BRITIAN PROVES OLD GUYS CAN GET IT DONE TOO by Bob Dillner
New Jersey Speedster Beats Beers at Chemung ROC Event
In a day when so much emphasis is placed on the youth in our sport, Pete Britian has stood up from the crowd as if to say, ‘Hey, don’t forget about us older drivers, too.’ Britian proved old guys can get it done, too, as he pulled into victory lane Saturday night at Chemung Speedrome in the Race of Champions Trail Modified show.
“Hey, I’m not that old,” said Britian, with a smile after the race.
Pete Britian might not be old, but this "old school" jacket worn by his father tells a litle different story.
Britian may not be old in terms of life expectancy, but there can be a parallel made between the comparison of driver-years and dog-years. The fact of the matter is, the New Jersey speedster turns 53 on Tuesday, and there are not many 50-something drivers kicking the young guys tail ends on the racing scene these days.
Britian is certainly a rare bread. He’s been racing for more than 25 years and is a veteran of the Jersey wars at places such as Wall Stadium and even New Egypt Speedway, when it was an asphalt quarter-mile track. Now he’s taken to the Race of Champions Modified circuit, which encompasses some of his beloved New Jersey, but it also ventures into Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. Last year he was victorious on three occasions on the highly-competitive RoC scene, but this win marked his first appearance in victory lane on the Tour this year.
“This is our first win this year, but we’ve been working really hard all year,” explained Britian. “We had a rough start to the beginning of the year, but it is turning around. We had a real good run last week at Oswego (finished third), and now it seems like the team is really pulling together.
“We have two other wins this season (in other events), but this is great. This is the first Tour race I’ve ever won at Chemung, and this place has a lot of history. I’ve been here since the first day it reopened. We’ve won a lot of races here, but never a Tour race (RoC), so this means a lot to me.”
Britian had to hold off another birthday boy this week in the late-going of the 75-lap event. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular Eric Beers turns 37 on Thursday, but he could only play second-fiddle to the 50-something Britian at Chemung.
Eric Beers said that it was the best he'd seen Britian (#99) run in quite some time.
“I’ll tell you what, that’s probably the best I’ve seen Pete run in a while,” said Beers, who was wheeling his own #9 machine. “Him and Terry (Zacharias – car keeper) have that car going pretty good. They were strong, but if it were a hundred-lap race, who knows what would have happened. Heck…two, three more laps, who knows?”
And yet, Beers may not have run as well as he did at Chemung were it not for another seasoned veteran of the Modified wars. Beers’ machine was just ‘ok’ in his heat race, so he solicited the aid of one of the toughest Modified campaigners of all-time, another 50-plus driver, George “The Duke” Kent. (Kent was driving an SST Modified at Chemung.)
“George gave us a great deal (setup) to make the thing cut, and I should have compensated for the bite, because I needed a little bit more,” stated Beers. “At the end we went hard and, wow, I got it out of the groove there in turn four and I had a handful of wheel. I just can’t believe nobody ran over us; I was completely sideways. I just let go of the wheel and the car straightened itself out. This car can drive itself sometimes.”
And speaking of sideways, Earl Paules put on a show for the ages at Chemung. It was a show that was interesting to watch if you were a fan, but frustrating if you were one of Paules’ competitors.
Paules had problems in heat race action and started in the rear of the field after putting his beautiful #8 Modified back together. In the 75-lap race, Paules was anything but methodical. His rampage through the field was exciting to watch from the mere standpoint that his car resembled that of a B-52 bomber diving through traffic.
Earl Paules (#8) put on a great ride in his run from the back to the front, but it didn't come without controversy.
“We had a left-front caliber come loose in the heat race, and that sent us into the fence,” said Paules. “We put the car back together and came through the field. We came from the back, and we were pretty much the only car that was doing any passing.”
Paules put plenty of slide-jobs on his competitors throughout the race, especially in Chemung’s tricky fourth corner, yet he could not get to Britian. Paules was challenging for second with Britian’s teammate Tony Hanbury and that’s when Paules got mad.
“We came up to the 71-car, and he is a teammate to the 99 (Britian). If you can’t get by that guy right away, you’re not going to do it,” explained Paules, who
finished sixth after getting into it with Hanbury (finished third). “I tried twice to get by him and he almost wrecked me twice. If that’s the way they are going to win races, so be it.
“It gets you real mad when you race so hard and guys don’t race you clean. People in the stands and the people in the pits know who would have won that race if we would have gotten by the 71.”
Yet there are always two sides to every story. Hanbury, although not very vocal about the incident, did not feel he had slighted Paules. On the other hand, a few other competitors felt Hanbury got what he deserved.
“Some of his moves were just retarded, really,” said Matt Hirschman, who finished fourth. “There’s a limit to how hard you can drive a car and he went way over the edge there. Luckily, I don’t think anybody got taken out, but it was close a couple times. You just kind of shake your head at some of the moves.”
Hanbury’s third-place finish, coupled with his win in the night’s SST Modified feature and Britian’s victory in the RoC race, gave the evening a storybook ending for the Zacharias prepared team.
“That’s all these guys (Zacharias’) do is live and breathe racing. Every day of the week they have my cars and Hanbury’s cars and they do a great job. I wouldn’t be able to race without them.
“Tony was right behind me almost the whole race. Eric was there at the end and he was coming, but they are all professional racecar drivers. They may not be Winston Cup status, but they are all really good racecar drivers.”
And so is Pete Britian, even if he is 53 years old – wink, wink, nudge, nudge.