In June of 2008, Harold Johnson, who owned a Super Late Model entry for his son Brandon, gave then-independent runner Preston Peltier a call to drive the family’s #26 in the PASS South Orange Blossom Special at Orange County Speedway (NC). Brandon Johnson had been deployed as a member of the U.S. Navy, so the cars sat in the shop until the elder Johnson partnered with Peltier.
That one-race deal turned into a full-time effort from 2008 to this point in 2011. A tie for the series-high six victories followed, as did the 2010 PASS South and PASS National championships.
Just as quickly as the ride in the 26 came about, Peltier may be without a ride as early as the final race of this season.
“There’s no bad blood between us, it’s just financially driven,” said Peltier of the potential of not having a ride for the remainder of this season. “It’s one of those deals where they are extremely low-budget and have been since the beginning. I am really amazed at what we’ve been able to do with what we’ve had. This year, we’ve spent a lot of money freshening things up, trying to get better. We even did a couple tests early this season to sort out a couple issues that we had from last year that we felt like we needed to work on. We accomplished that.
“The problem is we haven’t gotten the results that we should have. We’ve run good all year and got quite a few second-place finishes, but alternators, flat tires, spotter errors and lots of bad luck have plagued us.”
Peltier competed in PASS South’s most recent race as an independent runner, without the Johnson family.
“We have a shared interest in the car,” added Peltier. “All the motors are mine. When we started the deal, it was kind of a joint effort. Both of us put everything we had together. He (Johnson) loves to race and I want to race. I don’t want to be anywhere other than the racetrack if I can help it. I got some money to go to Ace and I asked permission to take the car because technically he does own the chassis. As far as all the components on it and the motor, that’s all my stuff. I maintain the stuff and I set it up, I nut and bolt it. It’s just one of those deals.”
Peltier has plans to compete in the next PASS South event at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), but beyond that to the season finale at Orange County and into 2012, no decision has been made.
“The plan is to go to Hickory. We have some (sponsorship) help there. It’s not much, but it’s enough to go attempt it anyways. Other than that, I’ve got nothing going. I had about three phone calls (to drive for other teams) prior to Ace, but it was so late in the going that I had already decided to go myself and pay for things myself. I used to be able to do that in the past, but it’s just too difficult these days to put myself in that position.”
Before teaming up with the Johnson team, Peltier had been an independent campaigner throughout the Southeast in his own #5 ride. Peltier, a full-time fabricator at Hendrick Motorsports, built, maintained and funded his own entries in the now defunct Big 10 Super Late Model series at Concord Speedway (NC), in the SLM division at the now-closed Southern National Speedway (NC) and also campaigned in PASS South and the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour.
When he paired with the Johnsons, it was an opportunity to merge two single-car efforts into one team.
“It blossomed into what it was,” said Peltier. “They had never won a PASS race and I had never won a PASS race before we partnered up. I had won at a bunch of other places before, but never in PASS. When we got together, it was a perfect combination. Championships, multiple wins; I felt pretty good about where we were headed.
“The problem was we were racing with a budget where if we don’t finish in the top three, we don’t have the funds for the next race. It was kind of like that last year, but it was even worse last year because we had to freshen up things before the year even started that cost us more money. The big blow was when we expected to run well at North Wilkesboro in 'THE RACE.' I never thought we’d go up there and not finish in the top five. We were capable of going anywhere in the country and running top-five. There’s no doubt in my mind about it. Going into 'THE RACE,' I had high expectations and so did they. When we had issues there, we didn’t give up and I ran the whole race, but looking back on it, it cost us more money by doing that.”
Peltier is hoping that whether it be with the Johnsons or with another team, he has a secure position to add to his career win total down the road.
“I haven’t really talked to the Johnsons yet about what they want to do in the future. It’s definitely a little more comforting to have some security to know that you’re going to go to the next race even if you wad the thing up. I definitely want the security. There’s some opportunities out there where we could put something together to take it even further than it is already.
“In past years, one of my strong suits has been to be able to save people money. I see the money that people are spending right now and it’s unbelievable. I can’t understand how they can spend that kind of money and still keep racing. If I had an opportunity to run with a team that could afford a little more than what we’re running, then who knows what we could do? It might be a night and day difference. I see Kyle Busch win all over the place all the time, but he’s in a car constantly every weekend. Multiple cars, multiple times a week, he’s running a lap somewhere in something. Someone like me doesn’t have that opportunity. We show up on race day and practice maybe 25 laps at the most. What we’ve got is what we’ve got. If I had the opportunity to go test and develop stuff, who knows what it could turn into?”