Ryan Preece is racing at Stafford for the first time since the short-track racing world lost the great Teddy Christopher.
Christopher won at Stafford 131 times over the course of his illustrious career.
Preece raced Christopher countless times over the course of his own successful career at Stafford. Of course, Preece knows as well as anyone how important TC was to Stafford, and how important Stafford was to TC. The sight of the No. 13 whizzing around the half-mile oval is a memory etched into the minds of racing fans across New England.
“It’s a number we’ve all been watching for a long time,” said Preece. “At the drivers’ meeting, I just thought about it, that Teddy’s not here.”
“It’s a good thing that they’re retiring the number, because when you think of the 13, you think of Teddy Christopher… He’s going to be a guy you remember like Richie Evans.”
As so many drivers knew, Teddy was the last driver one wanted to see in his rearview mirror.
“Whenever Teddy was behind you, or you were behind him, you really had to push yourself to figure something out,” said the 2013 Whelen Modified Tour champion. “I definitely remember a lot of moments where I was racing him for wins, or trying to hold him off.”
Around town, flags donning the black No. 13 hung off fences, buildings, and windows.
Dave Sapienza brought back the iconic red No. 36 that TC drove for years in the Whelen Modified Tour.
Preece has been impressed with the amount of tributes that he has seen in the area.
“It’s pretty special, going around Stafford and seeing the flags and everybody remembering him,” said Preece. “I wish I had talked to him a lot more.”
“As a racer, I respected him so much, and he’s pushed me to elevate myself.”
Monday will mark the sixth anniversary of Christopher’s last win on the Tour, which came at Stafford in the 2011 Fall Final.