Racing spotlight: John Peters becoming a contender at Beech Ridge

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WESTBROOK — When you look at the dozen or more young guns striving to make a name for themselves in Super Late Model racing around central and southern Maine, you don’t have to look very far to see unlimited potential.

Take a stroll through the pit area at Beech Ridge on a Saturday night during their weekly NASCAR Whelen All American Series program, and you’ll find 18-year-old John Peters, a fine example of young talent not far from becoming a household name among Maine race fans.

“We made several improvements to the car before this season got started,” Peters said. “We spent a lot of time and money over the winter trying to revamp the suspension. We were looking for a bit more speed out of the car. That hard work paid off in the first couple of races.”

Peters is in his second full season of Pro Series competition at Beech Ridge. His rookie season provided an education in Super Late Model racing, learning everything from race strategy to what it takes to succeed at that level. For 2015, the lessons learned in 2014 are making life a little easier.

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“We came out of the box strong. We ran well in the opener on Memorial Day weekend, but cut a tire halfway through the race. Then we refined our chassis setup the following week, and earned our first podium finish (third) on May 30. It was very satisfying.”

One minor setback in early June changed the way Peters and his family-backed team looked at the season overall. Having to miss the race on June 6 when he graduated from Westbrook High School meant a loss of points, yet allowed him to venture away from The Ridge to run other tracks.

“Missing that race on graduation night really hurt us in the points, so we figured it was time to travel a bit and learn about other tracks,” Peters said. “We raced at Lee Speedway in a Granite State Pro Stock Series event, and went back to Wiscasset, as well. Those experiences taught us a lot.”

Once the season hit full throttle in mid-to-late June, Peters got his program dialed in at Beech Ridge. He finished sixth on June 20, and backed that up with a fourth-place run on July 3.

“We really started making big strides this summer,” Peters added. “Our car was really hooked up in late June, and we ran with the leaders much of the night. On July 3, I thought for a while we had a legitimate shot at the win. We had the lead with about 10 laps to go before things got intense. We got shuffled out there at the end, but still ended up in fourth. Those were two very good weeks for us.”

Peters’ career began in Go-Karts at an early age, then progressed to Legends cars where so many young drivers hone their skills. At the tender age of 15, Peters became the youngest driver to win a class title at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

His natural ability was evident to all who witnessed him race, and he adapts to just about any track with ease. One of his favorite venues is nestled along the midcoast.

“I love racing at Wiscasset, it’s a very friendly environment down there,” Peters said. “They make you feel welcome as soon as you pass through the gate. The track really is fast and fun, just like they say in their slogan. The high-banked turns are nice, they hold the car in place.

“I had quite of bit of experience there when we raced Legends cars and had some good success. Every time we’ve gone back with the Super Late Model, we’ve done well. We picked up a win last year in my second SLM start at Wiscasset. The place is pretty special to me.”

Other racers from central Maine have taken notice of his recent progress. The Super Late Model fraternity is a tight bunch, and they keep track of rising talent.

“John is a smooth driver, you rarely see him make a mistake,” Oxford regular and Auburn native Kyle Treadwell said. “I was at Wiscasset when he notched his first Pro Stock victory last summer. He hit his marks on every lap, and simply drove away from the field. He’s an amazing young talent, and I can’t wait to race against him.”

Like all quality race teams, Peters has a fine group of marketing partners that help make his program possible. While competing at this level takes skill and dedication, it also takes proper funding.

“I’m lucky enough to have the support of great companies like Runtal Radiators, of Haverhill, Mass. (in-home heating systems); AML Landcaping; McKeage’s Top Gun General Construction; Details Auto & Marine Cleaning, of Arundel; Digby’s Variety, in Westbrook; and AR Bodies (The Body Shop/Norm Desjardins). Without their valued support, we simply could not race at this level.

“I’m also fortunate to have a supportive family and dedicated crew, led by my father, Greg, who spends a ton of time working on the car; my mother, who puts up with us; Jim Savage, who does our tires; Steve Benincasa, Kody Pitkin, Dustin McAllister, Jeff Martel, Landon McBride and Patty Ryder.” 

As the season starts to wind down, Peters has his remaining races all lined up. Reflecting on the events of summer, he says the team continued to make good progress.

“We’ll run at Wiscasset on Aug. 22, then I’m moving to college on the following weekend. After I get settled in, we’ll come back and run once more at Wiscasset before concluding our season in the PASS finale at Oxford. No matter how we do in those final events, 2015 will have been a strong season.”

pwhipple@sunjournal.com

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