Justin Peck Caps USAC Season with Fast Car in DuQuoin
By Jessica Jenkins
At the tail end of a season bouncing back and forth between sprint cars and midgets, Justin Peck arrived at Du Quoin's Southern Illinois Center for USAC's midget finale. Riding momentum from a couple recent strong performances in the Kenny and Reva Irwin-owned #7k, the 19 year old looked to take home the big prize.
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Taking to the one-sixth mile with an eighth-place start for the third heat, Peck's evening came to a brief halt when a stack-up ahead of him brought the race to an immediate yellow in turn one. Bending the front axle up a bit, the Monrovia, IN racer wasn't going to let it slow him down and began passing cars. As the quick ten-lap heat came to a close, Peck discovered the high groove and used the last lap to pick off two more competitors for a net gain of four positions. That strong run sent him to a third place start in the second Qualifier. He battled early for the runner-up spot and endured several fierce challenges that left him fighting for fifth place all the way to the line. Once passing points were tallied, Peck was placed on the inside of row two for the first B Main. He clung tenaciously to third and easily raced his way into the Feature with his sleek black ride.
The green flag flew in the third annual Junior Knepper 55 with Peck firing off in seventeenth. This time when a pileup into the first corner occurred, he was able to sneak by and had climbed into the top ten by lap five. He hung onto the top ten until disaster struck just past halfway when he was forced to a stop after a wreck blocked the track. Quickly gaining positions back and with the fast pace putting the leader hot on his heels, the 2016 high school graduate kept himself on the lead lap as he closed back on the top fifteen. However, as the final five circuits came into sight, a sour note in the motor sent the young driver into the infield and an eighteenth place result.
Having fought through and overcome a lot all evening, Peck's tune was still positive afterwards, despite the disappointing finish. "Overall we had to overcome a lot of adversity, I felt like. We tried some new stuff here that we haven't tried on the midget before and it just didn't seem to work like we thought it was going to. Derek LeMaster and Knepper gave us an awesome track. All in all it was a good night. I felt like I had a top 5 car; I was really happy that I'd finally cracked the top 10 again and then the motor gave out. Frustrating, but we'll take it and move on to Chili Bowl. Kenny and Reva Irwin always give me a great piece to run and Kenny's pretty handy on the wrenches as well." Peck also made sure to thank his sponsors DuraCoat, Axalta, Simpson, Lucas Oil, Factory Kahne Shocks as well as his dad, Jimmy, Rich, Travis and "everybody that had a helping hand on this car. They definitely tuned it in the right way because if I'd be doing this by myself, we wouldn't be having these good results. There's a lot of people to thank and a lot of great people I am surrounded by."
While his next appearance in the Irwin's #7k is the Chili Bowl in January, Peck and his family have their sights set on the Rumble in Fort Wayne December 29-30 as he looks to return to his success in 2013-2014 at the indoor pavement event with Steve Clay's 5x. Keep up with everything this quick racer is doing at JustinPeckRacing.com, on Twitter @Justin_Peck5 and on Facebook @JustinPeckRacing.