By DEAN REYNOLDS
OSWEGO, NY – “It’s probably going to be hard to sleep tonight after that one,” dead-panned Peter Britten who lead most of the Billy Whittaker’s Cars and Trux 200 at the Oswego Speedway on Sunday. He led until lap 199 when Matt Sheppard slipped by to take the lead and the $50,000 triumph.
For Britten, this would have been utopia, the pinnacle of a still budding career as well as a classic underdog story with that fairy-tale ending. For over an hour his Graham Racing, Troyer built #21 was the class of the 41 car field and looked to be the talk of the dirt Modified world. That was until lap 199.
“I guess you can say this is what is good about dirt racing. You just never know what will happen. But what happened is just heartbreaking not only for me but for the whole team,” as Peter took a breath and went on, “I think we were the best car and best team today but that’s what makes Matt (Sheppard) so good. He used some late race strategy and got us at the end. What can you say but congratulations to him.”
For Britten, after a lap 85 pit-stop and mired in the back of a full field in what looked to be a locked down, hug the inside track it was to be a tall order to get back to the front.
“When you are back there you sometimes give a different lane a try so I went up around the outside and it just stuck,” he said about the surprise change in the track, “I’ll be honest, it surprised me. I had a good car but we all were just down low and I thought that’s all the track had. I just gave it a shot and we passed a bunch of cars.”
A bunch of cars was an understatement. His charge from the back picking off multiple cars per lap and names like Friesen and Wight who are known for their outside charges. By lap 100 he was already in the top ten. And just five laps later he was in the lead! The huge crowd was watching every move with approval.
As the laps clicked on no one had anything for the native Australian.
“When I was out front by myself the car was just perfect I could keep the momentum up and had no issues keeping the lead,” summed up Britten.
In the late stages Britten held strong. His competition however had an advantage as several yellows and even a red flag was displayed during this time. Many had a chance to pit and put on fresher tires. Sheppard was one of those that did just that on lap 150.
“I knew some were pitting and getting new tires but my car was just so good and I didn’t want to lose any track position,” he went on. “Even though we used the outside and raced to the front I didn’t think we abused the tires.”
Sheppard was seen making the very same charge to the front that Britten did and when there was just 20 laps to go he passed Danny Johnson for fourth, then Stewart Friesen on lap 188. This set up what would be a three car battle for the lead that will talked about for years to come.
“It got crazy there in the last few laps. They were telling me on the radio that both Matt and Larry was closing in but I also had a lap car in front of me,” Britten cited. “I had a car to get around a lap car if it he was holding his lane but he was just all over the track and I just lost the momentum.”
Wight first made his move to the front with three to go but Britten got him back and then Sheppard got Wight and it was a battle to the checkered.
“I just went down low protecting and then there was Matt going around the outside,” he noted on what was the winning pass. “I didn’t give him much room but he just made a real good pass. I just didn’t have enough tires to make a run at him back though.
“I’m not going to lie, this is tough. I just felt like we were the best today and to lose it like that is going to hurt for a while,” Britten went on. “We have more races in us though, I feel like I can be just as good if not better than the top teams and I think today they saw what we have,” he quipped.
“This Troyer car is awesome. It’s not anything like the Bicknell’s or the Teo’s. We have a real good car here and I think Billy (Colton) is going to be busy,” Britten talked about the Syracuse effort. “This whole deal shows you what we all have. I can’t thank the Graham family enough, Kevin Enders, everyone. I’m real proud to say that we did it with some pieces that many were writing off.”
“Troyer has one damn good car and Kevin does a great engine and I am happy to help them out a bit. I guess I have always been like that, I really don’t follow what everyone else does and I guess that’s good sometimes.”
While Britten admitted that sleep will be lacking on Sunday night after the second ever 200 Classic at Oswego, he is ready to tackle the future. “Yea, Monday will probably be tough but we will be ready this coming weekend and the one after that,” and just what a true professional says, “We will be there to win.”