CONCORD, N.C. — What started as a role as a substitute driver has developed into a full-time opportunity for Indiana’s Justin Peck.
Peck, 22, will drive the Tom Buch-owned No. 13 sprint car, chasing next year’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions title.
Peck takes the reins of the Buch Motorsports entry from Paul McMahan, who parted ways with the team after the conclusion of the All Star season. Peck will drive for the team starting with this weekend’s Last Call at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Peck filled in for McMahan for two races after McMahan tested positive for COVID-19.
After making the dash at Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway on Aug. 21 and charging from 14th to fourth the next night at Wilmot (Wis.) Raceway, Peck is eager to pick up where he left off with the Buch team.
“In the moment when we were racing, I was just happy to be able to get back in a top-flight car,” said Peck of his earlier experience behind the wheel of the No. 13. “I think it definitely made a little bit of a lasting impression with those guys that we were able to have speed right off the bat. But after that, they were all about finishing the season and racing with Paul … and, really, all this didn’t all come about until right around Fremont (during the season finale) or just after Fremont.
“We kept in touch; we all became friends, but it wasn’t necessarily about me driving the car next year,” Peck admitted. “It was just kind of, ‘Hey, we had fun and you guys are cool.’ It was just kind of one of those deals, you know? I’m glad it has turned into something greater now, though, for sure.”
Peck noted that “it makes it easy” for a driver to hop into a car he or she knows will perform on the race track.
“Man, Sean (Strausbaugh, crew chief) and all of his guys have that sprint car set up; it definitely is nice,” Peck said. “I could just hop in it and I was comfortable right away. I like what they’re doing too, as far as the feel of the race car goes. It has only been two races, and that’s not a whole lot of time to screw up … so I’m sure we’re going to screw up at some point, but I think these guys are just top-notch man.
“I’m pretty excited to get a full season with a team like this.”
Considering Peck spent time in four different cars this season — the Pete Grove No. 70, his own No. 5x, the Buch No. 13 and the John Trone No. 39 — he’s looking forward to having a sense of stability going into the new year and committing to a full-time touring schedule for the first time.
“This is a dream come true, man,” he said. “I feel like it’s kind of what I’ve been working toward my whole life; is to have an opportunity to go out on the road,” Peck explained. “To be completely honest, this isn’t even the end goal. The end goal is to get on the Outlaw tour for most guys my age, but I do see this as a stepping-stone and I’m humbled to have the opportunity. I know I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I don’t want to let this go to waste.
“I haven’t really run a full season on the road yet, but that’s kind of the plan we’ve looked at and we all seem to be on the same page. We all kind of have similar goals and similar aspirations for one another,” he continued. “When it comes to racing and what we want to accomplish for our careers, I think we’re a lot alike in some ways. These guys are pretty awesome, and I think one way or another, this will lead to some kind of bigger-picture deal … whether we can stay together and get some dough to go on the Outlaw trail or whether something else comes along.”
Considering McMahan finished in the top five in All Star points with the Buch No. 13 in each of the last three seasons, Peck is hoping he can help build the team into a championship contender before all is said and done.
“The goals are set high, man,” Peck said. “I feel like we can go out there and compete for a championship, but at the same time, we’re all just trying to win races at the end of the day. We’re all about taking home trophies. If you can win races and continuously run well, then the championship will fall in place.
“That’s the big picture, but the little picture is right here in front of us at Charlotte this weekend. Hopefully, we can make something out of it and really put on a show for Tom and all his guys.”