NASCAR driver, pilot killed in Connecticut plane crash

Ted Christopher
FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2005 file photo, Ted Christopher celebrates his victory in the Busch North Series Sylvania 125 at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H. NASCAR officials say modified championship racer Christopher was one of two people killed when a small plane crashed in Connecticut. The Federal Aviation Administration confirms that two people were aboard a Mooney M20C plane that went down in a wooded area near the North Branford-Guilford border shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. NASCAR says Christopher and the plane's pilot died. (AP Photo/Jon-Pierre Lasseigne, File)

NORTH BRANFORD, Conn. (AP) — Modified championship racer Ted Christopher was one of two people killed when a small plane crashed in the woods in Connecticut on Saturday, NASCAR officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that two people were aboard a Mooney M20C plane that went down near the North Branford-Guilford border shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday, but they didn’t release the names of the victims.

Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, said Christopher, 59, and the plane’s pilot both died.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident. Details of the plane’s itinerary were not immediately released.

Christopher captured 13 track championships and competed at every level of NASCAR during his career. In 2006, he was selected as one of the top 25 drivers in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series history.

On the Whelen tour and on New England short tracks, “Christopher was a throwback to NASCAR’s roots,” France said in a statement. “He was a tough racer’s racer, and his hard driving style and candid personality endeared him to short track fans throughout the country.”

Christopher’s death brought tributes from others in the racing world.

“He was a legend,” racecar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted Saturday night.

“Absolute definition of a racer,” racer Alex Bowman tweeted.

Christopher was to have competed Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway in New York. Traffic officials planned a tribute to him by having his car driven for a ceremonial lap and a moment of silence from fans.