For Timothy Peters, Saturday’s Kroger 250 is his home game.
“This place is very special to me,” Peters told media on Friday. “15 minutes from my house, family and friends.”
“I’m [just] glad we can run well here. It’s extra pressure to do well.”
For Peters, this weekend is an almost storybook continuation for what has been a white hot start for his No. 17 team, which saw them score a dramatic upset win at Daytona and a solid top-10 finish the following race at Atlanta. Second in points, he returns to a track that has enjoyed tremendous success at both in late model and truck competition, the same venue that saw him score his first career Truck victory last October.
It also marked a chance for a return home, and a chance to take part in the race weekend that he sees as being invaluable to the Martinsville/Danville area.
Peters recalls “I had the opportunity to deliver tickets to some fans in this area, and I went to pick up the pace car. Just to see the traffic already here on a Tuesday afternoon was incredible. Knowing how the times are, it was very cool for me to deliver tickets to two families in my hometown and to another family here in Martinsville.”
Tough times are something he can relate to, because his road to success with Red Horse Racing has been a long one. Peters has had opportunities in the past that didn’t pan out. Be it running limited stints with Bobby Hamilton Racing and Morgan Dollar Motorsports, as well as a disastrous stint with Richard Childress Racing in the Nationwide Series, Peters has had his share of chances.
For many development drivers, shuffling through that many rides would prove to be a career death rattle. But for Peters, the opportunities just kept coming, until a phone call in June when Red Horse owner Tom DeLoach pegged Peters as the driver for his No. 17 truck.
It was that call, and DeLoach, that Peters describes as what “put him on the map.”
Peters earned his shot with RHR because perhaps more so than any other young driver at any level of the support, he has earned the respect and admiration of all of his fellow competitors, from the rookies to the veterans. Just look at what Todd Bodine had to say about Peters just minutes after the youngster powered past him to steal a victory at Daytona from the vaunted No. 30 truck:
“If you stand and talk to that kid for five minutes, you’ll understand. He’s a good Virginia boy that was raised right in the country and knows his values and treats people with respect and is polite. I mean, I really like the kid.”
“Then you go out and race with him, and he races hard. Man, that kid will race hard. But you know what, he races you with respect, too. That’s a hard combination to find.”
Said SI‘s Tom Bowles that Saturday night in Daytona, “that kid’s going to make it in this sport, because there’s always going to be people willing to do favors for him.”
And as much as it may be his upbringing, Peters has also adopted a deliberate approach to cultivating the respect that he rapidly earned among his fellow competitors.
Said Peters, “I think Jeff Burton said it best. Do unto others as you would want done to you. I came in with the utmost respect for everybody and still have the utmost respect for everybody. I wanted to let them know I’m not going to do anything foolish.”
“Maybe it’s paid off, maybe it hasn’t, but I’d like to think it has.”
The fact of the matter is, it paid off when Tom DeLoach hired Peters as the No. 17 driver. Because this driver has completely bought into his team.
When asked about what’s clicking at Red Horse, Peters noted “Tom believes in me. He gives me what I need, he doesn’t try to tell me what I need to where it doesn’t work. The resources Toyota gives us are phenomenal. It’s our mistake not taking advantage of them. Tom believes in this race team, he gives us the amount of resources we need to run well.”
“To run well answers a few questions I might have had for myself, but I knew I could do this. I’m in a great place. We’re starting to win races, and I think we’re going to contend for this championship.”
The confidence is obviously there for Peters, despite all the other rides that didn’t quite work out. And the results back up his championship aspirations. Peters will roll off fifth for the start of Saturday’s Kroger 250 after posting the third fastest time in practice. From there, it’s on to another track that’s been kind to him.
“Getting to go to Martinsville where I got my first win, back to Nashville where I got my first pole, things are just going so well for us that we just want to stay in striking distance [of the points lead] and get solid finishes.”
To think that this time last season, Peters’s future was very much up in the air. Coming into Martinsville with Premier Motorsports, Peters and his team were on the fourth of four races of funding, leaving the driver knowing full well he had one shot left to make a statement.
One year later, he’s returning to Martinsville as the most recent race winner, with legitimate hopes of a NASCAR championship.
What a difference a year makes. To answer Peters’s own question about his approach to big time stock car racing, it is paying off.