John Peters (09) races around Oxford Plains Speedway on Aug. 14, 2021. Oriana Lovell photo

Making it into the Oxford 250 last year was a dream come true for driver John Peters and his father Greg.

The only thing better would be to win the big race, but John Peters will have to attempt that alone.

Greg Peters — or as he was known in racing circles, GNG, as in “Grand National Greg” — died in July, leaving John without his crew chief and his biggest supporter.

“Racing was his life. Literally,” John Peters said. “Every minute of his every day, he was focused on racing in some form. I have never met anyone so intensely passionate about one thing, like my dad was with racing. It’s something about him that was difficult at times growing up, but what I miss so much now. His love for the sport rubbed off on me for 24 years, and from that I have a lifelong passion.”

Last year’s Oxford 250 attempt was the third-time charm for John, after two previous unsuccessful attempts to qualify. He said it took his dad seven tries as part of a team to earn a spot in the race. Greg Peters was once a driver at Oxford Plains Speedway and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (the Westbrook family’s home track), but even after he stepped out of the car he was always around the track.

Greg been at tracks all over the place, in spirit, since his death. Dozens of drivers have placed “#RacingForGNG” decals on their cars — including NASCAR Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick, whose spotter, Windham native Derek Kneeland, was close friends with Greg Peters.

Kneeland also will be attempting to qualify for the 250 on Sunday, a day after spotting for Reddick at Daytona International Speedway.

“(All the support) it’s hard to put into words,” John Peters said. “After my Dad lived his life really in service of other people for so many years, it’s nice to see people recognize that and return the favor to him. It was the perfect way to honor him, and we appreciate every driver, team and car who supported him.”

John Peters and his family decided they want Greg’s support of racing to continue, even after his death.

“After my dad passed away, my mom, sister and I were planning his arrangements and started discussing what cause we may want folks to donate to,” Peters said. “My sister actually suggested that we establish a sponsorship to help young racers my dad would have chosen to help. We fine-tuned the details as a family, and then it completely took off. We set a modest goal to start and to our wildest dreams, completely overachieved. Helping other people felt like the perfect way to preserve his legacy. We can only hope he’d be proud of it.”

John Peters races around Oxford Plains Speedway on Aug. 14, 2021. Oriana Lovell photo

John Peters Motorsports posted on its Facebook page that it had established GNG’s Gift: The Greg Peters Memorial Scholarship. The sponsorship has enough funding already for the next three years, starting in 2022, with $5,000.09 (Greg Peter’s racing number was 09) each year going to a young (30 or younger) racer chosen by the Peters family.

The “09” will be on display this weekend, as John Peters has switched to that number from the No. 51 that he sported in last year’s 250.

“Preparations have been going well and I truly have to thank my family and crew for that. The last few months have thrown a lot at us, but we’re in good shape thanks to their support,” Peters said. “The lack of track time (this season) is certainly not ideal, but those are the cards we’ve been dealt and we’ll do the best we can. It’s not uncharted territory for us, we actually were in the same situation last year and ended up having a really solid 250 weekend.”

Peters finished 18th out of 44 cars in last year’s 250.

When he finally made his season debut in a Pro All Stars Series race — and his first race without his dad — at Oxford Plains Speedway on Aug. 14, John Peters had been out of the car since last October. He finished that 150-lap race in ninth place.

John Peters (09) races around Oxford Plains Speedway on Aug. 14, 2021. Oriana Lovell photo

“Emotionally, it was hard,” Peters said. “All day long you could just feel his absence. It was like we were waiting for him to show up. That brought about a feeling of sadness that I know I just couldn’t shake. We kept it together the best we could and tried to make him proud. It was a difficult step to take as a family, but an important one.”

Peters said he knows the flowing of emotions isn’t over as this year’s 250 draws closer.

“It’s honestly the smaller moments that make you emotional, and I assume this weekend will be no different,” he said. “I’ll miss him on the ride to the race track, at the qualifying draw on the front stretch, when I’m trying to decide on changes after a practice or race. It’s those moments you almost never think twice about that remind you of loss the hardest.”

John Peters races around Oxford Plains Speedway on Aug. 14, 2021. Oriana Lovell photo

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