WESTBROOK, Maine – John Peters’ first 10 races in a stock car turned out better than even he expected.
After posting two wins, five runner-up finishes and no result worse than fourth during the VIP Thursday Thunder season this summer, Peters earned the championship in Beech Ridge Motor Speedway’s entry-level “Beetle Bug JV” division in 2012 to become the youngest champion in the track’s 64-year history.
“It’s weird to think about it sometimes,” said Peters, 15, of Westbrook, Maine. “When people would start coming up and telling me that I was going to be the youngest champion in history there, I’d think, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ Then I started looking at Beech Ridge’s old memories and history page (on Facebook), and you see all of the people that have won races and championships there, and you really get thinking about it. It’s a shock. It’s pretty amazing.”
The road to the Beetle Bug title, at least at the end, was anti-climactic for the rookie. With a large point lead built up by a relentless run of podium finishes, the No. 09 Cash For Clunkers/Digby’s Variety Honda needed only to take the green flag on the final feature event of the season last month to secure the title – joining older brother Chris Peters (Beetle Bug Varsity) in winning a championship this summer.
Not that Peters, a sophomore honor roll student at Westbrook High School, was about to change anything and start points racing at season’s end.
“Every time somebody would bring up the point (standings) during the first six races of the year, I would just kind of shrug,” said Peters, who raced go-karts for several years before taking a six-year hiatus from racing to purse other interests, including baseball and football. “When the season started, I didn’t have any expectations. I just wanted to keep the car in one piece. But after those first six races, I would definitely look at the points every Monday. I wanted see what I had for a cushion.
“I didn’t change anything. When you’re chasing a championship, the last you want to do is change your entire mindset. You want to make sure you do what you’ve been doing to be successful and not change things and throw everything off. I’ve seen guys that have big point leads in last three races, start driving aggressively and throw whole thing away.”
Peters purchased a Legends car during the season and plans to run with the Amsoil NELCAR Legends Tour next season. He’s planning on something between 15-20 Legends races in 2013, but he’ll get a jumpstart on the learning curve in less than two weeks.
The No. 09 Cash For Clunkers/Digby’s Variety Sedan will enter a 50-lap Legends feature during PASS 400 weekend at Beech Ridge on September 15-16. Just like his expectations heading into his championship season, Peters has set modest goals for himself in his Legends debut.
“Honestly, I want to stay on the lead lap and not wreck it,” said Peters, whose father, Greg, will serve as crew chief. “Staying on the lead lap is a big one. You know that a lot of the fast guys like Shaun Buffington and Evan Beaulieu are going to be out front early and coming quick, and 50 laps is a long time there. So staying in the lead lap at the end will really be a good start for us.”