TALLADEGA — He’s an outlier in the playoffs, and not even a full-time driver.
But with a fortunate phone call, a bold front bumper and miles of experience, Timothy Peters concluded a sentimental journey with a checkered flag in Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 250.
Peters muscled aside Noah Gragson on the final lap to collect his third Camping World Truck Series victory at Talladega Superspeedway in what will be his final race of the season. Peters, 38, had raced only three times this season on the series but recently was offered the keys for the No. 25 GMS Racing Chevrolet by team president Mike Beam.
This was a cutoff race in the series playoffs, with only six drivers advancing to the next tier with eligibility for the season championship. Moving on are Justin Haley and Grant Enfinger, who had assured their advancement with wins in the previous two races, as well as Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Matt Crafton and Gragson.
Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen, who came in seventh and eighth, respectively, failed to make the Round of 6, Rhodes by a mere three points, Friesen by five.
It was an emotional Peters who pulled into Victory Lane, whose journey there began with the phone call from Beam and a trip to Canada to join the team — but not before having to scramble to obtain a passport in Atlanta before making the trip.
“At the end of the day, you don’t know when your next shot’s going to come,” he said. “It’s a tough business. Coming here, and I have a decent track record here and knowing GMS has been strong on the superspeedways, to cross the start-finish line, it doesn’t get any more emotional than that for me.”
It could be fairly suggested that Peters applied too much muscle in nudging Gregson into an abrupt spin, the last of a half-dozen significant accidents.
“Everybody’s wanting to win, everybody wants to block,” Peters said, “and at the end of the day I was going for it.”
He added, “Man, I love this place.”
The feeling is not universal. Groaned Moffitt, “It reaffirms my dislike for speedway racing. It always ends in a wreck for me here. And I was in about five of them.”
One of the wrecks was the proverbial Big One, with 10 trucks involved on a lap 59 (of 94) mishap when Chris Fontaine turned left at an inopportune moment while running in second place.
Two other incidents served noticed that Enfinger, the Fairhope native, will likely not be in attendance at the Gilliland family Thanksgiving dinner. First, 18-year-old Todd Gilliland bumpdrafted Enfinger into a near-spin. Enfinger, whether recovering his equilibrium or bumping back, caught Gilliland’s car in the side and send him into a wild spin and violent crash. Moments later, father David Gilliland, the pole-sitter, wrecked Enfinger as they ran in a big pack of traffic.
Crafton was already in the garage area, a victim of the Big One crash, when the late carnage was taking place — and keeping his fingers crossed the points would still fall favorably his way.
“Everybody was running over each other, pushing and beating and bumping throughout the corners,” Crafton said, “and it’s just Talladega. That’s the nature of the beast here.”