County man first snowmobile racer inducted into Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame

Episode 186

November 5, 2017

He’s In!

Tom Peters aboard a 1970’s era Ski-Doo Blizzard at the 2015 Frozen Motor Mayhem at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds, a track where Peters enjoyed much success. The sled is owned and restored by Rob Kieffer of Woodland. This sled is similar to the one Peters raced successfully in 1972. HTF Motorsports photo

Maine Vintage Race Car Association released the names of the Class of 2018 Motorsports Hall of Fame six inductees. Included in the Class of 2018 is the first snowmobile racer selected for the prestigious honor, Aroostook County’s Tom Peters of Presque Isle.

Peters was born May 25, 1944 in the little town of Stockholm , 15 miles north of  Caribou. His parents were William and Rose Peters. At the age of six, his father was tragically killed in a logging accident when he was crushed by a log.

Stockholm school provided him with an education until he went to Caribou High School for his junior and senior years. No transportation was provided for kids from Stockholm so Peters hitched rides to and from Caribou daily.  He persevered and  graduated in 1962.

After spending a year driving the State of Maine Bookmobile, he moved to Warwick, Rhode Island to work in a welding shop. While in Rhode Island he went home and proposed to his girlfriend, Dianne Conant. They were married in December of 1963.

After returning to Rhode Island, the newlyweds agreed that, although Tom had no job to go home to, their place was back in the County.  After returning to the County, Tom worked at a local fabrication shop followed by a welding supply company. After semi-retiring he worked at an auto parts store. He is now fully retired but busier than ever according to his daughter Jenn.

The move back to the County was key to his racing career. The snowmobile craze was just hitting full stride. It seemed that many folks wanted to get a “sled” to ride around the fields and woods. There were no groomed trails to travel from town to town.

It seems all it takes is two people with motorized vehicles, whether it be a snowmobile or a scooter, and the next thing you know you have racing. Northern Maine was a great place to take advantage of the new snow machines.

Peters got his start in 1967 with a 1963 Polaris L55 which he rode on the fields near his home. Since childhood he had followed the race scene in Grand Prix and Le Mans as well as horse racing. He felt that he could be a racer if given an  opportunity.

That opportunity came in 1968 aboard a 1966 Ski-Doo 370 Twin Super Olympic which he entered in a cross-country race at Mapleton put on by the Mapleton Lions Club. He still has the third place trophy he won that day.

2018 Hall of Famer, Tom Peters, first racing trophy, a third place finish at the  Mapleton Lions Club 1968. Photo from Tom Peters collection

One of his so-called racing rivals of that era was Ronnie Thibodeau of Caribou. Ironically the racers had married sisters. I am unsure if racing was the topic of conversation at family get-together.

This Aroostook Republican photo shows 1970 cross-country race winner Ronnie Thibodeau left, second place Peters center, and third place Jerry Foster, Ossipee, New Hampshire right. In the back l to r Phyllis Anderson Caribou Mill Outlet manager, Clayton Harrington President of Sno-Drifters, and Rena Bouchard supervisor at the Caribou store. Thibodeau won $300, Peters $200 and Foster $100. From the Peters Collection

A long-time friendship with Leo Kieffer was forged by Peters when a group of local racers including Ronnie Thibodeau, Lionel Plourde, Leo Kieffer and Peters ran under the banner of Kieffer & Plourde. Peters would work on his sled at the dealership in Caribou since he had no shop of his own to work in.

One of the last time that Peters and Kieffer were at a snowmobile show together was at the Antique Snowmobile Show put on by the Woodstock Trailblazers in New Brunswick, October 2016. Kieffer passed away August 12, 2017. Peters was able to visit Kieffer about a week before his passing when Peters had Leo sign the book that his daughter Jenn had made for him. Photo from Tom Peters collection

The last race for Peters was in 1972 because building a home, work, and raising a family consumed most of his time. He did however enter one more cross-country race in 1976. He found out that there was going to be a race from WAGM-TV in Presque Isle to Caribou High School featuring several younger local hot shots like Reggie Thibodeau (younger brother of Ronnie Thibodeau) and the Haines boys, Danny and David, who were favored to win.

Since WAGM-TV is directly across the road from his house, he told his wife Diane he was going over to register for the race on the day it was to be held. You can find out his secret to success that day by reading about it in UpNorth Motorsports Episode 89.

Without giving away his secret, I will say he won the race on his Polaris 340, needing only 14 minutes to get from WAGM-TV to Caribou High School. Peters said after the race, “The young fellers didn’t laugh at the old man then.”

More about Peters’ racing history can be found in Episode 88 January 4, 2016 and Episode 89 published January 10, 2016.

When Peters was told about his selection to the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame he replied, ” I am feeling very humble, honored and still in disbelief as I know that there are other snowmobile racers out there probably more deserving of this honor and being the first one.. There are so many people to thank so that will be very difficult.”

“I guess it pays to be a pack rat and saving all the items and documentation which according to Joe (Joe Chamberlain of Woodland, a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee) makes all the difference.”

Peters has a notebook over 2 inches thick with all the newspaper clippings, photos, and stories about his career as a snowmobile racer. In addition, he has a couple of his racing sleds, suit, and helmet that he used during this era.

