20-year-old John Peters of Westbrook, Maine has known nothing but the race track since his early childhood days. Peters, driver of the #51 Runtal Radiators Ford Fusion at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, was born into a racing family. “My Dad, brother and cousin all raced, and my first memory of the track is watching my Dad race in the Sport Series at Beech Ridge,” he says. Before he even reached his fifth birthday, John was behind the wheel of a go-kart, racing at Richmond Karting Speedway. This was just the beginning for Peters, who is now a full-time driver in the Pro Series.
The red, white and blue #51 is a constant figure at the race track every weekend, running toward the front of the pack. Peters hasn’t captured a win yet on the season, but that isn’t all that’s important to him. The most important thing to John is staying competitive week in & week out. “Like any team, we’ve had some races, particularly the last few, that have been frustrating but we’re much farther ahead of where we were last year at this time,” he says, explaining the highs and lows that come with driving a race car. Although he’s not where he wants to be right now, Peters keeps digging thanks to his own drive and the support of his family, friends and sponsors.
Peters says that his parents are by far his biggest supporters, saying that they have sacrificed a lot so he can have a great race career. He praises his Dad for helping him, saying, “I have a lot of committments which would make it much more difficult to do own my own, so without him I wouldn’t be able to do this.” He says that his Mom is a constant cheerleader, and also gives thanks to Patty Ryder, Jim Savage and his girlfriend Brooke Shaw. In terms of his support, he says, “Lots of people have contributed throughout the years and we’re so grateful for all of the support.” He has a long list of sponsors this season, including Runtal Radiators of North America, KDDP, AML Landscape & Property Services, Detailz, AMSOIL, Superior Speed and more. A lot of people have contributed to Peters’ success over the years, but he has a moment that he’s the most proud of.
Of his proudest racing moment, he says that his Pro Series win at Beech Ridge this past August takes the cake. This has been his home track since his early childhood days, and that’s what made his win that much more special. “I’d been dreaming of winning a premier series race at Beech Ridge since I first sat in the stands. What meant the most to me that night was the line of drivers, teams and fans that formed on pit road when I pulled off to shake my hand and offer congratulations. Getting that kind of support from my peers and competitors was an incredible feeling,” he says, reliving that special moment from just one year ago. Peters hopes to continue his success this year, a season in which he’s driving in the Kulwicki Driver Developement Program (KDDP), a program set forther to honor the late Alan Kulwicki.
Peters interest in the KDDP sparked before the 2016 racing season began. He was chosen as a semi-finalist for the program, but wasn’t selected as one of the 7 finalists. He worked hard in 2016 to get some great finishes in hopes of becoming finalist once again. “Fortunately, we were selected as a finalist in 2017 and have had the honor of representing the Kulwicki name,” he says. All KDDP finalists compete to become the “Kulwicki Cup” champion, a championship that’s based off of on-track performance and off-track performance, with drivers becoming involved with their communities. Peters, with the help of Mainely Awards and Superior Speed, put together the “Kulwicki Kid” program. Peters will be selecting 7 kids per season to become a “Kulwicki Kid”, who will be awarded with free tickets to Beech Ridge and win some other cool prizes, like signed race helmets and free apparel. Peters strives to be a great role model for the kids, saying, “I really felt that we needed to do something to get kids interested in racing and so far, I think it’s worked out well.” In addition to looking up the late Alan Kulwicki, Peters has a list of other drivers that he draws influence from.
In terms of NASCAR drivers, Peters says that one of his biggest influences is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He likes Junior in particular because he feels that he has overcome a lot in life and has one of the “best personalities” of all of the drivers in the sport. “In my opinion, it’s just as important for drivers to be successful off the track as it is for them to be successful,” he says. He says that Dale Jr. is very relatable, making it easier for people to connect with him on a personal level. He says that Beech Ridge’s David Oliver was his favorite driver growing up. He has been a constant source of support for John throughout the years and even sold him his current race car. Racing has taken over John’s life for the past 16 years, but racing isn’t everything to him.
John currently attends SNHU for Business Administration and is focusing on not only racing, but a professional career. He’s taken a wide range of courses, including human resources, accounting and marketing. He takes school seriously and is an Honor’s student. “I’m also a member of the Honor’s program which has given me the opportunity to explore culture, human nature, the Enlightenment, and various works of art.” he says, adding that he’s already completed working on his minor in History and is working on a second minor in Economics. He says that he’s still unsure of what his future career will be, but he’s genuinely open to anything that life throws at him. “I think I’d be a good fit working in a management position for a race team, but I’m getting all kinds of different experiences and keeping my options as open as possible,” he says. John keeps himself super busy between racing and school, but he enjoys his downtime as well.
In addition to racing, John’s a big fan of golf. He played golf throughout high school and likes to get back on the course whenever he can. He’s a New England fan when it comes to baseball, football and hockey. But, football is where it gets a little bit hairy for the 20-year-old. He says that he “catches a lot of heat” for his preference of the New York Giants over the New England Patriots. “Sometimes it’s tough, but it worked out pretty well for me in 2008 and 2012,” he jokes.
Looking back on his racing career so far, John’s received a lot of advice from his fellow competitors. But, he has a special place in his heart for David Oliver and all that he’s learned from him over the years. “Aggressive when you have to be, but passive when it’s not worth it,” is the advice that Oliver gave him after a race at Star Speedway. John says that he “always thinks about it” every time he’s behind Oliver on the race track. David Oliver inspired John when he was just an aspiring driver, and John hopes to inspire the children that are in the Whiz Kidz division today.
As for John’s advice for the Whiz Kids that are aspiring to make it in racing one day? He says that it’s all about following your own destiny and making it happen for yourself. He encourages young drivers to be very hands-on and willing to learn, seeing that it will make them that much more prepared for the future. “Don’t rely on anyone else to pave the way for you…build your own path and along the way, surround yourself with the right people,” he says.
Surrounding himself with the right people has gotten him this far, and John Peters doesn’t feel like stopping anytime soon. He continues to work hard and improve, making a name for himself at Beech Ridge and standing out as a great candidate for the Kulwicki Cup with his on-track improvement and his constant involvement in the “Kulwicki Kid” program.
Join us in cheering on John Peters every Saturday at Beech Ridge (weather permitting!) during the summer months! Racing action always begins at 7:00 pm.
Catch John Peters on Social Media here: