If momentum amounts to anything more than just a talking point, then Ted Christopher is sitting pretty heading into the second race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST on Sunday, May 1.
Between the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours, Christopher has won three of the four races he has entered so far in 2011. Following an accident in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour season-opener at Caraway Speedway in which he suffered a hand injury, it's been all checkered flags for the Plainville, Conn., driver.
On April 10, Christopher found Victory Lane at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway in the Whelen Modified Tour opener, the Tour in which he primarily competes in the No. 36 for owner Eddie Whelan. It was his sixth win in the last eight Tour races at Thompson, and third in a row. He also won the Sunoco Modified race that same day in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, where he is the defending track champion.
Between the Thompson Icebreaker and this week's Spring Sizzler, Christopher's moonlight in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour in the No. 00 of car owner Joe Brady produced wins at South Boston (Va.) Speedway on April 17 and in the return to Caraway on April 23. He led 197 of the 300 combined laps in those events.
Add the success so far this year to a litany of accomplishments during his career at Stafford and Christopher shapes up to be the favorite as the Whelen Modified Tour heads to the historic half mile. Not only is he the winningest driver in track history at 110 triumphs across all divisions and series, but Christopher is the three-time defending winner of the Spring Sizzler and has five total Whelen Modified Tour wins in the event. Ten of those 110 checkered flags at Stafford have come in Tour races.
Despite the win in the Whelen Modified Tour opener at Thompson, Christopher will not bring the points lead to Stafford. Following a post-race penalty of 50 points for an altered carburetor booster, Christopher and car owner Whelan rank seventh in points with Rowan Pennink - the race runner-up - atop the standings
Santos Has Ground to Make Up ... Defending Whelen Modified Tour Champion Bobby Santos is starting his title defense in a hole after a last-place finish in the opener at Thompson. Santos started the weekend off hot with a record-breaking qualifying effort to earn the pole, but his engine let go just 16 laps into the race and he was forced behind the wall for an official finish of 33rd. The last champion to suffer a DNF in the first race of his title defense was Mike Stefanik in 2007. Santos did win two of four races at Stafford a year ago, site of the next two races on the schedule, so the opportunity is there for the No. 4 team to jump back into the mix before the season gets too deep.
Stefanik Setup to Add to Stafford Legacy ... With 20 Whelen Modified Tour triumphs at Stafford, Mike Stefanik has twice as many as any other driver. It has been eight races since he reached Victory Lane there, however, which is the longest stretch of his career with the exception of a period from 2002-07 when he did not compete full-time. Stefanik did have top-five finishes in three of the four races there last year, and he was third in this year's opener at Thompson.
Who Can Break Through at Stafford ... Recent history would point to drivers like Christopher, Santos, Stefanik, Todd Szegedy and Jimmy Blewett as favorites to win the 2011 Spring Sizzler, however, there are a number of drivers who could be looking to break through. Rowan Pennink had two top-fives at Stafford a year ago and was runner-up in this year's opener. Doug Coby's lone career win came in this race in 2006 and he led laps in two races at Stafford last year, including a race-high 60 in the Sizzler. Eric Berndt finished in the top 10 in the first two races at Stafford a year ago, and led a race-high 101 circuits in the May night race. Matt Hirschman also has 10 top-10 finishes in 14 career starts at Stafford, and will look for the first win of his career at the track where his father, Tony, won six times.
Rocco Looks To Defend National Title
While Keith Rocco found success at three-different Connecticut short tracks en route to the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship, perhaps his dominance at Stafford Motor Speedway was the key to getting him over the top.
Rocco, from Wallingford, Conn., won 10 of the season's 20 races in Stafford's feature division, the SK Modifieds. His 16 top fives and 19 top 10s were enough to capture the track title by a robust 138 points over Woody Pitkat. Rocco has 16 wins in the previous two seasons in the SK Modified division, and 23 total since 2005.
A charter member of the Whelen All-American Series, which is celebrating its 30th season of competition in 2011, Stafford promotes five divisions of racing during its regular Friday night program throughout the season. All five will join the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on the race card during Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST opening weekend.
Defending Whelen Modified Tour Champion Bobby Santos was done early in the Icebreaker with engine failure. Getty Images for NASCAR
Last Time Out: Thompson Icebreaker
The 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule opened on April 10 with yet another winning performance by Ted Christopher at Thompson International Speedway.
Christopher led three different times during the Icebreaker, the season-opening event at Thompson, but had to battle back from two laps down mid-race to earn his sixth win in the last eight Whelen Modified Tour races at the .625-mile speedway. Christopher lost a lap in the pits after he was spun out on the backstretch, then was penalized another lap for pulling up to pit during the sequence. He was able to retake the lead for the final time on Lap 115 of 150.
Defending Whelen Modified Tour Champion Bobby Santos broke his own qualifying record to earn the Coors Light Pole Award and led seven laps early, but he dropped out of the race on Lap 16 with engine trouble and finished in last place.
Following the event, Christopher and fifth-place finisher Justin Bonsignore were penalized 50 points for post-race rules violations.
Up Next: TSI Harley-Davidson 125
Following this week's visit to Stafford Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to the historic half mile for the second of four total appearances there this year on Friday, May 27.
Bobby Santos owned the day in last year's TSI Harley-Davidson 125 when he earned the Coors Light Pole Award and took the lead for the third and final time on Lap 111 to capture his second win in the season's first three races. The race was extended to 137 total laps due to a pair of late-race cautions.
The TSI Harley-Davidson 125 will be the first of six night races on the 2011 Whelen Modified Tour schedule, and the shortest of the four events to be held at Stafford.