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Thursday, June 20, 2019

MIKE CHRISTOPHER JR. KEEPING CHRISTOPHER NAME IN VICTORY LANE

 

By Kyle Souza, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park

 

THOMPSON, Conn. – Last Saturday was a special day for the Christopher family.

 

Mike Christopher Jr. climbed from his car victorious in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, picking up his first career win at the .625-mile oval. The win meant a lot to Christopher and his father, Mike Christopher Sr., especially because of the hard work they had been putting in to get to that point.

 

But, there was also a feeling of accomplishment for the rising Modified star that he had been aiming for since day one. He added to the list of Christopher drivers who had taken the checkered flag in a modified race at Thompson, and more importantly, he did it while standing right in front of a painted set of initials and numbers in Victory Lane.

 

The ground reads: “TC 99”.

 

Mike’s uncle, Ted Christopher, a multiple-time TSMP champion, was killed in a plane crash en route to a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Riverhead Raceway in 2017. He scored 99 career wins at Thompson, including one just days before his passing. While holding the checkered flag, Mike felt like that number moved to 100.

 

“It was kind of my goal since I saw the TC 99 in Victory Lane. I thought it would have been cool to win and dedicate it to him and say that he got 100,” Mike Christopher Jr. said. “To be in Victory Lane with it there, it was a surreal feeling. With my dad all excited, he was even talking to the reporters. Everyone wanted to even hear what he had to say. That was my goal. Mission accomplished.”

 

That mission wasn’t successful without a wild ride. Christopher wasn’t in the lead when the field took the white flag. He was staring down the bumper of Troy Talman, and setting up his move. On the final circuit, he made the pass for the win, and found himself crossing the line ahead of a stout field of competitors.

 

It’s something about the date of his victory, June 15, that seems to mark success for him.

 

“Winning at Thompson, I’ve been going there since I was a kid, so it definitely means a lot. For my dad to be so excited, it’s awesome to see every time it happens,” Mike Christopher Jr. said. “Any win is great, but especially your first win at the track. June 15th was the date that I won my first SK race at Stafford (Motor Speedway) and June 15th this year was the date I won my first (Sunoco Modified) race (at Thompson). It means a lot to add my name to the list and accomplish something that my dad and my uncle accomplished a lot. To etch my name into history is pretty cool.”

 

After four races, Christopher sits second in Thompson’s championship standings, 24 points from Keith Rocco. In the first four Sunoco Modified races of the season, four different drivers have been to Victory Lane.

 

His plans might not have included a title run at first, but they seem to have changed.

 

“This season started with us planning to show up every week that we could, based off the money we earned, and if sponsors wanted to provide tires, we would show up every week. But now that we won, and we’re doing well in the points, I guess we will be there every week,” Mike Christopher Jr. said. “All of the fastest cars that are contenders at Stafford have been racing at Thompson as well, and the competition is so hard, like any kind of modified racing. I’ve learned a lot from the people I have raced with. If the points wind up there at the end, in the last few races, we will definitely be racing for the championship.”

 

Christopher also competes at Stafford as part of their Friday night SK Modified program, so, the team has been busy preparing two different cars for competition this season. In a combined 11 starts between the two tracks, Christopher has two victories, five top-five finishes and nine top 10’s.

 

“Controlling two cars at two different race tracks is daunting for anyone. Our racing depends on my father. He has a passion for this sport like no one else has,” Mike Christopher Jr. said. “We are down at the shop almost every single day of the week until late at night working on these cars. Luckily, we have a few breaks in the Thompson schedule. He’s the biggest contributor to this racing for me. All of the knowledge he has on the cars, without him, it likely wouldn’t be possible.”

 

Another goal for him this season is keeping up with some of the top Division I drivers in the country as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship standings. As of this week, he sits 23rd out of the top 500.

 

“I looked at the national points last year when I finished 27th, only running one track,” Mike Christopher Jr. said. “Going into this year, I figured that if we ran the full season at Stafford and ran some races at Thompson, I thought it wasn’t out of the possibilities to finish in the top 10 while running two tracks. If the points show that we are there at the end, it would be something cool to accomplish to finish up there in the top 10 or top 15.”

 

Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park returns to action in just 10 days, on Sunday, June 30, with the second appearance by the Lock City Drift Street Series helping to headline a full card of racing. All five of Thompson’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will also be in action as their championship battles hit the halfway point.

 

Practice begins at 12:30 p.m., followed by the beginning of qualifying heat racing at 2:30 p.m. Feature racing will follow, with the 30 lap Sunoco Modified feature set to complete the afternoon.

 

For more information on Thomspon Speedway Motorsports Park, fans are encouraged to visit www.thompsonspeedway.com, and follow the track on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.