January 3, 2016
One of the County’s Most Successful Snowmobile Racers Part 1
It is said that you cannot tell a book by it’s cover. This lead story is such an example.
For years as an agriculture instructor at Caribou Tech Center I had interaction with Tom Peters never for one moment knowing that he was one of the most successful snowmobile racers in Northern Maine in the late 1960’s early 1970’s.
When I interviewed Rob and Leo Kieffer last year they asked me if I knew Tom Peters? I said I did and was floored to find out about his reputation as a racer. I needed to interview him at some point in the future.
I recently sat down with Tom at his home in Presque Isle after he showed me his restored Ski Doo racing sled. When I saw the documentation that went with his stories I knew that this story would need a couple episodes to cover his racing exploits.
Tom Peters was born in Stockholm, Maine the son of William and Rose Peters. He was one of four children.
His life took a sudden and tragic turn when his father died in a logging accident November 2, 1950. He was crushed by a log and died on the scene.
Peters went to the Stockholm schools until he was a Junior. Stockholm had two schools, one for the young students and the other for the older kids.
He attended Caribou High School his junior and senior years which in those days was no easy task since he had to hitch a ride to Caribou daily since transportation was not provided.
After graduating with the Class of 1962, his first job was driving the State of Maine Bookmobile until October of 1963 when the lure of the big city and better paying jobs snagged him.
Peters moved to West Warwick, Rhode Island to work in a welding shop. Since he had no formal welding training he developed his skills on the job. These welding skills would prove valuable as he moved onward along his career pathway.
He married a Caribou girl, Diane Conant, December 28, 1963. (They recently celebrated their 52nd anniversary last month) The young married couple moved back to Rhode Island but were never really satisfied with life in the big city.
Peters asked his new bride in July of 1964 if she wanted to go home. She thought at first he meant to visit, however, he said to go home and stay there.
With no job lined up after leaving Rhode Island, Peters quickly got a job working for Wilbur Nedeau in Caribou while staying at Diane’s mom and dad’s house. In August of 1964 he took a part-time job at Welding Supply in Presque Isle.
After 15 plus years at Welding Supply he took a management job with Gould and Smith when they bought Arc-Tic Welding. As the manager of the newly named Northstar Welding he stayed with the company through two more acquisitions until he retired from Advantage Gas and Tools. He worked part time after that for Tractor Supply and now Clukey Auto Parts in Caribou.
It is important to know this according to Peters because when he began racing in 1967 he had a great deal of upper body strength from wrestling gas cylinders in and out of his truck.
He believes this physical conditioning gave him an edge in several of the races he entered. You might say he recognized the importance of being in good pysical shape before it was hip.
As a youngster Peters said, “I always liked speed. Before I started racing I read about horse racing, Grand Prix racing, and LeMans. I always kind of followed that stuff. I never got involved in it but it was always interesting racing.”
” Snowmobiles were becoming a part of our way of life up here. I just got on them, felt comfortable on them, and decided that if they were racing them I could be part of that.”
The path to racing began when he became the owner of a 1963 Polaris L55 in 1967. The L55 was by no means a racing sled but it did help him develop a love for being outdoors on the crisp snow even though the L55 would not go through any sort of deep snow.
Peters acquired a 1968 Ski Doo 370 Twin Super Olympic and entered his first organized race at the Mapleton School. He still has the third place trophy from that race which was organized by the Mapleton Lions Club. Up until then he raced other sledders in the fields, lakes and the Caribou Airport.
“In 1969 I raced the twin opposed sled again at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds,” said Peters. “That’s where I ran into Kieffer & Plourde.”
“Lionel Plourde asked me to run the 600 machine of theirs. I told him that I couldn’t drive that sled because I had never driven anything that big.”
“He said, “You can drive it!’
“I don’t remember where I finished with it but I placed anyway with it.”
“Lionel said,’I told you that you could drive that sled'”.
“I drove it again that same year at the races in Caribou at the airport. I finished third in the cross country race. My wife and I placed second in the couples race.
“I don’t think Ronnie (Thibodeau) and I had any kind of rivalry going on at the time. We both married sisters.”
“Later on after I bought my first BlizzardI think it became a rivalry because I used to run my 640 in the 800 class and beat him a few times with it. That created a friendly rivalry.”
“I did not have a garage or anything to work out of at the time. I would take my sled to the Kieffer & Plourde shop and work on my sled along with theirs.”
Peters was not sponsored by Kieffer & Plourde at that time. They sold him the sled at a “great deal” according to Peters. The factory would only ship a limited number of sleds which were intended for racers only.
In the 70’s when Ski Doo first made the Blizzard snowmobile, Kieffer & Plourde ordered all five classes available to them. Peters ended up with the 640 that he bought.
The sled belonged to Peters, however, the group of them raced under the Kieffer & Plourde banner. They went to the races together. The group consisted of Ronnie Thibodeau, Lionel Plourde, Leo Kieffer, and Peters as recalled by Peters.
