NORTH BRANFORD, Conn. — 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.
Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, said Christopher, 59, and the plane's pilot both died.
Police said Sunday that 81-year-old Charles Dundas, a resident of New York and Florida, was the pilot.
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.
He also was an annual racer in the Atlantic City Indoor Races at Boardwalk Hall, which is produced by Len Sammons Motorsports. Christopher won the elite race called the Gambler's Classic twice, mostly recently in 2011. He also was a two-time winner of Sammons' Indoor Series, which includes races in Trenton and Allentown, Pennsylvania.
"The Sammons family and the Indoor Auto Racing Championship are deeply saddened by the death of two-time Indoor Series Champion, Ted Christopher," according to a post on the Indoor Auto Racing Championship Facebook page. "We have such fond memories of celebrating Indoor wins with Ted -- his passion for the sport was second-to-none. We extend our sympathies to his family, and his many friends and fans."
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident. Details of the plane's itinerary were not immediately released.
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.