Ted Of The Class

The list of champions from the 2001 racing will include an impressive roster of talent. Michael Schumacher, Sam Hornish, Jack Sprague, Gil de Ferran, John Force and Johnny Sauter are just a few of the names that will be associated with greatness after their title seasons.

But there’s another name not to be forgotten when assembling motorsports’ 2001 championship team photo – Ted Christopher. For those of you that responded to that sentence with a loud and vociferous “WHO?,” let me give you the 411.

Christopher won this year’s NASCAR Weekly Racing Series championship, a program that includes more than 100 short tracks around the country. The veteran driver won 15 of 18 feature races at Connecticut’s Thompson International Speedway to claim the New England Region crown as well as the national title and the $160,000 payday which goes along with the honor. Drivers in ten geographical regions around the country compete in the NWRS with a point fund in excess of $1.7 million.

“This is totally incredible,” said Christopher, who has piloted a modified around the New England short tracks for nearly 20 years. “You can set your goals in racing, but it’s hard to achieve a regional championship, let alone the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series championship. All you can do is show up each week and race as hard as you possibly can and hope for the best.”

The best was exactly what Christopher was this season as the Connecticut native registered 16 Top 5 finishes to go along with his 15 victories. A regular competitor in the weekly wars at Thompson and nearby Stafford Motor Speedway, Christopher also competes in NASCAR’s Featherlite Modified Series and Busch North division.

“Racing is my life,” Christopher said. “I do this because I love it, not for any other reason. To win this championship takes dedication from every individual on our team.”

Other regional winners in this year’s program included Phillip Morris (Blue Ridge), John O’Neal (Heartland), Brandon Bendele (Sunbelt), Jeff Aikey (Midwest), Brandon Butler (Atlantic Seaboard), Vern Bliss (Northeast), Aaron Days (Pacific Coast), Ricky Bilderback (Mid-America) and Tom Moriarity (Great West).

This was the 20th anniversary of the NWRS, a program that has immensely helped the short track racing world. Originally supported by Winston, the weekly program was thought to be on the ropes two years ago when the company was forced to drop its sponsorship in the wake of the new tobacco sports marketing agreement. Because Winston was required to choose only one racing series to support, the WRS had to be dropped in order to continue with the Winston Cup Series.

Efforts to find a replacement title sponsor have failed. A deal with the Armour Meat Company was thought to be in place before the start of this season, but Armous decided to bail on the program at the last minute. To NASCAR’s credit, the sanctioning body has kept the weekly series going despite the lack of a title supporter. A group of associate sponsors including Anheuser-Busch, Champion Spark Plug, Craftsman, True Value and Raybestos provide some support, but not the financial backing Winston was able to afford.

The program appears secure for 2002 even without a title sponsor. NASCAR officials continue to voice their support for the series, which is good news for the thousands of weekend warriors and local heroes that toil away at America’s short tracks. The series may well be the beneficiary of additional national television exposure once the new SpeedChannel network is up and running next February. The cable channel’s new affiliation with NASCAR is said to include added coverage of touring circuits like the Goody’s Dash, Busch North, Featherlite Modified and RE/MAX Challenge Series. Mixing in news and highlights from the Weekly Racing Series on a regular basis would be a great boost for the program.

Short track racing is said to be the backbone of American motorsports. And the man who stood the tallest on the weekly scene in 2001 was Ted Christopher.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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