Next Week Part 2 The Big Races, Spills and Chills
Next week the Tom Peters story continues as he heads south to Bangor, Woodstock, New Brunswick, and bounces on the twists and turns of the Mill Outlet Cross Country race from Madawaska to Caribou. You won’t want to miss Episode 88. We will also look at drag racer twenty two year old Gene Cyr of Crouseville who travels a great distance to race in over 30 races.
Big Announcement For Spud Speedway 2016
Spud Speedway owner Troy Haney announced today that a lease is in place for 2016. Cherryfield’s Chuck Hall will be leasing the Caribou track for the 2016 season.
As reported here a few weeks ago, Hall met with area racers at Willette’s Garage in Presque Isle to discuss the possibility of racing at Spud Speedway. He was encouraged by the turnout and the enthusiasm exhibited at that meeting and post meeting.
Hall has been the promoter at Speedway 95 for the past five years and will continue to hold that position in 2016.
According to Hall,”I plan on racing Enduros, Northern Lights, and Street Stocks. I want to keep it low budget. We need to get more racers. In order for this to work we are going to need the support of the County fans and racers as well as our Canadian neighbors. The Canadian folks make up a big part of future plans for the track.”
“We need the support also of area businesses. Troy (Haney) has been a great source of information as this was coming together.”
Hall preliminary plans include eight Sunday afternoon races, possible Monster Truck show, and truck pulls leading to a twelve event calendar.
He is a supporter of Maine Veteran’s Homes and plans to donate some of the proceeds from the races to area veterans.
Hall has been the promoter of the successful Ikey Dorr Memorial Race at Speedway 95 the past five years and plans to incorporate a couple qualifier type races during the summer.
According to Spud Speedway Public Relations Director Donald Rideout of Washburn, ” I think Mr. Hall has some great ideas. He seems very motivated. He wants to do all he can to give everyone something to enjoy.”
” Let people know that they can contact me if they are interested in helping out or even sponsoring the track”.
Chuck Hall will be at the Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta next Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Speedway 95 booth. He did say he would be available to talk to interested racers at the Expo. He will be in the County January 11-15 to meet with previous years workers and staff as well as potential track sponsors, fans, and racers.
Hall’s final words were, “We need the support of the County to make this work”.
Wyatt Alexander Racing Has Big Announcement
It was announced today that Ellsworth based Wyatt Alexander will team up with Dan Colby Motorsports for the 2016 PASS Series. They released this announcement earlier this evening.
Alexander and Colby Team Up for Battle in 2016!
Wyatt Alexander Racing and Colby Motorsports, owner Dan Colby, are pleased to announce that the two organizations will join forces for an assault on the 2016 Northeast Super Late Model season.
The blending of the two teams will see Wyatt Alexander behind the wheel for select Pro All Stars Series (PASS), Granite State Pro Stock Series and open competition Super Late Model events.
Alexander will have both the Colby Motorsports and Wyatt Alexander Racing team cars at his disposal, both carrying the familiar 96 that has been on the side of his family’s race cars for three generations.
According to Alexander, “We learned that Dan had an interest in helping develop a young driver’s career through a mutual friend, and we hit it off immediately. Dan has a reputation for well prepared race cars, and his philosophy on racing is very much in line with ours. I’m looking forward to getting 2016 under way!”
Colby echoed Alexander’s comments. “Business demands have limited my own racing schedule in recent years, and I’ve been contemplating an arrangement like this where I could blend my own team with another quality organization. Wyatt has proven he can run up front in these cars, and we are hoping that we can play a part in taking his career to the next level”
Alexander’s first full season in a Super Late Model produced several podium finishes, including a break out win in Wiscasset Speedways’ annual big event for Super Late Models, the Boss Hog 100. At age 15, Alexander is the youngest driver to conquer the prestigious race. His season long performance netted a fourth place finish in Wiscasset’s point standings and the Rookie of The Year title.
Colby’s machine is currently being updated at Dale Shaw Race Cars including a new look, an ARBodies Toyota Camry skin. You can see Alexander’s new scheme on display at the Northeast Racing Expo at the Augusta (ME) Civic Center January 8-10.
According to Crew Chief and grandfather Bobby Alexander, “We will not be full time at Wiscasset this year instead focusing on PASS and Granite State Pro Stock Series races.”
“We will have our current Howe car as our primary car. I will continue to be crew chief with it. We will do all prep at K&B on it.”
“Dan will prep his car at his shop in New Hampshire, which I understand is very well equipped. Dan will have support from Dale Shaw. Shaw’s cars are some of the best around. He and I share similar ideas on setups (on bump stops).”
“Dan will transport his car to the races. We will share crew chief responsibilities. I may defer to him as we see how things go.”
Anyone going to the Northeast Motorsports Expo this weekend will get to see the car’s unveiling. I am still looking for someone to make the trip on Saturday. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or look me up on Facebook at Hale Tree Farms/HTF Motorsports.
Lots of things happening at this time of the year in preparation for the 2016 season. You don’t want to miss next week’s episode!
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria