Throwback Thursday: Timothy Peters and Chad Kendrick “Joined the Club” at Martinsville in 2009
Eight years ago, two diehard late model racers walked into Martinsville Speedway as two unknown commodities in the national ranks of NASCAR. At the end of 200 laps on a sunny Saturday autumn afternoon, they walked out as winners and solidified themselves in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
One individual was an understated, but fierce, driver from Virginia named Timothy Peters. The other – his crew chief, and former on-track rival, Chad Kendrick. In 2009, the duo came to Red Horse Racing midway through the season, and were both looking to grab a foothold in the series. On October 24, 2009 at Martinsville Speedway, they created a springboard for long careers in the NCWTS by winning their first-career race together at Peters’ home track.
“We had a lot of stuff up against us in ’09. Then when we came here (to RHR), it was like if and when (the win) was going to happen,” Peters said. “We just kept building momentum through the year. We came off of a top-five run at Vegas and had two weeks off. We said that whole two weeks we were going in there to win, and it worked out. Did it make you feel a part of a club with other guys? Yeah, it did. When you have (Ron) Hornaday, (Mike) Skinner, and (Todd) Bodine congratulating you, it’s like you’ve become part of that club. That was a good feeling.”
Peters and Kendrick joined forces in 2005 at Bobby Hamilton Racing and moved to Premier Racing in 2008. It was at Premier that Peters not only began running the number 17, but Kendrick took the reins as a crew chief in the NCWTS.
Short-staffed and with limited resources, Peters and Kendrick worked out of the team owner’s two-car home garage in Virginia. While the team ran a partial schedule on a shoestring budget, they were able to make quite an impression. In the first two events of 2009 at Daytona International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway, Peters finished in the top 10, and broke the stranglehold that the top-tier teams had in the series. Those results, and four previous top-10 finishes, gave the rest of the NASCAR world a glimpse at the potential Peters had in the driver’s seat. After eight races, Peters and Kendrick were 19th in the standings, but had caught the eye of Red Horse Racing team owner Tom DeLoach and were both invited to join the team, established in 2005.
“Just a year prior to this at that race, we were running top-five and ran out of fuel with less than 10 to go, and we didn’t know if we’d ever race again,” Kendrick said. “It was definitely emotional in that aspect, to get your first win there. He didn’t know if he’d be racing, and I didn’t know if I’d be crew chiefing. It was one of those big days.”
Each week at Red Horse Racing, Peters and Kendrick were a force in the top-10 and had been knocking on the door to break through. However, they would have to come from 11th that afternoon at Martinsville Speedway on a recently repaved surface where track position was challenging to overcome.
“I probably had him a little too free and we qualified 11th,” Kendrick said. “Back then, the tire they had would put down rubber, but it would hold up pretty good. The times would stay (consistent). You could play the game of who would pit first and take the chance, almost like a road course, running it backwards.”
The duo played the strategy game to perfection, and took the lead to pace the final 84 laps. It also took near perfection behind the wheel by Peters who had to execute flawless restarts and hold the field at bay.
“We qualified 11th and I thought we were done”, Peters said. “But it all worked out. We passed trucks. We had things go our way and had good pit stops. There at the end we put ourselves in position.”
After joining RHR at Michigan International Speedway mid-year, they had posted consistent results, but parlaying that performance into a trophy solidified their place in the sport. It also provided a sense of validation for Peters.
“(I remember) Just the joy of not knowing if you’re going to win in this deal, and winning and doing it at home,” Peters said. “It was like the weight of the world was off your shoulders. It was good to have the feeling of knowing what it was like to be in victory lane.”
Since that October day in ’09, Peters has gone on to capture nine more NCWTS victories, including wins at Bristol, Daytona, and Talladega. In the same fashion, Kendrick took two other drivers to victory lane at Red Horse Racing in 2012, and has won NCWTS races with four other drivers. It’s an unusual scenario for a driver and crew chief to be rejoined eight years down the road, but the pair of former late model racers are primed for a run at the 2017 championship, and eager to rekindle their past success at the most storied track on the NCWTS circuit this weekend.