HEDGER: The Long Look
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. — A successful DIRTcar modified driver who started in street stocks, then ran IMCA-type modifieds before moving to the top division would, at first, sound like a typical Northeastern racer.
But that image goes away when Peter Britten tells you his home track is the Archerfield Speedway in Brisbane, Australia.
“I did well as I moved up and from the IMCA-type cars, I had a choice of going to modifieds, sprint cars or late models,” recalls Britten. “I chose the modifieds and we started a Troyer dealership, which let me get to know owner Billy Colton and driver Jimmy Phelps. I didn’t come from a racing family and needed help learning the ropes. With their guidance, I had a lot of success with Troyer cars and eventually decided to come over here and give it a crack.
“Modifieds down there are a mid-90-inch wheelbase car, so they’re smaller than here. But they use a standard Troyer frame and otherwise are very much like small-block American cars except for using drag rubber and alcohol.”
When asked if racing is more difficult here, the lanky Britten smiles knowingly and nods his head.
“Definitely,” he said. “Unfamiliar tracks and stiffer competition made it hard at first. There are only a few good teams at home and here everybody is good and a few are really good. Some of the guys I’m running against have 30 years experience on these tracks. But I’m working into it. This is my third year and I’m competitive everywhere. Now my goal is to get to be Matt Sheppard. I know it’s hard, but I’m very determined.”
Britten races for a living, running his own car in DIRTcar events and Jerry Darrah’s small block at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. In between shows, he maintains New Jersey driver Rich Scagliotta’s cars as well as his at his upstate New York base.
“Rich and I run as one team,” explained Britten. “That cuts travel costs, as we only use one hauler. I couldn’t do this without Rich. And adding Jerry’s ride for Albany-Saratoga broadened my exposure to different tracks. We’re all growing together. And when I’m not busy with all that, I help Billy Colton with some R and D work. After the World Finals, I’ll get things squared away, then go back home until it’s time to come back and go to Florida.”
When we mention that the other racers we know from “down under” are sprint car drivers Brooke Tatnell and Kerry Madsen, Britten says he almost went that way as well.
“I looked at sprints because they’re the top level in Australia, but I didn’t have the funds to do it properly. You can’t pinch pennies and be competitive with them. I eventually got some good sponsors and could have switched but now I’m pretty well set here. It’s every Australian racer’s dream to come to America and race and for me, Billy Colton was my in. He’s been unbelievably supportive, so for now, at least, I’ll stick with the modifieds.
“Tatnell is a great guy. We talked at Charlotte and he cheered me on and gave me lots of advice on coming over and handling things. He started from scratch too and has found it hard to get good sprint rides. There’s a lot more involved here than just racing. You need good people behind you, a good crew and the proper funds. Guys like Brett Hearn and Sheppard have all that but it’s tough for an outsider.”