2011 Ride: No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota
2011 Primary Sponsors: K&N Filters, Crescent Tools, Gear Wrench, NTB, Big O Tires, Service Central, Tire King
2011 Owner: Tom DeLoach
2011 Crew Chief: Butch Hylton
2011 Truck Series Stats: 25 starts, 1 win, 7 top fives, 12 top 10s, 1 pole, 2 DNFs, fifth in points
High Point: If you were to ask Peters, he would say, “winning at Lucas Oil Raceway was definitely one of the highlights of our season…” And who could blame him? In the 17th and final (for now) race at the 0.686-mile track, Peters led just six laps en route to his first victory at LOR.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story of how that day went. It was one of those days where if something could go wrong for Peters, it did. After starting 16th, the farthest back of any race winner at the track, he struggled with a tight truck in the early stages and struggled to work his way into the top 10. Then, after choosing to not stop with the rest of the field under the second round of pit stops, Peters suffered a tire that went down and spun on lap 90. Once again deep in the field, he needed a long green-flag run to work the No. 17 Toyota back into contention.
Passing trucks at the short track isn’t easy, yet without the help of yellows Peters slowly transformed into someone capable of disposing traffic while tracking down the top contenders in front. Having worked on the truck the whole race, Peters clicked off faster lap times than the leaders down the stretch and got to the point to finish 2.645 seconds ahead of James Buescher, who had led 97 of the 200 laps that day.
Low Point: One word: Dover. After starting 24th, Peters already had his work cut out for him in working through the field. The team had struggled with the setup on the truck for much of the weekend, and the early stages of the race proved they still hadn’t quite gotten it right. Lap after lap clicked by with Peters unable to make passes on track.
By the fourth caution, crew chief Butch Hylton chose to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the No. 17. But while there was some improvement, the driver of the No. 17 still struggled with the handling.
It took track position gained by a round of green-flag pit stops, a lucky break that kept him out of sequence with the leaders for Peters to end up inside the top 10. For a brief moment, it looked like a tough day would be averted. But on the final lap of the race, Peters ended up in a three-wide battle that made his truck aero loose and sent him spinning hard into the outside wall with terminal damage. From there, that hopeful top-10 run turned into a 17th-place DNF, one lap shy of going the full distance.
Summary: Overall, the 2011 season was as good as can be expected for a team that’s forced to piece together what little sponsorship they’re able to find. Peters did have a good run about midseason when he had five consecutive top-10 finishes, including the victory at LOR, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome eight other performances outside the top 15.
While it wasn’t the championship season Peters and crew chief Butch Hylton had hoped for, it wasn’t all bad either. In fact, the average finish of 11.2 that was posted was the best for Peters since joining the series in 2005. And how many drivers can say they were able to finish inside the top five in points in any NASCAR series without having full sponsorship lined up for the season?
Team Ranking: First of two. With freshman Miguel Paludo running a second truck, RHR came out of the gate at Daytona with high hopes for an impressive season. But while Paludo made a great run for Rookie of the Year, it was Peters who stole the headlines for the organization. Between the emotional win at LOR after struggling all day and the points battle that saw him just 25 points behind the leader with a handful of races remaining, it’s easy to see why Peters takes the top spot on his team for 2011.
2012 Outlook: RHR and Peters have been tight-lipped about their future together, but the team has confirmed they’ve locked down sponsorship for 10 races next season. Despite missing out on their championship opportunity, there’s no reason to expect the promising talent won’t be behind the wheel of the No. 17 come Daytona. As with most of the teams across the series, they’ll likely piece together sponsorship for another full-time run at the title. However, there has been no word on whether RHR will run a second team next year.
2011 Frontstretch Grade: B
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