Chili Bowl Produces Tough Battle for Justin Peck
By Jessica Jenkins
Returning to the River Spirit Expo Center one year after the best Chili Bowl run of his career, Justin Peck had high expectations for what he could achieve. The thrill of making Saturday's A Main in 2017 fueled the fire to repeat the performance, this time with a new car and team. After driving his family's #5x in his first three starts, Peck rolled into Tulsa for the first time with the Kenny and Reva Irwin owned #7k that he raced throughout last season.
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After a couple strong Monday practice sessions, Tuesday began well for his preliminary night when Peck started and finished third in the seventh heat race. Having earned enough passing points, he went straight to the Qualifiers where a ninth place starting spot turned into a stellar run all the way up to third. Placing himself solidly into the A, the 19 year old easily claimed a spot in the front of the A Feature. Firing off from sixth place he charged hard and stayed within sight of the transfer spot before the handling fell off halfway through the 25 lap race. He began falling back and took the checkered flag in tenth. That left him six positions out of transferring straight into Saturday's A Main, but clinging to a spot in the B Main to keep his streak alive of never starting lower than a B on the biggest national midget race day of the year.
Once Saturday evening finally arrived and pre-race festivities wound down, the green flag waved on the second B Feature with him in thirteenth. Being stuck towards the back and with minimal yellows the laps clicked off quickly on the narrow grooved quarter mile. Unable to get things going the right direction, he wound up eighteenth while his family watched from the stands.
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Frustrated but still trying to stay positive, the Monrovia, IN racer shared, "I felt like we learned a lot as far as set up and the race craft behind this race. Personally, I learned a few different ways to pass around this racetrack. From a team standpoint we definitely learned a lot, [like] how to tighten this lightweight car up when we come here. So next time we come back, we should start off a little stronger. Starting off a little hotter in that prelim night, honestly, I think is the way to go. We were good the first half of the race Tuesday and just fell off the last half and it killed us big time. Terrible starting spot for that B Main and, from my opinion, that's really what turned that race backwards for us. I just take it with a grain of salt. I know you know you can't win every race, but you sure try your best to win every one of them, so that's what we are doing. [The] Chili Bowl didn't want to let me have anything this year. In years past, I felt like some things kind of fell into my lap a little bit. But this year it seemed like I get into a tough heat and it goes green to checkered; I get into the B main, it goes green to checkered. Just didn't catch some breaks that I needed, but that's racing and we'll move onto the next one."
Peck returns with the Irwin's in March at DuQuoin for the USAC season opener before splitting his time with midget and sprint car racing the rest of the year. DuraCoat, Axalta, Simpson, Lucas Oil and Factory Kahne Shocks are the companies that make it possible for this rising, driven young star to pursue his dream. Find out more about him at JustinPeckRacing.com or follow what he is up to via his Justin Peck Racing Facebook page or Twitter @Justin_Peck5.