing to indoor Three-Quarter Midget events.

Christoper was the 2001 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series short track national champion and the 2008 Whelen Modified Tour champion. He won nine SK Modified division championships at Stafford Speedway.

“He was larger than life,” Szegedy said. “He’s irreplaceable. And what was amazing is the guy was 59 years old and could drive better than most 20 year olds. It just absolutely amazed me. And he lived and breathed racing. He raced anything. It didn’t matter what it was, he had the ability to win in anything he drove. That’s what’s amazing.

“If you think of Modifieds now, this day and age, you think of him. He was the guy. And yes, it’s going to leave a hole on everybody’s heart. And there’s no one now that’s going to be like he is, the personality. … He drove 110 percent all the time. He drove beyond the ability of the car, but within reason and within control at all times.”

At Stafford sections of the grandstands are named in honor of former track standouts. Christopher was the only active driver to ever earn that honor. He had a section of the grandstands named for him in 2008 when he recorded his 100th career victory at the track.

“All of us at Stafford Speedway are devastated over the tragic plane crash that claimed the life of our longtime friend Ted Christopher and the aircraft’s pilot, Charles Dundas,” Stafford Speedway general Mark Arute said in a statement released Sunday. “For over three decades Ted Christopher has been an inspiration for both young and old at Stafford Speedway. His passion for racing thrilled fans and pushed fellow competitors to their limits. He was the backbone of the modified community, and a role model to the countless young drivers in paddock areas throughout the Northeast. He was not only one of the greatest drivers ever to compete at Stafford Speedway, he was also a great friend to many. His hard driving style, off track antics, passion for short track racing, and legendary persona will be missed by both drivers and fans. His legacy will remain with us forever and he will be missed by all of us here at Stafford Speedway.”

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