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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR champion Ted Christopher passed away Saturday after being involved in a plane crash in Connecticut. He was 59.
Christopher is one of two drivers to win the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title and a touring series championship. The Plainville, Connecticut, driver won the short-track national title in 2001 and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour crown in 2008. He was the winningest driver at a pair of Connecticut's historic tracks: Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
He was one of two people on board a plane that went down in Guilford, Connecticut, Saturday afternoon. The crash claimed the life of both.
“We are all saddened to learn of the tragic plane crash this afternoon that claimed the lives of NASCAR driver Ted Christopher and the aircraft’s pilot," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.
"As a championship driver on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and New England short tracks, Christopher was a throwback to NASCAR’s roots. He was a tough racer’s racer, and his hard driving style and candid personality endeared him to short track fans throughout the country. He will be missed throughout the racing community, in the garage and, especially, in the hearts of his many fans. NASCAR has his family and friends in its thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Christopher was named one of the top 25 drivers in NASCAR's weekly series in 2006, when the series celebrated its 25th anniversary. In 2008, Stafford named a section of its grandstand in his honor.
Christopher made six starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, 21 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He had 12 wins in 94 NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts, and 42 wins over 29 year of racing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He also won six times in 19 starts in the former NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and made a pair of starts in IMSA's ROLEX 24 at Daytona.
Heard the news of this just moments after walking into VL. Very sad. He was a legend. https://t.co/oOtdDjF58J
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) September 16, 2017
Christopher had 131 overall wins and nine SK Modified Division championships at Stafford, and another 99 wins at Thompson.
Christopher is also won of the most successful drivers in the over 50-year history of the World Series of Asphalt Racing at Florida's New Smyrna Speedway. He has 10 World Series titles: He won the tour-type Modified titles from 1998-01, 2003, 2005 and 2009-11, as well as the track's former SK Modified Division in 1991. He holds the track record with five Richie Evans Memorial victories.
He has been scheduled to drive the No. 82 Horton Avenue Materials Chevrolet at New York's Riverhead Raceway. Prior to the race, the 82 team drove the car in a ceremonial pace lap before a moment of silence was held.
— NASCAR Home Tracks (@NASCARHomeTrack) September 17, 2017
Ted Christopher won the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship. Getty Images via NASCAR
We are devastated over the loss of our dear friend Ted Christopher. He will be remembered as a hero, friend, & legend
— Stafford Speedway (@StaffordSpeedwy) September 16, 2017
A Heavy Heart for the loss of a friend Ted Christopher... Tremendous wheelman - Tremendous Guy
— Ricky Craven (@RickyCravenESPN) September 17, 2017
— NH Motor Speedway (@NHMS) September 17, 2017
So very sad to hear of Ted Christopher's passing...Greatness passes into Legend #RIP
— Kyle Petty (@kylepetty) September 16, 2017
We lost another great driver. Legend to most of us. Ted Christopher. Heavy heavy hearts. #13 for his wife and family.
— Todd Bodine (@Team_Onion) September 16, 2017
I have always been a big fan of Ted Christopher. I loved his talent, his spirit. So much so I got him to drive for me. RIP Teddy.
— Michael Waltrip (@MW55) September 17, 2017
Just read about the passing of one of my all-time favorite drivers. So sad. Ted Christopher was a wheel man in whatever he sat in. #RIP
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) September 17, 2017
Shocked & saddened. As a fledgling race announcer, Ted Christopher was among the first drivers I ever interviewed. (1 of ?)
— Mike Massaro (@MikeMassaroTV) September 16, 2017
Ted Christopher was such a great guy and wheel man. Thinking of his family and friends.#TC13
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) September 17, 2017
— RaceDayCT (@RaceDayCT) September 17, 2017
— Ryan Preece (@RyanPreece_) September 17, 2017
Ted Christopher and Tony Stewart prior to the 2002 Oswega Speedway Sunoco Race of Champions event. Howie Hodge