Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – After finishing 5th in points in his 2018 SK Light rookie season, Danbury, CT native Teddy Hodgdon and the #55 Montanari Fuel team returned to Stafford in 2019 as one of the championship favorites.
When the dust settled Hodgdon was crowned the 2019 track champion after winning 5 races and holding the point lead for the majority of the season. 5 wins and a championship trophy sounds like a dream ending for Hodgdon but his season was anything but perfect.
Hodgdon and the #55 team opened the year with a second place finish and took the point lead for the first time following the May 31st feature event. Hodgdon led the standings for nearly 2 months, but a 20th place finish on July 26 left Hodgdon 4 points behind Steven Chapman. Hodgdon and Chapman would swap the point lead several times during August and at the end of the month, Hodgdon trailed Chapman by 4 points. Hodgdon would go on to win the final 2 races of the season to take the championship by an 18 point margin over Chapman.
“This is an unbelievable feeling with all the hardships that have happened this year,” said Hodgdon. “I’m really speechless right now. It feels great to be the champion and be among some of the greats in the SK Light division. Thanks to my Dad, my family, Montanari Fuel, State Cutters, Ness Auto, Jim’s Welding, Ultimate Restorations, Keith Rocco Racing for the awesome setups, R.A.D. Auto Machine, and everyone who has helped me over the last 2 years in the SK Lights.”
With 2 wins in the final 2 races of the season, Hodgdon and the #55 team engineered a storybook ending to their championship run. Although Hodgdon and the #55 team were able to raise their game and put forth two A+ efforts to win the championship, his championship hopes nearly ended in disaster during the NAPA Fall Final feature event.
Hodgdon entered the NAPA Fall Final with a 10-point lead over Chapman and a 24 point advantage over Alexander Pearl. If Hodgdon could record a 6th place finish or better, he would win the championship no matter where Chapman or Pearl finished. Hodgdon started the final 20-lap feature event from 14th place and he was on the verge of cracking into the top-6 on lap-8 when Bob Charland spun in front of him and nearly took him out of the race. Hodgdon had slight damage to his left front fender, but had to deal with another issue that was unseen by those in attendance.
“When I got in the tangle with Bob [Charland] I went to push the clutch down to shift into third gear and there was nothing there so I had to start in fourth gear for the rest of the race,” said Hodgdon. “Luckily I got good enough restarts. At first I thought it was just damage and if I kept the engine cool we’d be fine. Then we had the clutch problem and I thought ‘oh my god, should I park it, should I do this, should I do that’? There were so many things going through my head and I was just trying to think about the next restart and hoping to not wreck everyone behind me. To be able to do that and hang with the guys up front and not get demolished on the restarts was pretty good and I knew once we got the motor wound up the car was pretty good. I told myself that we just had to go and hope it worked out and it did.”
Hodgdon survived three restarts after developing the clutch issue, including a green-white-checkered restart to finish the race. On the final restart, Hodgdon lined up to the outside of Joey Ferrigno and with only 2 laps to go, Hodgdon was right where he needed to be to clinch the championship. But rather than playing things conservatively, Hodgdon saw an opportunity to get by Ferrigno and go for the win, a move that could have had disastrous consequences if his bid for the lead went wrong.
“It’s a racer’s instinct to go for the lead when you have the opportunity and I knew the championship hopes were on the line but as a racer I did what I had to do and I’m glad we ended up in victory lane,” said Hodgdon. “Coming down the backstretch with 2 to go, I had to throw something at Joey [Ferrigno] because I wasn’t going to hang back. Even though we had the championship pretty much wrapped up at that point, I wasn’t going to sit behind him in second when I had a chance to go for the win.”
Hodgdon will officially be crowned the 2019 SK Light Champion at the 50th Annual Stafford Speedway Champion’s Awards Banquet, scheduled for Friday, November 15 at Maneeley’s in South Windsor. Tickets to the awards banquet are $50 and are on sale now. Tickets can be ordered by calling the track at 860-684-2783 or they can be ordered online at www.staffordspeedway.com.