Concord late model racer sets sights on Snowball Derby

Preston Peltier was in his late teens when he sold most of his possessions, packed what remained in the back of a truck and headed to North Carolina to pursue a racing career that he felt had stagnated in his home state of California.

Today – two decades later – the 37-year-old Concord resident has Pro All Star Series South and national Super Late Model championships, an American Speed Association Beach Tour title, and a World Crown 300 victory.

Now his sights are set on the nation’s premier short-track event: the Snowball Derby Dec. 3-7 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.

Peltier made his Derby debut last year driving for Robert Heinke. This year, he is taking his own car, and preparing for the 47th annual event has been a major task. Work began on the car in mid-October and Peltier elected to forego the final two PASS races this year so he could focus on the Snowball Derby.

“We work on it every night after getting off from Hendrick and every weekend; every second that we have available we spend working on that car,” said Peltier, a 15-year Hendrick Motorsports employee who’s in charge of making sure the bodies are placed correctly on Jeff Gordon’s cars.

Joining Peltier at this year’s Derby are one of his best friends, Ryan Turner, who will handle crew chief duties, and Dwayne Sharpe, who will travel from the West Coast to join the small group. He’s also hired a pit crew from Hendrick.

For Peltier, it’s been quite a journey to the Snowball Derby.

During his childhood he competed in karts for several years, winning the 2002 World Karting Association national title and the shifter kart world championship at Daytona. At age 14, he made his stock car racing debut in street stocks at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. He later purchased his first late model with financial assistance from his grandmother.

Peltier’s first job in racing came when he was in his teens at West Coast Race Car Fabrication. Once Peltier decided it was time to head to North Carolina, he said leaving his family was easy. The difficult part was finding a job after he arrived in the Tar Heel state.

“I was down to my last $20 when I was finally able to beg somebody to let me do something,” Peltier said.

A concrete firm in the Charlotte area wasn’t looking to hire anyone at that time, but Peltier convinced them to let him work for a week. If he didn’t perform to their satisfaction, they didn’t have to pay him. His work met their approval and he remained there for six months before joining a car body fabrication business based in Mooresville.

Peltier stayed with that company for about a year before joining Jimmy Spencer’s team. He spent another year with that organization before moving to Dale Earnhardt Inc. where he stayed for another year before joining Hendrick. Since then Peltier has worked full-time for Hendrick during the week and raced on the weekends.

Last year Peltier emerged victorious in the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., an event he described as “the biggest race” he’d ever won.

“It was special,” Peltier said. “It was just a group of friends and myself that decided we were going to go try to make it happen. All the stars lined up and it happened just right. It was against the same drivers that we’ll be facing at the Derby.”

A Frazier Park, Calif., native, Peltier described super late model racing as the pinnacle for him.

“Financially and just where I’m at in life, I can’t afford to go to the next step,” Peltier said. “I’ve tried. I ran some K&N races. … It’s just so overwhelmingly expensive that I would go broke and be living on the streets if I tried to go that route. I even struggle a little with the late model stuff. It’s very expensive.

“Anything to do with racing is not cheap, but they’re very technical and the rules are somewhat wide open. It enables me to use my brain instead of my money. It makes it fun. It’s kind of a challenge.”

Other Snowball Derby Entrants

By Nov. 11, 63 teams had entered the Snowball Derby and more were expected. In addition to Peltier, other entries from the Charlotte area include: Mooresville’s Cole Timm and John Hunter Nemechek, Concord’s Corey LaJoie and Kyle Grissom, Huntersville’s Harrison Burton, and Kannapolis’ Daniel Hemric.

CARS offers special deal

The new CARS Super Late Model Tour is offering teams entered in this year’s Snowball Derby an opportunity to earn free team registration for the 2015 season.

The newly-formed tour will give free registration for next season to the highest finishing super late model team in the Snowball Derby with a CARS Super Late Model Tour decal. The award is a $400 value and allows the team to earn championship points and be eligible for special contingency and cash awards.

CARS is based in Mooresville.

GoPro Inks Deal With Valvoline

GoPro Motorplex officials have reached a sponsorship agreement with Valvoline. Under the agreement, Valvoline will become the official karting oil for the Mooresville facility’s fleet of rental karts and its row of 40 garages will be known as the “Valvoline Garages.”