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Veteran NASCAR Modified Tour driver Ted Christopher was killed on Saturday in a plane crash near Guilford, Connecticut. He was 59.

Christopher is one of two drivers to win the NASCAR Whelen All-Amercian Series national championship and a NASCAR touring championship. The Plainville, Connecticut native won the short-track national title in 2001 and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title in 2008. He was the winningest driver at a pair of Connecticut’s most historic tracks — Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway.

He was one of two people on board a plane that went down and it claimed the life of both. Christopher was flying to Riverhead Raceway to drive his No. 82 for car owner Danny Watts on Saturday night. The team withdrew from the event as soon as it received word of the tragedy.

News of his passing prompted a statement from NASCAR CEO Brian France:

“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,” France said.

“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.”

Despite not appearing on the Modified Tour until 1987 at age 29 and not winning his first race until 1999 at age 41, Christopher accumulated 42 victories and captured the 2008 championship with car owner Eddie Whelan. In addition to his 42 wins, Christopher earned 27 poles, 133 top-5s and 203 top-10s.

In nine races this season, he posted two top-5s and four top-10s.

All told, Christopher was one of the most charismatic personalities in northeastern stock car racing. He was known for his ability to drive and for his sharp wit. His most recent victory came at Thompson last Friday in a Sonoco Weekly Modified. It was his 99th victory at the historic Connecticut track..

He finished fourth on Friday night in a SK Modified race at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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