Back In Time: Shifting Gears – Christopher Brothers Changing Priorities

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

In September 2001 Ted Christopher was preparing to be celebrated as the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion while his twin brother Michael was settling into life not fully encompassed with racing.

Ted Christopher (left) and Mike Christopher (right) in 2008 (Photo: Howie Hodge for NASCAR)

Shifting Gears – Christopher Brothers Changing Priorities
Sept. 30, 2001
By Shawn Courchesne – Courant Staff Writer
Republished from the Hartford Courant

Ted Christopher will be honored by NASCAR Nov. 16 in Orlando, Fla., as the best short track racer in the country.

His 43-year-old twin brother Mike probably won’t be there to celebrate in the land of Mickey Mouse. Mike most likely will be home, babysitting, maybe watching Disney videos.

During the past two years, Ted’s success in racing has skyrocketed. Mike’s has not.

While Ted has compiled 18 victories in the past two seasons at Stafford Motor Speedway, including nine this year, Mike — third place all time at the track with 27 wins — hasn’t visited victory lane at the track since May of last year.

Two racing careers that for so long mirrored each other in the same way their faces do, now couldn’t be farther apart.

Today at Stafford, the track that has served as the backbone to both of their racing lives, Ted will most likely win his fourth SK Modified track championship. A good showing by Mike could move him to 19th in the final point standings.

And Ted doesn’t mince words when it comes to his philosophy on why they’ve drifted so far apart on the track.

“Two things that will change your life; one, get married; two, have kids,” Ted said. “I haven’t done either of them and my life hasn’t changed.”

Three years ago Mike married Jen. Two years ago Mike Jr. was born.

While Ted spends nearly every free moment on racing, Mike’s focus is no longer on the sport, but instead on his family and his car dealership, M & T Auto Sales in Plainville.

“One person can only do so much,” Ted said. “Satisfy his wife, satisfy his kid. He’s got a house. I’ve got a condo, I don’t worry about mowing a lawn or anything like that. All I worry about is washing my clothes. I don’t even worry about cleaning my condo. I’ve had a maid coming once a week for 13 years.”

Twice this season Mike has missed three consecutive weeks of racing, something unfathomable for most drivers, especially one who has been a fixture at Stafford since 1985.

“It was shocking to me, the first Friday night that he missed, because it was the first Friday night that I’ve ever known him that he wasn’t there,” Jen said. “I really couldn’t believe it.”

Of the 21 events this season at Stafford, Mike has driven in 12. In May, Mike went three weeks without competing after blowing a motor and in July it was another three weeks off after damaging the rear end. For most weekly drivers, either of these problems would have resulted in all-nighters to get the car ready again. For Mike, a three-time champion at Stafford, that motivation has waned.

“I just didn’t have the time and really didn’t want to put in the time to get things back,” Mike said. “I just took my time and was in no rush to get back.”

It was a situation that didn’t surprise Jen, who has seen Mike change since the birth of Mike Jr.

“In the past, when it was just the two of us, I did my thing and he did his,” Jen said. “If he was working on his engine all night, it was fine with me, I kept busy. But since we’ve had the baby, he’s tended to be home at night a few more days. Normally, Mike’s schedule was always work all day, come home for dinner and go back to the shop until 11 or 12:30 at night. When we had the baby he started coming home at 9 or 9:30 and then sometimes he wouldn’t go to the shop at all.”

Career Path

A trip to Stafford for what they thought was a race set the foundation for both of their careers.

As teenagers they shared a beat-up go-kart they would drive around in parking lots in Plainville.

At 18 years old, Mike and Ted hopped in their Camaro and headed to Stafford to watch the Spring Sizzler. They should have checked the calendar.

“We went up to Stafford, there’s nobody there,” Ted said. “We’re like, `What the [heck]?’ We missed the date; it was going to be the next weekend.”

They remembered that a buddy of Mike’s had told him there was a track — which they would later find out was in Pomfret — where go-karts raced competitively on Sundays.

“So we’re like, `Man, we’re halfway up there, why don’t we go try to find out where this go-kart track is.”’

