Tuesday, May 12, 2020

FEATURE: Darwin "JR" Peters, Jr. a throwback to NASCAR's mechanics-turned-racers

PHOTO: Big Monte Media
The Truck Series has long been a haven for underdog drivers and teams, giving them the opportunity to compete in national competition. This is particularly true at the Eldora Dirt Derby, which in its inaugural running in 2013 saw veteran Norm Benning turn heads with a door-slamming battle for the final transfer position in the Last Chance Qualifier.

Another dirt tracker turned heads at Eldora just last year. Darwin Peters, Jr., who goes by “JR Peters,” is a mechanic from Olean, New York who was born November 7, 1964. He works at his own garage, Jr Peters Roadside Auto, and also drives school buses for the Allegany-Limestone School District. Now 56, Peters has spent nearly four decades of his life in the automotive industry.

A lifelong NASCAR fan, Peters has also worked hard to advance his racing career. He fielded his own street stock in 1995, decorating it similar to Terry Labonte’s iconic Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Chevrolet. In ten years on the ovals, he won several races and championships, then moved to late models, first in the Bicknell Racing Products Can Am Late Model Series, the FasTrak Late Model Series, and the Rush Dirt Late Model Series.

Peters got his break in 2012, when a mutual friend introduced him to Mike Harmon. Working for an underdog in the sport allowed him to work various roles for Mike Harmon Racing (MHR), including jack man, tire changer, and gas man. Though he could only work a few XFINITY and Truck Series races each year, he picked up valuable skills while also turning his mechanical know-how toward helping Harmon’s underfunded effort. In 2018, when Peters moved to Carl Long’s team Motorsports Business Management (MBM), Peters earned his NASCAR license to compete in the Gander RV & Outdoors Series.

Peters and his #5 street stock celebrating a win at Bradford Speedway.
PHOTO: Big Monte Media
In 2019, Peters sold his late model to help fund a ride in Mike Harmon’s truck for the 2019 race at Eldora. The truck was purchased by former MHR crewman Alan Collins, and the team leased the #74 from Lou Goss, who made his own series debut earlier that year at Gateway. Harmon helped support the team’s efforts at Eldora, where the black-and-white #74 carried several logos. Peters’ own garage occupied the hood and TV panel, with the sides sponsored by Angelo’s Southern Tier Spray Foam, Peters Graphics & Design, Big Monte Media, Barkz Play / Stay / Spa, Bucktooth's Asphalt Sealcoating & Striping, and Auto Plus Auto Parts. Peters' truck also carried the names of twelve individual supporters and a special message in memory of fallen racer John Morgan Rogers.

Peters lost a lap in his heat race, but recovered in the Last Chance Qualifier to finish 5th of seven trucks, securing him 30th on the grid for the main event. In a race slowed by 12 cautions, but with only last-place Austin Hill out of the race, Peters managed to avoid much of the night’s chaos and earn a strong 17th-place finish. He also came home on the lead lap, having earned two of the final four Lucky Dogs. It was a tremendous accomplishment, but Peters couldn’t bask in it for long. He drove through the night to reach Watkins Glen by morning, back at work on MBM’s XFINITY Series cars.

Peters offered his thanks to all who helped him on his path, “especially [my] loving wife, Sandy, daughters Alexis and Lily, [my] parents, all [my] friends and supporters, Allegany-Limestone School District, Big Monte Media, Barkz Play / Stay / Spa, Bucktooth's Asphalt Sealcoating & Striping, Auto Plus Auto Parts, and all those who helped in making [my] NASCAR dream a reality.”

Peters remains hard at work in 2020, both in his garage, at the school, and with MBM. As of this writing, plans for future NASCAR starts are still in the works. For more on Jr Peters Roadside Auto, check out his website here.

Special thanks to Big Monte Media for providing the write-up and photos used in this article.

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