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Riverhead Raceway pays tribute to driver killed in plane crash

A legend of short-track racing, Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn. was killed in a plane crash Saturday in Connecticut while en route to Riverhead Raceway where he was scheduled to compete in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship race, according to NASCAR. He was 59.

Fans and drivers paid tribute to Mr. Christopher prior to Saturday’s racing in Riverhead. The public address announcer Bob Finan described Mr. Christopher as a throwback racer, someone who always found a way to get to a race, whether it be by boat or plane.

“The sport of short-track, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Racing … lost a legend tonight in Ted Christopher,” an announcement before the race by Mr. Finan said, according to video posted online.

Mr. Christopher and the pilot of the plane were both casualties in the crash that occurred shortly before 2 p.m. in woods of North Brandford, Conn., according to the Hartford Courant. The pilot was identified as Charles Dundas, 81, who was known as Pat. He split time between Manorville and Florida, according to North Branford Police.

An FAA spokesperson said the two were in a Mooney M20C aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigating to determine what happened, the spokesperson said.

Mr. Christopher was the all-time winningest driver at both Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway, according to the Courant. He raced earlier this season in Riverhead during the Modified Tour in June and finished 11th. He was currently in 14th place in the modified standings.

“Instead of shedding a tear for the moment for TC, Ted Christopher, let’s give him one big, giant, round of applause,” Mr. Finan said to the crowd in Riverhead. Tom Rogers Jr. then drove ceremonial laps around the track that Mr. Christopher had been scheduled to race as fans stood and applauded before crossing the finish line as the checkered flag waved above.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France released a statement saying: “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. 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.”

Photo Caption: Ted Christopher pictured in 2008 (Credit: NASCAR/Getty Images)