CONCORD, N.C. — For better or for worse, a racing season can change in an instant. A bit of good luck can propel a struggling racer into victory lane; a bit of bad luck can result in a blown engine, a wrecked race car, or a hurt race driver. For Westbrook, Maine’s John Peters, some bad luck on July 30 threw his 2017 season into a tailspin.
Running among the top-three drivers early in the annual Boss Hog 150 at Wiscasset (ME) Speedway, Peters got caught up in a wreck not of his own making. Trying to avoid a stalled car in the middle of the track, Peters ended up in a horrific crash. In addition to ripping the right side of his race car off and destroying the rear clip, the hard impact caved in the center section of the chassis and broke the motor mounts on his family-owned car. Even worse, the Kulwicki Driver Development Program driver began to suffer from concussion-like symptoms and had to go through concussion protocols and a CT scan.
When Peters was cleared by hospital personnel and returned to the shop, his father gave him the bad news: the car was a total loss. “We had a funeral for the car,” said Peters. “We put so much time and money into it. It was a good piece, and we were finally getting our season turned around. It was a tough deal.”
Peters had acquired the older perimeter chassis before the 2014 season and had been impressive in battling against much newer and lighter “straight rail” cars. “Some nights we felt like we were trying to use a knife at a gunfight, but we did the best we could with what we had,” Peters said with a proud chuckle. Over the last 3 ½ years, Peters competed in 60 races in the car, winning at Wiscasset in 2014 and really turning heads at Beech Ridge (ME) Motor Speedway last season. He won the August 20 feature, en route to posting four top-five finishes, seven top-10s and an eighth-place finish in the points.
With no other car to race immediately after the heartbreaking crash on July 30, Peters thought about just writing off the remainder of the 2017 season, focus on his college studies (he’s a business major at Southern New Hampshire University) and hope to somehow manage to return to the driver’s seat in 2018. However, two nights later over the family dinner table, Peters and his parents decided to take a financial leap and purchase a new car.
“We had located a car that Mike Landry had only run a handful of times over the past couple years, but with good results, especially on the PASS North tour,” said Peters. “It’s a 2015 Jeff Taylor-built straight rail car and is much lighter and newer than the car we had been running.”
Peters reached out to his primary sponsor, Rental North America. While they didn’t have anything in the budget to help out with this new car, they did commit for 2018. “Getting Rental’s commitment for 2018 was huge for our team,” said Peters. “We can plan for the future now, and we feel that, in purchasing the car from Mike, we can make this investment in our future.”
Peters and family received several anonymous donations and received some help from close friends. “The support we received from friends, family, and total strangers is really indicative of the racing season here in Maine,” said Peters. “People really recognized that this team is really just my dad and me and they know how hard we work. I can’t thank them enough for their help.”
Peters plans to back at Beech Ridge on Saturday night, in time to honor the seventh “Kulwicki Kid” of the season. “The Kulwicki Kid program has been the highlight of the season for us,” said Peters. “Each week, we put out a call for kids and parents to register to become the ‘kid’ and the response we have been getting has been incredible. The winner gets a chance to hang out with us at the track, receive some prizes, including a copy of Father Dale Grubba’s Alan Kulwicki biography and an autographed youth racing helmet. We can’t thank Kevin Langlois and Superior Speed for donating the helmet each week.
“The program is really all about educating the next generation of race fans, especially about Alan Kulwicki, who sadly passed away long before these kids were born. It’s been fun to get to know the kids, and to see the thank you videos and notes they post online.”
Peters was able to take his new car out to Beech Ridge on Tuesday afternoon for some shakedown runs. He was pleased with the speed and handling of his new ride.
“It was so much different than what I was accustomed to driving,” said Peters. “I’m so excited to get out there and see how we stack up on Saturday night. Beech Ridge is a very challenging track and with great racers like Reid Lanpher and Curtis Gerry running there every night, the competition is as tough as it gets. Reid and Curtis are locked in a big battle for the points championship and both of them will be heading up to Oxford for the 250 on Sunday (44th Annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains (ME) Speedway). I’m hoping we might be able to sneak in there and steal a little of their thunder at Beech Ridge on Saturday.”
Peters and team will also compete in several Granite State Pro Stock Series (GSPSS) and PASS North Series races before the season closes out in mid-October. After placing sixth in the initial Kulwicki Driver Development Program point standings, Peters is counting on some solid finishes to elevate him up the ladder in the battle for the 2017 Kulwicki Cup.
Saturday will be a special “Autograph Night” at Beech Ridge, with every driver from all NASCAR Nite divisions on the track for a meet-and-greet with fans, sign autographs and pose for photos. The activities on the third-mile asphalt oval begin at 7 p.m. EDT.
The KDDP urges you to keep up with all of the organization’s news and activities by regularly visiting Speed51.com, the organization’s official media partner. Speed51.com is active on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/speed51/ and you can follow them on Twitter at @speed51dotcom.
-Kulwicki Driver Development Program
-Photo Credit: John Peters Racing