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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ted Christopher has been so successful at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway that they already have a section of the grandstands named after him. His win there last weekend in the Spring Sizzler, the second race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, was a record sixth in the event that the late Jack Arute Sr. billed his signature event as the ‘Greatest Race In The History Of Spring.’
It earned Christopher the traditional swig of milk in Victory Lane, and helped him secure the top spot in the May edition of the Hunter Index.
The Hunter Index is a new feature in 2010 on NASCARHomeTracks.com that will spotlight the top 10 drivers in the NASCAR Developmental Series in a monthly power poll. Drivers are ranked on their performance over the previous month. The rankings are compiled by a panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives.
Despite Christopher’s impressive recent run – which included a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway, and a first and second in three starts in the asphalt Modified divisions at Stafford and Thompson in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series – his top spot was by no means unanimous.
Thirty-five different drivers received votes and five drivers received first-place votes.
In fact, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points leader Bobby Santos received the most first-place votes, with two. Connecticut’s Keith Rocco and Nebraska’s Craig Preble earned one each with their nearly flawless performances in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. But their overall point totals ranked Rocco, Santos and Preble third through fifth, respectively, behind Christopher.
In the end, it was Christopher’s ability to find success on both the weekly and touring level as well as the depth of competition on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour that earned the Plainville, Conn., driver a consistent set of high marks that yielded him the No. 1 overall spot.
“ ‘TC’ seems to just be heating up and hitting his stride,” said Spencer Lewis, representing the Canadian publication Inside Track Motorsports News on the panel.
Rocco, from Wallingford, Conn., and Preble, from Yutan, Neb., were almost perfect running multiple tracks. Each won four of their last five starts.
Rocco competes in the asphalt Modified divisions at Stafford, Thompson and Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl, and his only finish outside of Victory Lane was a runner-up – to Christopher – in a Sunoco Modified race at Thompson on April 11.
Running his dirt Late Model at I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb., and Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb., Preble was a fourth at Junction in his only non-win.
“Four wins in five starts, and it was done between three different tracks. It’s hard to see anything comparable over the last month,” said Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford (Conn.) Courant of Rocco.
Santos nearly came close. The Franklin, Mass., driver won the Coors Light Pole Award and the race in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener at Thompson. He won the pole and finished second to Christopher at Stafford.
Eric Holmes, who won at Phoenix in the only NASCAR K&N Pro Series race in the past month, rounded out the top five.
Justin Johnson, who has wins at both Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., and South Boston (Va.) Speedway in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, was sixth, followed by Eric Schmidt (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Philip Morris (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Mike Stefanik (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) and CE Falk III (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series).
Tim Haddock of HaddockInThePaddock.blogspot.com, who covers racing on the West Coast, weighed in with a first-place vote for David Mayhew, after Mayhew’s fifth-place run at Phoenix meant he was the only one in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with top-five finishes in the season’s first two races. Mayhew was among five drivers to earn honorable mention.
The Hunter Index is named for 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 in the off season 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 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and NASCAR Canadian Tire Series did not hold events in the time period since the previous Index was released.
The panel also included media members Courchesne representing the Northeast, Adam Fenwick of National Speed Sport News from the Southeast, Haddock from the West Coast, and Lewis representing Canada. They are joined by Brett Bodine, who is the chairman of the NASCAR resumé committee and represented the NASCAR competition side on the panel, and NASCAR public relations representative Jason Christley.
The panel will conference on the first Wednesday of each month, and the Hunter Index will be released the following day.
NASCAR fans are encouraged to weigh in with their own opinions through the NASCAR Home Tracks Community page on NASCAR.com.
|1||TED CHRISTOPHER (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series / NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why he’s here: Known simply as TC, he added another Spring Sizzler win on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to his lengthy resumé. He also has a win and a second in three starts in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series asphalt Modified competition, where he’s a former national champion as well.|
|2||KEITH ROCCO (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Four wins in five asphalt Modified starts last month in Connecticut. Did we mention he’s 2-for-3 head-to-head with Christopher this year?|
|3||BOBBY SANTOS (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Since taking over the No. 4, all he’s done is win two Coors Light Pole Awards, and finish first and second in the season’s first two races.|
|4||CRAIG PREBLE (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Is there a new dirt Late Model king in Nebraska? Over the last four weeks, he’s rolled off four wins in five starts at I-80 and Junction Motor Speedway.|
|5||ERIC HOLMES (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West)|
|Why He’s Here: Rebounded from a disastrous season opener to finally claim a win at Phoenix International Raceway – site of the series finale in November.|
|6||JUSTIN JOHNSON (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Defending Late Model champ at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, he’s found the winning combination up the road at Motor Mile in Radford, too.|
|7||ERIC SCHMIDT (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Has gone 3-for-3 in Western Late Models on the All American Speedway’s 1/3-mile, high-banked asphalt bullring.|
|8||PHILIP MORRIS (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Two-time defending national champion has a pair of wins at his home track of Motor Mile as he pursues his fourth title overall.|
|9||MIKE STEFANIK (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Consistency has netted him a NASCAR record-tying nine titles. Don’t look now, but back-to-back third-place runs to open 2010 has the veteran in the hunt for No. 10.|
|10||CE FALK III (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: 2009 NASCAR Virginia runner-up put himself on national radar when he knocked Denny Hamlin out of the way to claim Hamlin’s charity Late Model race. Oh yeah, and he out-raced a star-studded field in the process.|
HONORABLE MENTION: Tim Brown, Bowman Gray Stadium, Winston-Salem, N.C. (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series); Jorge Goeters (NASCAR Mexico Series); Rafael Martinez (NASCAR Mexico Series); David Mayhew (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West); and Marty Ward, Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series).