June 5, 1958 – September 16, 2017
2001 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Champion
2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion
48 NASCAR Modified Wins
10 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Wins
Four-Time Thompson Speedway Track Champion
Nine-Time Stafford Motor Speedway Track Champion
How do you describe a competitor who made a career playing to the fans? Aggressive, controversial, dominant, fan favorite, hated, loved, successful, or victorious? Ted Christopher was all of that and much, much more. Christopher was one of the winningest drivers in the history of SK Modified competition. He often ruffled the feathers of fellow competitors and fans alike, but was a personality like no other.
The Plainville, CT native competed in just about every form of racing imaginable. Although he is known for his success in the No. 13 SK Modified, NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he made appearances in NASCAR three National Series with six starts in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Christopher earned his first track championship in SK Modifieds at Stafford Motor Speedway in 1987. He followed that with two consecutive track championships at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in 1988 and 1989. Christopher continued racking up track championships at Stafford (1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, and 2012), Thompson (2002 and 2010), and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 1992. He was the first driver to earn track championships at all three asphalt tracks in CT, a feat not matched until 2010 by competitor Keith Rocco.
As a fan growing up in New Jersey, I grew up watching Christopher compete in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, along with occasional starts at Flemington Speedway, Wall Stadium, and Nazareth Speedway. I watched Christopher’s final NASCAR Busch (now Xfinity) Series race in person at Nazareth in 2001 when he was one of many drivers in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet that year. I also got to witness both of his then-Busch Series top-10 finishes which came at Nazareth in 1998 and 1999.
At Wall Stadium, I remember watching the shows that he put on in the Whelen Modified Tour events in 2003 and 2004. In 2003, he battled up front, leading 60 laps while battling the ‘Grand Champion’ of Wall Stadium, John Blewett III. Blewett ultimately won the race, but that was one hardest fought battles that I saw in person for the Modified Tour.
Not only was Christopher known for his success in the SK Modifieds, but also for his ‘Three Tap Rule.’ This was a combination of the ‘bump and run’ and ‘chrome horn’ techniques that Dale Earnhardt Sr., a driver Christopher was often compared to, used. He would tap the rear bumper of a competitor once to declare that he was there. The second tap was a message to his competitor to choose a line. The third and final tap was the bump and run in which Christopher moved his competitor out of the racing groove while he muscled his way by.
Christopher made the first start of his career in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 1987 at Thompson. It wouldn’t be until 1994 that he competed in much of the Modified Tour season, and 2000 marked his first full season in the Tour. His first win came at Richmond Raceway in 1999 when he wheeled the No. 00 into victory lane ahead of Tom Baldwin.
31 victories and nine years later, Christopher finally scored his first, and only NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Championship at the age of 50. This made Christopher one of the oldest champions in NASCAR history. Between both the Northern and Southern Modified Tours (which merged in 2017), he notched 48 victories, 144 top-fives, 219 top-10s, and 27 pole positions in 391 starts. His final Modified Tour win came at Stafford in 2011 when he held off Ryan Preece to take the checkered flag.
One of Christopher’s more legendary drives happened at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as well as the weeks after, in 2017. He suffered an injury, breaking his hand in an early wreck but continued to wheel his No. 82 Horton Avenue Materials Modified around the track, recovering to finish seventh. In the following weeks, he continued to score victories even though his hand was in a cast.
At the local track level, Christopher earned 99 victories at Thompson and an astounding 131 victories at Stafford, his first win coming in 1986 after starting out in 1983. He also earned over 55 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. In total, Christopher had over 400 SK Modified victories under his belt.
Christopher’s last victory came at Thompson on September 10, 2017. He was still competing at age 59. He was flying en route to a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead Raceway in Long Island, NY when his plane went down.
Officials at Riverhead Raceway payed tribute with a moment of silence and a final victory lap for the legendary driver. The Exit Realty Modified Touring Series payed tribute with a missing-man formation on the pace laps at Monadnock Speedway.
Christopher may be gone, but his legacy lives on. In 2006, he was named one of the NASCAR Weekly Series (now NASCAR Home Tracks) All Time Top 25 Drivers. Stafford Motor Speedway named a section of grandstands after Christopher in 2008 when he scored his 100th victory at the track. Officials at Stafford Motor Speedway retired Christopher’s number, No. 13 from use in weekly racing competition as a way to honor their nine-time track-champion.
Ted Christopher will forever be known as ‘King of the SK Modifieds.’
Sid’s Vault Productions, a regular documentarian and historian of short track racing in the Northeast posted this video of Christopher’s competitors describing him in a documentary on the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as a tribute.