Fred “Jiggs” Peters
A veteran open-wheel racer who showed his considerable talents in Midgets, Sprint Cars and Championship machines, Fred “Jiggs” Peters (September 28, 1920 – December 25, 1993) was the best known of four racing brothers – Al, Walt and John were Stock Car drivers – and one of his Metuchen, New Jersey, family’s 13 children.
“Jiggs” got involved in racing in the late 1930s when he and Dick Simonecki fielded a Big Car (Sprint Car) out of a machine shop in Paterson, New Jersey’s “Gasoline Alley” that was driven by Joie Chitwood and Granville “Buster” Warke. But he didn’t start driving until 1948.
The 1951 American Racing Driver’s Club Champion, “Jiggs” won 19-career ARDC Midget races and was quite good in the longer races that were held at: the half-mile-dirt Williams Grove (Pa.) Speedway; the old one-mile asphalt Trenton (N.J.) Speedway and at the treacherous old one-mile dirt Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway.
On Friday May 30, 1958, Peters used fellow EMPA Hall of Fame member Ken Brenn’s No. 24 Kurtis-Kraft/Offy to win a ARDC 100-lapper at The Grove in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
Then on August 30, 1959, the popular driver had one of his biggest wins when he set the pace in a 250-miler at Trenton where the lineup included 30 Offenhauser-powered cars, eight Ford V-8s and one Triumph-engined Midget. Peters was the class of the field that day in Brenn’s No. 24 as he had a one-lap advantage on the rest of his competitors when he pitted for fuel and tires on lap 195 and his drive to victory came at the record speed of 94.338 mph.
On May 3, 1961, “Jiggs” – who was now living in Neshanic Station, New Jersey – won a non-stop ARDC/United States Auto Club 100-miler at Langhorne in Brenn’s Offy and set a new track record of 1 hour 1 minute and 11.92 seconds at an average speed of 98.041 mph.
And on June 3, 1962, he added to his impressive extra-distance Midget victories when he used Brenn’s Kurtis-Kraft/Offy to triumph in another 250-miler at Trenton; one in which he averaged 94.475 mph and eclipsed the speed mark that he established in 1959.
The cream and red No. 3 Nagle Offy and Brenn’s robin’s egg blue No. 24 rear-engined Offy were also Midget rides that he handled.
But his most unusual Midget race took place on October 18, 1959, when he drove Brenn’s upright No. 24 Kurtis-Kraft Offy Midget in the 1959 USAC Road Racing Championship Formula Libre Race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
A 100-lapper around the 2.3-mile road course, “Jiggs” finished sixth, 11 laps behind winner Sterling Moss and his Cooper T51 Climax. There were six Offy Midgets in the race and “Jiggs” came in “second in his class” behind Eddie Johnson who finished second overall and nine laps behind Moss in Jerry Zello’s No. 21 Offy Midget.
“Jiggs” raced in NASCAR’s old Speedway Division in 1952 in EMPA Hall of Famer Ed Darnell’s No. 52 Ford-powered car and he ran in 19 American Automobile Association/USAC Championship events (1954-1963). And on August 21, 1954, he won the won the pole for his very first AAA race – the Springfield 100 at the Illinois State Fair – in Lee Glessner’s lightly-regarded No. 92 and then finished fifth behind winner Jimmie Davies.
By this time Peters was also a regular in mid-1950s AAA Sprint Car action and the Plainfield, New Jersey, resident drove the Frank Curtis No. 8 Offy and the Leitenberger Brothers Offy. Then on April 20, 1958, he won the USAC Sprint Car Eastern race at the old half-mile dirt Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds in John Fray’s No. 78 Offy.
In 1959, “Jiggs” drove Walter Beletsky’s No. 22 Offy to third place behind fellow EMPA Hall of Famer members Tommy Hinnershitz and Eddie Sachs in 1959 USAC Eastern Sprint Car points, and he was fourth in 1960 behind fellow EMPA Hall of Famer A.J. Foyt, Don Branson and Jim Hurtubise. Then, after USAC combined its Midwest and Eastern Sprint Car divisions into one series, he was 13th in USAC Sprint Car points in 1961 and sixth in 1962.
On September 29, 1968, Fred “Jiggs” Peters won his last major race when he triumphed in a United Racing Club Sprint Car main event at the old 1-1/8-mile dirt Nazareth (Pa.) National Speedway.
In 1969, however, he was injured in a URC accident at the half-mile dirt Bedford (Pa.) Speedway and retired from the cockpit.