 

On display at Woodstock, New Brunswick September 2017. From left to right the suit and helmet worn by Peters while racing and two Ski-Doos he raced during his career. Tom Peters photo collection

”  I think Rob (Kieffer) and Scott (Kieffer), along with many others will be excited, but I sure wish Leo would have been here to celebrate it. My hope would be that some of these other snowmobile racers will take note and know that you don’t need to be only the best-of-the-best to tell your story.”

Trophy presentation time at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds. Left to right Scott, Rob, and Leo Kieffer with Tom Peters on far right. Tom Peters photo collection

Rob Kieffer commented about the selection of Tom Peters to the Hall of Fame. ” I cannot think of a better representative from the snowmobiling world to be elected,” said the son of Leo Kieffer. “Tom Peters was competitive, innovative, a great teammate with my Dad and others, along with being very humble. I was just a kid during his heyday but remember he always raced hard but fair and made no excuses. Well deserved.”

Lewiston Sun Journal staff writer, Phil Whipple is one of Maine’s premier motorsports journalists and serves on the board of the Maine Vintage Race Car Association (MVRCA). He had this to say about the selection of snowmobile racer Tom Peters to the Hall of Fame.

”  I am told he was as skilled on the old snow (pre-ice days) ovals as the great Calvin Reynolds, who I thought was one of Maine’s very finest sled racers,” said Whipple. “This represents a big step forward for MVRCA as far as being open to ALL kinds of motorsports; including an accomplished snowmobile racer in the Hall of Fame is huge, to me, at least. I suspect it may inspire some of today’s racers. Cool stuff!”

Other Class of 2018 Inductees include Steve Leavitt, Dave MacMaster, Doug Ripley, Dave “Boss Hog” St. Clair, and Rick Zemia. For information about the inductees check out the http://www.mainevintageracecars.com website.

Peters lives in Presque Isle with his wife Diane. They have been married 54 years. One daughter, Jenn Peters, lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Daughter Lisa Currie lives in Dover, New Hampshire as does their son Tom Peter II. The couples other daughter, Carmen Robillard is the only one of their children who lives in Maine. She lives in Augusta.

Oxford native Michael “Shrek” Morneau is in the NASCAR Final at Homestead

The rear tire carrier for the #4 Kevin Harvick Ford is Michael “Shrek” Morneau from Oxford, Maine. He and his wife Cheryl Brown Morneau and their two sons live in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

By virtue of the Harvick win at the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway,  the Maine native Morneau has a chance to be on the Monster Energy Cup Championship winning team for the second time. Best wishes to the Stewart-Haas entry.

Winning pit crew members of the Stewart-Haas #4 Mobil 1 Ford driven by Kevin Harvick, front l to r Dustin Keath, Daniel Smith, and Matt Holzbaur. Back row l to r Stan Doolittle, Eric Maycroft, Maine’s Michael Morneau, and Justin White. Morneau is the rear tire carrier on the Stewart-Haas #4 Ford. The win in Texas assures the team a shot at the Monster Energy Cup Championship in two weeks at Homestead,Speedway in Florida. Photo courtesy Michael Morneau

NMKA members saluted at Richmond Karting Speedway Awards Banquet

Animal XXX Champion Damian Theriault, Caribou, with emcee Roger Collins at Richmond Karting Speedway Awards Banquet 2017. Team JRT photo

Brian Searles, driver for Team BAS based out of Presque Isle, with his second place points trophy at the Richmond Karting Speedway Awards Banquet.

Speaking of awards…

Tyler “The Flying Farmer” Raymond, Caribou with some of his awards from the Northern Maine Antique Tractor Club (NMATC). Flying Farmer photo

Antique tractor puller, Tyler Raymond, Caribou, went home from the Northern Maine Antique Tractor Club annual awards banquet at the Presque Isle Inn and Convention center with cash and prizes for his efforts in 2017. Raymond, a sophomore at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, was awarded the club’s $500 scholarship.

He also was the runner-up in the 3,500 pound class and winner of the 3000 pound class. He and his father, Danny, plan to run in three classes in 2018 and have set a goal to win two of those class point championships.

The banquet had about 120 members and guests in attendance. Over $3000 was given away to local charities including the House of Comfort.

And more about awards…

Talk about small world, Ellsworth, Maine native Tom Patsis, owner and chief fabricator at his company Cold Hard Art in Brownsburg, Indiana has made hundreds of custom trophies for a variety of motorsports and non-motorsports organizations. This year he will be making the ARCA Racing points championship trophies including the winner Austin Theriault also from Maine.

Last year’s USAC Silver Crown trophies designed and built by Tom Patsis. Kody Swanson won the runner up trophy in 2016. Unfortunately Patsis will not be making USAC’s trophies this year. Cold Hard Art photo

Tom Patsis admiring the trophy won by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch at the 2016 STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Cold Hard Art photo

For a sneak peek at the trophy to be given out by ARCA Racing to it’s 2017 championship driver keep looking in future UpNorth Motorsports episodes. I hope to have it here first.

Still no offers from anyone to send me to the PRI Show at Indianapolis, Indiana December 6-9 so I might cover the USAC and ARCA Racing championship banquets. Make sure you email me thale@reagan.com for details.

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing.