Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – For Stafford Speedway SK Modified® driver Michael Christopher, Jr., the 2022 season has been a struggle.
The 2021 season saw Christopher win a total of 4 races, including the non-points All-Star Shoot-Out as well as the NAPA SK 5k, and he finished second in the points. One year later sees Christopher with only one podium finish and two top-5 finishes through the first 12 races.
Christopher and the #82 New England Turf / Eastport Feeds team have been hard at work looking to get back to their winning ways and he has the August 5 NAPA SK 5k circled on his calendar as the race that could see them return to feature winning glory.
“I’m feeling better about our chances in that race,” said Christopher. “If you had asked me three or four weeks ago, I would have said we have no chance. We’ve just been struggling with the car. We’ve tried different things and nothing seemed to be working so we went to our backup car a couple weeks ago and that’s when we got our podium finish. That seemed to work and we’re still working on making the car faster than it is now because getting back to where we were last year competing for wins and running up front in the points standings is important to us. We’ve made some pretty good swings on the car the last couple of weeks and I think the longer races play into my favor. I’m looking forward to the race now that we have a car that is capable of running up front and getting a good finish for all of our sponsors, New England Turf, Eastport Feeds, PT Watts, CT Trailers, Eagle Fence & Guardrail, Sign Pro, Moroso, Mohawk Northeast, CWPM, Sterling Security, and M & T Enterprises.”
The 2022 season has so far seen 8 different SK Modified® winners in 12 races with David Arute and Stephen Kopcik the only repeat winners with 3 wins each. If Christopher is to repeat his NAPA SK 5k victory of one year ago, there is no shortage of drivers who he will have to contend with for the checkered flag.
“The competition is even crazier this year than it has been, I don’t think there’s been a standout driver yet, and the points standings are all over the place,” said Christopher. “It’s been up and down this season. I’d say guys like us and Keith Rocco are starting to get things figured out, Todd Owen is going to stay consistent, Stephen Kopcik has had a bad couple of races so he’ll be starting up front, David Arute has been strong, Bryan Narducci and Cory DiMatteo are both fast, and you keep on naming off names, it’s definitely going to be a show once it gets down to the end of the race.”
Despite the struggles he’s endured during the 2022 season, Christopher currently sits in fourth place in the SK Modified® standings. A good finish in the NAPA SK 5k could be just what Christopher and the #82 team need to get themselves back on track.
“It would mean a lot for myself and my team to win this race again,” said Christopher. “We’ve gone through a lot of struggles this season and to be able to get the car figured out and running back up front feels pretty good. Winning any race is great but to win the 5k again, it would be even better and that’s our plan going into the race. Podiums are good but the only real momentum changers are when you start winning races. The NAPA SK 5k is a race that raises the motivation of everyone. It’s not a regular Friday night race, which those are still important, but this is our biggest race of the year and there’s always a lot of publicity around this race. It was tough to only get our first podium finish of the year at the halfway point, but we’re on the right track and a win in the NAPA SK 5k would really set things in motion to be able to finish the year out strong.”
One unknown that Christopher and the rest of the 33-car SK Modified® starting grid will have to face for the NAPA SK 5k is how long the NAPA SK 5k will actually be. Just prior to the start of the race once all cars are on the grid, there will be a random draw to determine if the race is going to be 60, 70, or 80 laps long.
“Laps are laps,” said Christopher. “We ran 50 laps a couple weeks ago and the car didn’t do much. 80 laps is a few more laps but with the tire situation we have right now, it gets tough to plan ahead for that race. I haven’t been in a huge conservation mode in past SK 5k races but I think this year is going to be a little different.”
The 9th Annual NAPA Auto Parts SK 5K is Friday, August 5. Tickets for the NAPA SK 5K are available online at StaffordSpeedway.com/tickets and will also be available at the gates day of show. General Admission tickets are $30.00 for adults, $10.00 for kids 6-14, and free for kids 5 & under. Reserved seating is priced at $35.00 for all ages and pit passes are $45.00 with a valid 2022 Stafford Competition License and $50.00 without a Stafford license. If you are unable to attend in person, tune into the live stream on FloRacing, the official streaming partner of Stafford Speedway.