By Bob Finan
Riverhead Raceway owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz are honored and excited to announce a four race series for the NASCAR Modifieds that will encompass the extra distance races scheduled for the 2020 season, now known as the Crown Jewel Modified events, at the historic quarter mile oval. In addition to the weekly NASCAR track championship points the series will carry a separate set of points awarding the top driver the Ted Christopher Cup. Christopher one of the most successful drivers to ever strap into an open wheel Modified of any kind tragically lost his life in an airplane crash while flying to Riverhead Raceway for a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race on September 16th, 2017 at 59-years young.
The four race Crown Jewel modified series is the concept of Riverhead Raceway race director Scott Tapley, who along with track GM John Ellwood put the final touches on the series. The chase for the Ted Christopher Cup will start with the biggest race of the season at Riverhead the Saturday May 30th Islip 300, a race that pays the winner a cool $7,000. The second race will unfold on Saturday July 4th during the 70th Year Celebration with the NASCAR Modifieds set to do battle in a 70-lap tilt. Race number three takes place during the annual Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 Saturday July 25th with the four race series set to conclude Saturday night August 29th during the NASCAR 100. During the victory lane celebration at the conclusion of the NASCAR 100 the Ted Christopher Cup will be presented to the champion of the series. Track management additionally disclosed the Ted Christopher Cup will be a perpetual award much like the Big Brothers & Big Sisters Drivers Cup that is presented annually to the track’s NASCAR Modified champion.
GM John Ellwood noted the rules package for the series that Chief Technical Director Randy Murray will be implementing are the same that have been used during the annual Islip 300. That allows teams who run Modified Racing Series, Race of Champions or Tri-Track Series to run their series rules while competing in the Crown Jewel modified events at Riverhead and chasing the prestigious Ted Christopher Cup at Riverhead Raceway. All teams will be required to run the track Hoosier Racing Tire. The starting field for all four races will be set via time trials with no invert or redraw in play a policy new for 2020 at Riverhead Raceway.
Prior to making the announcement on the Ted Christopher Cup concept John Ellwood spoke first with Ted’s widow Quinn, “had a wonderful conversation with Quinn the other day and she is very touched about what we are doing in honor of her husband. In fact she told me she’s going to try and make it out to the four races and we hope to have her present the Ted Christopher Cup in August” John noted.
The driving career of “TC” indeed is a fabled one spread across numerous race tracks and divisions in the northeast. Ted stood victorious in the historic Riverhead Raceway victory lane 3 times in Whelen Modified Tour competition starting with his win in June of 2002 in the famed #13 and for the 3rd time in 2006 in Eddie Whelan’s #36 machine. Weekly Saturday night racing was a passion for “TC” and in fact Ted spent one summer racing weekly at Riverhead Raceway driving for Wayne Anderson and his Eastport Feeds team with the combination winning once that year in route to a 4th place finish in the championship standings. Teddy enjoyed most of his success at the famed Stafford Motor Speedway where he was a 9 time SK Modified champion totaling 131 wins along the way. “TC” scored four Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified titles tallying 99 victories while visiting the winners circle 47 times at the Waterford Speedbowl in a SK Modified. Ted’s WMT stats include the 2008 championship and 42 career wins, third on the all-time win list.
Despite all that on track success Ted Christopher remained one of the most popular and charismatic personalities in the game and no matter where or what he competed race fans and media flocked to him simply just to be around the man affectionately known as the “King” to many in the northeast racing community. Riverhead Raceway will honor and remember that legacy this year and for seasons to come with the Ted Christopher Cup.
Additionally, John Ellwood announced that the six divisions that make up the weekly program at Riverhead Raceway will have also have a “Triple Crown” series in 2020 presented by Miller Lite the details of which will be released next week.
The 2020 NASCAR Weekly Series at Riverhead Raceway will open Saturday May 9th with the NASCAR Modifieds, Late Models. Crate Modifieds, Figure Eights, Blunderbusts, Super Pro Trucks and INEX Legend Race Cars all in action. Two practice days will proceed opening night on Saturday afternoon April 25th and May 2nd. The May Meltdown Enduro program will hit the track Sunday afternoon May 3rd.
The complete 2020 schedule will be revealed at www.riverheadraceway.com after January 1st
By Bob Finan