Said Mike: “My buddy told me, `It’s up in the Northeast corner somewhere.’ We said, `We’ll find it up here somewhere.’ We kept driving around until we found it. It was in the back of this farm, down this hill. Next thing you know, we’re whipping out money, buying go-karts and that’s how it all started.”

By 1983 Ted was racing an SK Modified at Stafford. Two years later Mike started driving at Stafford.

Then the real fun began. Both of them quickly built reputations as aggressive drivers. And that aggressiveness wasn’t tempered when they raced against each other.

“We wrecked each other plenty of times,” Ted said. “To me, he was just a number on the track.”

Said Mike: “We were always fighting for the same piece of real estate out there. Only one guy could win. It usually got to the point where one of us was going to take the other out, or we just took each other out.”

Although Mike’s winning percentage has faded, he argues that he is still as talented as his brother.

“He’s no more talented than I am, he just happens to be in a great situation,” Mike said. “He has one more championship than me, he’s been racing longer than me and he spends a lot more money than me. Put Teddy in my race car on a Friday night at Stafford and put me in his car, I’ll do the same thing he does.”

Said Ted: “I don’t see that happening. He has a little bit of an ego trip that way. He’s close, but I don’t know if he’d do the same as I could.”

It’s a battle for supremacy that has raged, Ted said, since the moment they were born, or the moment he was born, which was seven minutes before Mike.

“I was out first, winning first,” Ted said. “It all started then.”

Family Man

Mike Jr. is sprawled across dad’s lap on the couch of their Wolcott home.

“You pooping again?” Mike said. “You stink. You want to go to the potty?”

With that, Mike Jr. scampers off to the bathroom.

“We’re trying to potty train him,” Mike said. “It’s going pretty good.”
Moments later Mike Jr. emerges from the bathroom, pants around his ankles. Mike can’t help but burst out laughing.

“Put your pants on,” Mike mutters through his chuckle. “We’ve got company.”
Ted has less weighty worries than Mike and that’s the way he likes it. His 7-year old German shepherd Troyer sits obediently in the meeting room of M & T Transmission, Ted’s business in Plainville.

“He hasn’t been eating that much lately,” Ted said. “I don’t know what it is, I think it might be because I changed his food.”

He laughs at the notion of having children.

“That’s too much of a responsibility for me,” Ted said. “I like it where I can yell at my dog here, leave him in the garage all day long. When I go off racing I can hand him off to my parents. That’s enough for me.”

Mike’s wife Jen says Ted is married to racing.

“Racing, work and everything else, I guess,” Ted said. “But I don’t know if I’m married to it or not. I mean, I enjoy it a real lot and I spend a lot of time at it, but I don’t know if I’m married to it. Some people would think that, I guess, because I race so often, but hey, that’s what I like to do.

“And come on, I have a girlfriend and she doesn’t bother me about it. That’s the best part about our relationship.”

Ted has been dating Quinn Wazorko, 21, for a year and half.

“Yeah, I know, she’s a lot younger than I am,” Ted said. “But she’s one of the most mature girls I’ve ever been out with, as far as strong, independent, doesn’t need me to be her strength. A lot of girls need that, I get sick of that part. I can do my own thing, she can do her own thing and we meet in the middle.”

Jen is hoping Ted will someday separate himself a little from racing and get married. He doesn’t see that happening any time soon. He broke off a five-year relationship a few years ago. He said it was, by far, the longest he had ever been with a girlfriend.

“She just had an agenda for when she wanted to be married,” Ted said. “I want to be married when I want to be married, not when the date hits that you think you have to. She was all worried because she was going to hit 30 and, you know, the biological clock thing.”

For Mike, playing dad is something that Jen, 27, said came very naturally.

“It was a little surprising,” Jen said. “He’s really done a good job of balancing everything. No matter what he does, he always makes time for Michael. He’s really impressed me for being such a great father. I think it surprised everybody else a lot more. I know people have said he’s changed. I can tell you he’s the most popular guy at the day care.

“He and Teddy both just have an aura about them and children have just always latched on to them and they both love children. That’s one thing that surprised me with Ted that as much as he loves children, he knows enough that it’s not for him because of the way his life is. He doesn’t want to change the way he does racing.”

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