Christopher Jr. wins first tour trophy in Jennerstown
Mike Christopher Jr. celebrates his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win at Jennerstown Speedway. (Photo by Rob Branning)
JENNERSTOWN, Pa. — On Saturday night at Jennerstown Speedway in Pa., Tommy Baldwin Racing was back in victory lane for the third race in a row — this time, with rising Connecticut star Mike Christopher Jr. at the wheel.
Christopher, making his third start on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, took the lead from pole sitter Tyler Rypkema with 11 laps to go in the Jennerstown Salutes 150 and retained his first trophy.
Christopher beat Rypkema and JB Fortin to the finish line after 150 laps.
“I’m really happy and really proud of what Tommy Baldwin has done this year,” said Christopher Jr. “Doug (Coby) won the last two races, and I had that program and I had a lot of shoes to fill in. I can’t give it enough to the team. I have to thank everyone involved who helped me on the car, especially Tommy Baldwin.
“I’ve had a lot of fun with him over the years, but it’s only getting better. Tommy gave me the opportunity to drive Tour cars, and as it was my first time here, I couldn’t be happier to park it here at Victory Lane.
Rypkema led the opening laps from pole position and led the field for most of the early stages of the race. Shortly after the halfway mark, on lap 89, Jon McKennedy took the #79 to first place.
McKennedy led the field across the line to the warning flag with 50 laps to go when Kyle Bonsignore crashed. However, during the pit stop during the caution period, McKennedy had pit road problems and returned to the middle of the field.
The battle for the last 35 laps was between Rypkema and Christopher.
It was Christopher shortly after the green who put the No. 7NY in front, but Rypkema passed him to take the lead with 31 laps to go and seemed to be in control. But Christopher clung tightly and wouldn’t let him go.
After harassing the rear bumper, Christopher made the decision late in the race to claim his first career win.
His only two previous starts on the Whelen Modified Tour were at Riverhead Raceway (2021) and this year’s season opener at New Smyrna Speedway, where he finished third.
“It’s hard to be angry about that,” Rypkema said. “To lead over 100 laps, we were so tight the last moto and I held Mike off as long as possible. It’s been a great day for us, we’ve led a ton of laps and we have a good record with a strong finish.
Fortin posted a career-best third-place finish, while Andrew Krause and Tommy Catalano finished in the top five.
McKennedy rebounded to sixth in the last car on the first lap to the finish, while Max McLaughlin, Justin Bonsignore, Ron Silk and Craig Lutz finished in the top 10.
“We had a solid car from the start,” said Fortin. “On the long green flag race, the car was coming towards me. It was a killer car. Third place – the first podium for me.
In Jennerstown Speedway Home Division action, Skylar Berkey was Jennerstown Salutes champion for the first time in the Fast 4. Mike Sweeney took the Late Model victory, while Doug Glessner was Modified Division champion .
In the pro stock feature, Kyle Burkholder won the championship title.
Mike Christopher Jr., Tyler Rypkema, JB Fortin, Andrew Krause, Tommy Catalano, Jon McKennedy, Max McLaughlin, Justin Bonsignore, Ron Silk, Craig Lutz, Eric Goodale, Austin Beers, Patrick Emerling, Timmy Solomito, Dave Sapienza, James Pritchard Jr ., Kyle Ebersole, Walter Sutcliffe Jr., Kyle Bonsignore, Gary McDonald, Melissa Fifield, Spencer Davis.