Unique Mystique: Ted Christopher And Car Owner Jim Galante Made Unforgettable Team

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. 21, 2017

Car owner Jim Galante (left) and Ted Christopher front and center after an SK Modified win at Stafford Speedway in 2000 (Photo: Stafford Speedway/Dave Mavlouganes)

With a career spanning over 30 years in motorsports, legendary short track racer Ted Christopher competed for a list of car owners that is long and represented some of the best and most respected in the business.

There were always car owners looking to get Christopher in the seat of their ride.

But there was one team owner in particular that most across the Northeast short track racing scene will forever connect Christopher’s name with.

“Teddy had the bad boy image, and unfortunately I’ve always had a bad boy image, so we just kind of gelled,” former race team owner Jim Galante told RaceDayCT Wednesday.

Christopher and Galante spent more than a decade together competing in everything from SK Modifieds to Pro Stocks to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and even together at the highest level of NASCAR with a start in the Monster Energy Cup Series.

“Believe it or not, we had similar personalities,” Galante said. “It was a lot like Al Davis with the Raiders. It was just win. It was at any cost, we just went out there, pedal to the metal. He had that drive to win and I had that drive to win and it was just a great combination.”

The 59-year old Christopher was killed in a plane crash Saturday while traveling to a Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead Raceway in Riverhead, N.Y.

“I got the call Saturday night, I was at a restaurant with my family and I just lost it,” said the 64-year Galante, a Danbury native. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

The relationship between Christopher and Galante began in 1995 at Stafford Motor Speedway. After a short stint with driver Ricky Bennett, Galante got involved with driver Steve Chowansky in the SK Modified division at Stafford in 1994.

“I remember how I decided to go with Teddy,” Galante said. “I had Chowansky and three quarters of the way through the season of that first year with him there was a night that Mike [Christopher] and Teddy were battling back and forth. And I’ll never forget it. They were coming off the backstretch banging each other. I didn’t know much about racing or these drivers. Chowansky was right behind them. Ted gave Mike a brake job and Chowansky went around them both and we won our first race, But I remember saying to myself then ‘Teddy is the driver that I really want.’ We sat down after that and it came together. … It was just a phenomenal relationship.”

Four of Christopher’s nine SK Modified championships at Stafford Motor Speedway came driving for Galante, in 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2004. With Christopher as his lead driver, Galante at times would field up to four cars in the SK Modified division.

“His style driving, to have an owner like myself that really didn’t care, the equipment that we went through, sometimes we’d go there and leave there with four cars twisted like pretzels and come back the next Friday night and they were pristine,” Galante said. “But we had a great group of guys. I’m not saying that we didn’t have our differences, but I would say, the entire crew, the drivers, myself as the owner, we all had a mutual respect for each other. I think that’s what made it work. And I think that’s that what made it work as long as it did, that we all understood each other.”

The look of the familiar black, silver and blue or black, silver and red Mystique Motorsports cars became synonymous with Christopher, both in the SK Modified division at Stafford and also on the Whelen Modified Tour.

The familiar look of a Mystique Motorsports Modified (Photo: Fran Lawlor)

“I think we did a lot for the sport,” Galante said. “When I got into it I spent a lot of money. Things were kind of stale when I first got there and we started experimenting with things. Next thing you know everybody was trying to keep up with us. I think we brought that whole SK Modified division up. It was great.”

Galante said one of his favorite Ted Christopher stories was a night in the late 1990’s when legendary actor Paul Newman came to Stafford Speedway. The team and track officials arranged to have Newman run some laps along with Christopher, his brother Mike and driver John Anderson. All four were driving Mystique Motorsports SK Modifieds for the exhibition.

“All the competitors at the track were having a fit that I had all four cars there and we got extra track time putting on an exhibition race,” Galante said. “[Former track owner Jack Arute Sr.] took a lot of crap for that. There’s a guy … that I always had the utmost respect for him. I always seemed to be the referee between him and Teddy. It was always funny the conversations on Monday mornings.

“But, we put the four cars out there. Newman was in one car and Teddy was behind him. And it was Michael [Christopher] and John Anderson in the other two cars. Four Mystique cars were out there. And they’re going around, going around, going around. I’m looking at our crew chief Craig [Ragaglia] and I’m saying ‘What the hell is Teddy doing? Teddy was just banging the back of Newman’s car. I said ‘Ask him on the radio, what he’s doing.’ Teddy’s response was ‘He won’t move over.’ I said to Craig, ‘Tell him Newman is supposed to win, leave it alone.’ But that was Teddy, balls to the wall all the time, he didn’t care.”

On Aug. 9, 1998 Christopher made his first career appearance in NASCAR’s top-level division, the Monster Energy Cup Series, (then known as the Winston Cup Series). Christopher, known for being a skilled road course racer with stock cars, served as a relief driver for Dick Trickle that day at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

Ted Christopher following a Whelen Modified Tour victory for team owner Jim Galante at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor)

The next season Christopher and Galante teamed up to enter the same event at Watkins Glen. Christopher qualified 33rd in a group of 49 cars looking for one of 43 starting spots in the event. He went on to finish 31st in his first start in the series. Christopher went on to make five more starts at NASCAR’s highest level over his career.

Galante said one of his treasured high points during their time together came on July 23, 2004 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when Christopher won the Whelen Modified Tour event at the track with twin brother Michael finishing second. Both were driving Mystique Motorsports cars.

“That was my first 1-2 finish like that,” Galante said. “And it was pretty special to have twin brothers doing it. One of my best memories.”

But while riding the height of their success together, Christopher’s time racing for Galante came to an immediate halt on June 9, 2006.

On that day Galante was arrested, along with 28 others, as part of a federal investigation involving the trash hauling business in Connecticut and New York. All of the Mystique Motorsports racing equipment was seized that morning from Christopher’s Plainville race shop by federal marshals.

“I guess I’m retired for now,” Christopher told the Hartford Courant that day after watching authorities remove six cars from his shop along with an 18-wheeler transporter rig the team owned. “It doesn’t look like I’ll be doing any racing any time soon.”

Christopher was sitting second in the Whelen Modified Tour points at the time of Galante’s arrest. He soon connected with team owner Ed Whelan and went on to finish third in the series standings that season. Christopher’s only Whelen Modified Tour title came driving for Whelan in 2008.

Galante pleaded guilty to racketeering and tax fraud in 2008 and was sentenced to just over seven years in prison. He served six years of the sentence at the Allenwood Federal Correction Institution in White Deer, Pa. and was released in July 2014.

“Teddy was one of the few people that wrote to me regularly,” Galante said of his time incarcerated. “When I got back three years ago and he heard I was back he was the first one on my doorstep. I’ll never forget his parting words to me that day when he left. You know how he would say things, and he was like: ‘Jimmy, let’s build one more rocket ship.’ We laughed back and forth.”

Galante said over the past few years they remained in touch and talked regularly about bringing Mystique Motorsports back.

“He’d ask me, ‘Do you want to get back?’” Galante said. “I told him, ‘I don’t rule anything out.’ I’m trying to get my life back in order. I’ve got an oil and propane business. It was something Teddy and I – just between Teddy and I – we would talk about it. We had said ‘If we did it this time we would do everything with premier equipment like we had and do just one season, just totally go for it.’ And now, here we are.”

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