RPW Column: Peter Britten’s Charge To The Eastern States 358-Mod Championship Was Simply, In A Word, Awesome

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Peter Britten ran probably the smartest race of his career Saturday night at Orange County Fair Speedway, and was ultimately rewarded with a $10,000 first place check and the title of Eastern States 358-Modified Champion.

However, it will be the final lap that has everyone talking for years to come.

Britten drove to the lead for the first 82 laps and was making very calculated moves in lap traffic.  Unfortunately, one tiny slip-up trying to get around the slower car of Chris Stevens ended up costing him.

Britten tried moving the lap car and Matt Sheppard went by him for the top spot and looked like he was on his way to score the win.

Then, Marc Johnson went around the 21A, again, in lap traffic, with just five laps remaining, putting the Australian driver back to third.

Did he panic?  Not one bit.

Britten kept his cool, stayed right with the two leaders and wait until he saw an opening.

That came on lap 98.  In lap traffic, he drove to the bottom of Johnson off of turn two and regained the second position.

Britten wasn’t done, however.  He looked up and saw the leader Sheppard having to deal with the lap cars of Charlie Loidice and Craig Mitchell on the bottom.  Sheppard slipped up, and this was the opening Peter needed.

For all in attendance, this is when the race truly began.  As the white flag flew, Britten was out in front, but the driver of the 9s was not giving up.  He worked to the outside as the two drag raced down the backstretch with the 3J of Johnson in tow.

As all three went into turn three, Britten hugged the bottom, bounced his car off the inside jersey barrier while Sheppard went to the cushion and at the line, Peter Britten scored the crown jewel victory and the big payday that went along with it.

“Holy @#$)(, huh,” Britten said.  “This is unbelievable.  It’s going to take some time to sink in probably.”

Britten had the car to beat early on and really showed just how strong it was with as many laps as he spent out front.  What began going through his mind once he lost the lead, though?

“At one point there, I was like, alright, well, you held off Sheppard seventy odd laps,” he said.  “I guess you’ll be okay with that.  Then, I slipped back to third there, messing with lap cars and I was cursing myself for it.”

That was the point that changed the race for Britten.  His focus shifted and the calculating driver known as Batman reemerged.

“I, at least, wanted to try and finish behind Sheppard,” he said.  “I then just tried to put myself in position.”

Saturday night was a tail of two races for Britten…one as the leader and the other as the chaser.

“It’s hard when you’re leading to really know what to do,” he said.  “For a while, we could blow the top and get by lap cars off of (turn) two.  Obviously, as the race went on, that got harder and harder but we had a little bit of luck.”

Once he saw his chance as the laps wound down, Britten attacked and on Saturday night, he came out on top.

“Right place at the right time,” he said.  “I’ve had plenty of these that have gone against me so it’s about damn time I got one to go for us.”

What was going through Britten’s mind on that final lap as he was door-to-door with Sheppard?

“I was amazed I was even in that position to be honest,” he said.  “It’s hard.  To get the good run out of four you need to be right up against that inside tire. Sometimes, it’s just faster to run over the thing but then it pushed me up, and I shoved and I could see CG (Morey) there and I said to myself don’t lose this now.  You’ve got it.”

Britten and his team made it a point in 2022 to improve their performance for the Orange County Fair Speedway.  They’ve shown just how much that hard work has paid off during the 61st edition of Eastern States.

“Last year, we struggled a lot here,” he said.  “We went to work this year trying to get better.  This has been a lot of hard work by everybody on the crew and they’ve all been working their tails off trying to make this thing as good as we possibly can.  That’s what it takes to beat guys like Sheppard and Marc (Johnson).”

Britten was very excited after the race but grateful for the team he has behind him.

“I have to thank Steve Hough Motorsports, Tommy Faxon Excavation, Checkered Flag Fabrication,” he said.  “We’ve got a hell of a race car and team here.”

He also thought about those very close to him and the smile got even bigger.

“Hopefully, Mum and Kevin (Peter’s brother) are watching at home,” he said.  “My old man’s looking down on us right now and I think he’d be proud of this one for sure.”

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