As the summer heat continues to rise, Tommy Baldwin Racing is coming off what has been nothing short of an amazing spring. An Open Modified win started things off in April with Michael Christopher Jr. at Thompson Speedway in the Icebreaker.
Follow it up with three-straight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour wins in May; two with Doug Coby at Riverhead Raceway and Lee USA Speedway, and Christopher Jr. getting his first career Whelen Modifed Tour victory at Jennerstown Speedway.
Speaking of that Jennerstown win, it has been over two weeks now since the big triumph for Christopher Jr. and while it has somewhat sunk in, he’s being very humble about the experience.
“It’s been a few weeks, I guess it’s sunk in. It felt good when it happened and all the congratulations afterward has been nice. I don’t know, it’s hard to put into words. It’s not that I think it isn’t a big deal or anything, but I try not to make it a big deal because there’s a whole lot of racing to come. It’s cool to think about, but I don’t want it to get to me I guess,” Christopher Jr. told Racing America.
Indeed, there has been racing for the Christopher Jr.-TBR combination, as they followed up with a runner-up to Woody Pitkat this past Friday at Stafford Speedway in Open competition. Unfortunately, a driver’s mistake as Christopher Jr. put it is what cost the 7NY a chance at their first Stafford win of 2022.
“I screwed up at the halfway point when we had a yellow. I heard over the radio what we were going to do, I took the information thinking that pit road was open that time, it wasn’t, and I came down anyways. So that screwed up the whole strategy, we had to go to the back, and Tommy didn’t get enough time to get the information from me on what adjustments to make. The remainder of the race the car was way too tight, we still fought back to second, but didn’t have a winning car.”
Keen to shake off the mistake as quick as possible, Baldwin filed the 7NY as a late entry on Monday for Nutmeg State 75 Open Modified race on Wednesday night at Thompson, with Christopher Jr. now looking for two-straight at ‘The Big T’. The chance to race in Open competition comes as a bit of a relief as the his No. 82 SK Modified team is taking a needed rest after originally planning on running the 35-lap Sunoco Modified feature.
“Tommy didn’t have this race at Thompson on the schedule, I was looking at just running my SK there. But now Tommy wants to go Wednesday, but now we’re not bringing the SK there; we’ve been burnt out racing Stafford and Waterford with it, and we want to refocus on Stafford. I’m really happy Tommy changed his mind, I love racing Thompson, and we can go get another one.”
While he has won in both Sunoco and Open Modified races at Thompson, Christopher Jr. has found his stride in Open/Tour-type races. He won his first career Open/Tour-type race on World Series Weekend in October 2020, also driving for TBR. He enjoys running both types of Modified at the 5/8-mile oval, but it has been the more powerful Open Mods where he has found his groove.
“It’s a lot of fun in a Tour-car or an SK. To me, the SK is more difficult to run because there’s less power and grip than what you get in the Tour-car; where you can use the bottom to your advantage. You get stuck on the bottom in Sunoco Mod race, there’s a bigger chance of going backwards. Whereas in a Tour-car it doesn’t hurt you as much, you can use the power and grip to muscle your way past somebody on the bottom. It’s not easier, but I find it more responsive,” Explained Christopher.
“I never thought I was that great at Thompson, it just seems to suit me very well. Having the ability to run the top in the beginning of a race and migrate down to the bottom, moving lanes throughout the race as the tires wear on the Tour-car. It just fits my style, I guess.”
Since taking over the oval program at Thompson in late-2020, the American-Canadian Tour & Pro All Stars Series have slowly, but steadily built up the Outlaw Open Modified Series at Thompson, with the Icebreaker and World Series weekends sandwiching a trio of Wednesday night shows during the middle of the racing season.
A corps of strong teams and drivers have emerged as familiar faces at Thompson in 2021 for the 75-lap Wednesday shows. This Wednesday’s Nutmeg State 75 has seen that corps boosted by late entries, including Christopher Jr. & TBR as well as Ryan Preece, Woody Pitkat, and Spencer Davis.
Christopher Jr. is one competitor who has grown a great appreciation for the efforts ACT & PASS, and sees promise in the direction things are going for the Wednesday night programs.
“ACT & PASS have done a great job of publicizing these races and building these purses. If you got a Tour-type car, those people who are trying to build a program, you should definitely come out and race. It’s 75 laps and $5,000-to-win, yes it’s a Wednesday night, but it’s a good opportunity to be a part of a good program. Competition-wise, a lot of the good guys go, you got Ronnie Williams and the 25 guys, then this week Woody’s going, Preece is going, and a couple of other guys.”