Team owner Trey Hoddick and crew chief Karl Hehr went to an area holiday party last Saturday evening and received a very special and emotional present that came from a distance away. That same evening, the rest of their Cheektowaga-based race team, headed by driver Scott Kreutter, won the 40-lap A-Main indoor TQ Midget event held at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa. The present didn't even require unwrapping.
Hoddick, his son Todd Hoddick and Hehr built the winning machine from scratch. The team dedicated the Allentown triumph to their fallen racing teammate, Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn., who was killed in September in a private airplane crash. Christopher is considered one of the great competitors to ever drive race cars, particularly asphalt Modifieds.
Christopher was part of the team's two-car TQ Midget effort last year, serving as Kreutter's teammate. The car that Kreutter drove to victory at Allentown was driven by Christopher last season.
The Allentown event is part of the three-race TQ Midget series Indoor Auto Racing Championship Fueled by VP Racing Fuels. The series, which draws top competitors from throughout the Northeast and from various forms of short-track racing, continues Jan. 26-27 in Atlantic City. The series finale is Feb. 9-10 in Albany.
Hoddick and Hehr decided that due to a heavy workload at their business, Airport Collision, they would not personally attend the event at Allentown. Kreutter started third in the 40-lapper and assumed the top spot early but was overhauled on lap 27 by defending indoor series champion Ryan Flores of Mooresville N.C. Kreutter hung tough and, when Flores blew his engine seven laps later, Kreutter seized the opportunity and went the distance to accept the checkered flag over Ransomville's Erick Rudolph.
Also assisting Kreutter's drive to victory were crew members Matt Farnham, Nick Zimmermann and engine-builder Sparky Grape.
It was Kreutter's first career indoor TQ Midget A-Main race victory and Hoddick's fourth as a car owner. He won indoor features over the years, two by Andy Jankowiak and a single triumph by Christopher.
The Hoddick/Hehr team and Kreutter have had a long successful association, not only in TQ Midget competition but also outdoors in dirt-track, winged Sprint Car action, where they won the 2012 Patriot Sprint Tour championship as well as other Sprint Car events.
"It was awesome winning at Allentown," said Kreutter, an Alden native. "These indoor races are so hard to win. There's so many different variables and the best racers from all disciplines of racing race indoors. It's really hard to win. The Allentown win is right up there with our 2012 Patriot Sprint championship that we won because to win a championship you have to be good all year long. In the indoor races just so many things can happen. You've got to have a good car, good luck on your side and at Allentown it all came together."
As Kreutter was negotiating through the final laps, Trey and Hehr watched a live stream of the race.
"Karl and I stayed back in Western New York," Trey said. "We're very busy in the collision shop at Airport. We watched the race on Race Monitor. That keeps track of lap times and it was being live streamed and we were at a Christmas/New Year's party and the race was being streamed on a phone. I tell you what, I was biting my nails because when Flores passed Scott and then blew his motor up we got the lead back. But there was oil all over the track so they had the long red flag delay for the cleanup and waiting that out was the biggest nail-biting time. After Scott won I got to talk to him when he called me about 10 minutes after the race was over."
Hoddick was understandably proud of the team and their home-grown racing machine.
"This is big for me, Karl and Todd because we make everything in our own shop," Trey said. "We don't buy anything. It's not like a Troyer Modified where you just go buy the stuff.
"We've been building them for many years. We used to race in the old Niagara Falls series. We've probably built about a dozen cars or so over the years. The car that Scott drove I put together four years ago. Last season we campaigned two cars indoors, one for Scott and one for Teddy. This year we have one for Scott and the other that was suppose to be driven by Teddy but was to be driven now by Todd, but Todd had job commitments."
Trey took the time to remember the fallen Christopher.
"The car that won last Saturday was Teddy's car last year and Scott drove it this year to the win at Allentown," Trey said. "Scott has some big shoes to fill and Teddy and me had plans all summer about going racing again indoors this winter and when the unfortunate happened it was very hard."
Kreutter echoed Hoddick's feelings. Kreutter recalls that fateful day in September when the team learned of Christopher's death. Christopher was on his way to a NASCAR Modified race on Long Island when his plane went down in rural Connecticut.
"Ted was a great guy and fun to be around," Kreutter said. "We found out that Ted died when we were at the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals that day. Trey, Karl and myself and others were all together when we got the terrible news. It was pretty emotional. I was getting ready to get in the car that day for time trials when we found out. Let's just say it was a tough one but we've got our great memories. I'm really happy that I got to take the TQ Midget Ted drove last year for us and make Ted proud by winning the race at Allentown."