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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — At some point, Ted Christopher may slow down. If the start to 2011 is any indication, that day isn’t anytime soon.
The Plainville, Conn., driver collected wins across three series – two in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, one in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and another at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series – over the last month.
Seven starts, four wins, five top fives.
And that’s just in the last 30 days.
It also earned Christopher the top spot for May in the Hunter Index, as voted on by a panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives.
“With the start of another season Ted Christopher is again out proving that he somehow defies the laws of natural aging,” said Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford (Conn.) Courant. “Closing in on 53 years old, Christopher just continues to romp on the young talent all over the landscape of Modified racing.”
As impressive as Christopher’s performance has been, his ranking at the top of the Hunter Index was by no means unanimous.
In fact, six different drivers earned first-place votes among the 14 panelists.
While Christopher was No. 1 on five ballots, both NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points leader Darrell Wallace Jr. and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West points leader Greg Pursley were on three apiece.
The Hunter Index, which was launched in 2010 on NASCARHomeTracks.com, is a monthly power poll designed to highlight the standout performances in the NASCAR developmental series. This year, the monthly winners will be presented with a trophy designed by Jostens.
Drivers are ranked on their performance over the previous month. The rankings are compiled by a panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives. This season, the panel was expanded to 12 media members from across North American with experience covering NASCAR’s touring and weekly series, along with two voters from NASCAR.
Panelists rank their top 15, with first place receiving 15 points, second 14, third 13 and so on.
Christopher edged Wallace, 191-187, in total points, with Pursley in third at 178.
In addition to his NASCAR K&N Pro Series win at Richmond, Wallace also drove into contention in the subsequent Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. He was battling NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch for the lead on a late-race restart when he spun, but his showing was enough to impact several voters.
“Wallace has not only has been the top of his class in the K&N Pro Series East, wining at Richmond, but in that same evening he held his own against NASCAR’s top drivers and found himself battling for the lead until late in the race,” said J.A. Ackley of Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated.
Likewise, Pursley’s consistent run earned him the top spot among several voters. His win at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, was his fourth victory in six races dating back to last year.
“He has been the hottest driver in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West for the past six months,” said Tim Haddock of haddockinthepaddock.blogspot.com. “He is off to his best career start in the West Series and has emerged as the favorite to win his first West Series championship.”
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series drivers Brandon Davis and Joe Duvall, and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Bobby Santos all received one first-place vote apiece.
Davis picked up a pair of wins last month to run his season-opening streak to four straight in the Late Model Division at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.), and Duvall won three of four starts in the dirt Modified division between Oklahoma’s Outlaw Motor Speedway and Salinas Highbanks Speedway.
Davis finished fourth in the May voting, just ahead of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver Sergio Pena. Pena had a win at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and is second to teammate Wallace in the series standings.
Duvall and Santos tied for sixth. Santos rebounded from an engine issue in the season opener to win at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.
George Brunnhoelzl III (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour), Brett Moffitt (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) and Max Gresham (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) rounded out the top 10.
Moffitt was voted No. 1 in April.
The Hunter Index is named for the late Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of corporate communications and a longtime supporter of the weekly and touring series that make up the NASCAR Developmental Series.
The Index was designed as an opportunity to compare the top drivers from the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series all the way up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. It will also encompass drivers from the NASCAR Mexico Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
The Hunter Index is released the first Thursday of each month from April through November.
The panel also included media members: J.A. Ackley, Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated; Joe Chisholm, Race Time Radio on Sirius 98; Shawn Courchesne, Hartford (Conn.) Courant; Bob Dillner, SPEED; Tim Haddock, haddockinthepaddock.blogspot.com; Keith Lair, Los Angeles Newspaper Group; Spencer Lewis, Inside Track Motorsports News; Jorge Mondaca, FOXSports.com; Pat Patterson, SIRIUS NASCAR Ch. 128/ESPN Radio; Len Sammons, Area Auto Racing News; David Smith, DavidSmithMotorsports.com; and Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com. They are joined by Brett Bodine, who is the chairman of the NASCAR Résumé Committee and represents the NASCAR competition side on the panel, and Jason Christley, a NASCAR public relations representative.
HUNTER INDEX – MAY
|1||TED CHRISTOPHER (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour/NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour/NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why he’s here: The Plainville, Conn., driver won in nearly every race he ran the first month. That included coming from two laps down to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener and starting last in the first of two straight NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour wins.|
|2||DARRELL WALLACE JR. (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: The Mobile, Ala., driver continues to be one of the rising stars in NASCAR in his sophomore series. He scored a convincing win at Richmond, and then made his way to the front to battle Kyle Busch for the lead in the Denny Hamlin Foundation Late Model race.|
|3||GREG PURSLEY (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West)|
|Why He’s Here: The Newhall, Calif., driver nearly won at All American Speedway and then picked up his second straight victory on the road course at Miller Motorsports Park, and has four wins and a second in the series’ last six events.|
|4||BRANDON DAVIS (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Two more wins for the Henderson, Nev., native pushed his winning streak in the Late Model Division at Toyota to five straight dating back to last year’s finale.|
|5||SERGIO PENA (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: Scored his first career win at South Boston and followed with a solid eighth-place run at Richmond to keep pace with teammate Wallace in the points standings.|
|6||JOE DUVALL (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: The Chelsea, Okla., driver is the defending Oklahoma champion and is proving to be the man to beat with three wins and a second in four starts between Outlaw and Salinas Highbanks.|
|7||BOBBY SANTOS (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Set the track record in qualifying at Thompson before being sidelined with a blown motor, the defending tour champion bounced back with a convincing win at Stafford.|
|8||GEORGE BRUNNHOELZL III (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Overshadowed by Christopher, the West Babylon, N.Y., driver quietly picked up a second at South Boston and fourth at Caraway to solidify his spot atop the standings in his quest for a second tour title in three years.|
|9||BRETT MOFFITT (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: Was out front for nearly 70 laps at South Boston before a wreck by a lapped car collected the Grimes, Iowa, driver. He bounced back with a second-place finish at Richmond.|
|10||MAX GRESHAM (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: After finishing third at South Boston, the Griffin, Ga., driver led the most laps en route to a fourth-place run at Richmond.|
HONORABLE MENTION: BJ Mackey (Caraway Speedway/NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Lee Pulliam (Motor Mile Speedway/NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Burt Myers (Bowman Gray Stadium/NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Moses Smith (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West) and Jason Fensler (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West).