Following the news that Whelen Modified Tour legend Ted Christopher died Sept. 16 in a single-engine plane crash in Connecticut, at the time en route to the Riverhead 200 at Riverhead Raceway, there was an outpouring of support and kind words from racing fans across the world on social media, at local racetracks and more.
And last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where multiple NASCAR series competed, there were a number of tributes to Christopher at track.
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With a week’s time for the reality of the situation to seep in, the Whelen Modified Tour racers are still racing with heavy hearts. However, they’ll never forget Christopher.
For Bobby Santos III, winner of Saturday’s F.W. Webb 100 at Loudon, Christopher was more than just a competitor, he was his favorite driver in the world.
“I’m one of Teddy’s biggest fans,” Santos said during the post-race press conference. “I was 5 years old and remember going to Thompson and… watching Teddy race. He made New England modifieds. He was New England modifieds.”
Even though Christopher was Santos’ idol (and Christopher was apparently aware of Santos’ idolization), that didn’t prevent the veteran from putting it to Santos a couple of times.
“My very first time in a modified at New Smyrna [Speedway], I think I was 14,” Santos continued. “It was one of those situations where [Christopher] took advantage of me. He got a flat tire and needed a yellow. He was running second or third, and I was running eighth or 10th. I was going to go by him, [but] then Teddy hung a left and came across my nose. I spun out, he got the yellow, came in and changed his tire. That’s just one of many.”
Christopher’s mentality and his reach is how Doug Coby will remember him best.
“[Christopher] would let you know how he felt, that’s for sure,” Coby said. “He was the only guy walking through the pit area that everyone had something to say to him. Whether you were a media member, a crewmember, a driver. He had a one-on-one relationship with everybody he loved and everybody he hated. That’s unique about him that he had so many people who disliked him who he engaged with on a regular basis.”
Multi-time champion Jamie Tomaino spent decades racing against Christopher all around New England.
“With Ted, he’s a very, very, very hard charger,” Tomaino said. “[He] ain’t going to give you an inch. There are articles where he said he wouldn’t give his mother an inch to win if he were racing her, and that’s the way Ted raced. God love him, that’s the way he was.”
As for Chase Dowling, he came into the Modified scene toward the end of Christopher’s career, but he still has his own memories of the veteran racer.
“[Christopher] taught me a lot,” Dowling said. “He had a great passion toward racing and a great appreciation toward the sport. I’ll never forget him. He raced me the hardest, but he never wrecked me.”
Whelen Modified Tour and ROC Modified veteran Patrick Emerling has a number of memories of Christopher.
“He was always there and always a real hungry driver,” Emerling said prior to Saturday’s UNOH 175, where he was making his Truck Series debut. “We’ll miss him being around. He’s a guy who had a lot of success throughout his career. I dream of having the career that he had.
“He was a great driver and one heck of a racer. He was… the definition of what a racer was. He did his homework with everything he did and did everything to the fullest extent.”
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran Ryan Newman has never been a regular on the Whelen Modified Tour but has cherrypicked races in the series over the years, which allowed him to compete against Christopher often.
“My best memory, and one of my first memories was at New Smyrna,” Newman recalled. “He passed me for the lead, and I passed him back to win the race. We had a lot of good races over the years.”
These are just a small collection of the collective memories that competitors in the Whelen Modified Tour have of Christopher, but one can rest assured that there are plenty more memories of him, both good and bad. Either way, Modified fans in New England likely will never forget the man.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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