Fri, 12 Sep 2003, 09:21 AM
They’re Not Laughing Now
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2003 Auto Imagery, Inc.
Peter with one of his Wallys.
Peter Biondo is one of the most successful races in the country. With twenty national event
wins, four U.S. Nationals’ titles and two world championships he really is in a class by
himself. OK, so maybe not by himself, but it is a very select fraternity to which he belongs.
All of which is kind of amazing when you consider where he started. “I was racing at Maple Grove
in the High School challenge when I was about 15 and I lost, but it’s the way I lost that I’m
almost embarrassed to tell you about,” he said. After a little prodding, Peter admitted to
losing when he took off on the starting line in reverse. Honest. “I was deep staging and my dad
told me to go in, over-stage and then back up into the beams. Well, I was so nervous that when I
backed up I forgot to put the car back in forward and I took off in reverse. I was actually
crying when I came back down the return road.” Back then, you used to drive right back up in
front of the grandstands after a run and Peter remembers the response from the other racers.
“The stands were full of the other high school racers and they were all pointing and laughing,”
he said. “I vowed to come back and do better.” The rest, as they say…
Peter Biondo comes from a real racing family. His dad has raced for as long as anyone in the
Division 1 area can remember, and it was his dad who first met Phillip Monteith, Peter’s car
owner and partner today. “Dad was racing at New York National Speedway in one of the old bracket
classes and he couldn’t get his car to go fast enough to run in the quick bracket. He saw this
guy, Phil, running well and asked him if he could help him make his car go faster. Phil tweaked
the car, it went quicker and they’ve been friends and partners ever since.” At sixty-five years
old, Phillip is retired but still does all the engine work on Peter’s race car himself. “Phil
takes the engine in and out of the car by himself and he loves it,” Peter said. “It’s a great
partnership, Phil brings his talents to the team, building, tuning and working on the car, and I
bring my talent, which is driving.” And quite a talent it is. Rated by his peers and most
trackside observers as one of the most consistent drivers in the sport, Peter has earned the
nickname “Terminator” for his lethal reaction times and his uncanny ability to “drive the other
end” of the track, too. The car, by the way, is called “Hatari,” which mean “Danger” in Swahili.
If you’ve ever seen Peter drive and you’ve been in the other lane you know that the Pontiac is
very appropriately named.
Biondo in his Super Stocker.
When Peter Biondo began racing it was in the bracket classes, Super Pro mainly, and he enjoyed
running off the bottom bulb, a term which refers to classes where you get a full tree and don’t
have a lot of electronics to deal with. “I liked that kind of racing because it put a lot of
emphasis on the driver and if you were good at it, you could win a lot.” Peter was and he does.
Today he races in both Stock and Super Stock, classes which also rely on the driver’s reaction
time and don’t include a lot of the electronics, which is surprising since the Biondo family
makes their living by selling those very same electronics. Biondo Racing Products sells practice
trees, throttle-stops and delay boxes and Peter, his brother Sal, his brother-in-law and his dad
all work at the business. “I don’t actually race for a living,” Peter said. “I still work five
days a week at the business when I’m not racing.” He is quick to point out that the other family
members do a great job of watching the business while he is away racing. “I have great support
from everyone and that makes it a lot easier for me to concentrate on my racing. Still, I’d like
to be able to get to the point where my dad could retire so he could race some more. I know he’d
While he is very appreciative of the support that he gets at the business, Peter also is quick
to thank his wife, Jackie, for all that she does. “She really supports me and that’s a big help,
too,” he added. Of course, Jackie also comes from a racing family, in fact, the two of them met
at the races. “I remember that I was racing George Rupert, one of the best bracket racers in the
country, and she came up to me and said ‘Good luck. If you beat him I’ll buy you a steak dinner.
’” Well, I had a great reaction time and ran right on the dial but I still lost, so I figured
that I wouldn’t see her again,” he said with a smile. “But she told me that I did well and she
offered to buy me a hoagie. Being from New York I didn’t know what a hoagie was but I said yes
anyway.” Smart move, Peter. The couple has been married for nine months now after a very
romantic proposal on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. “I actually had the ring
in my pocket and was going to propose on the top of the Empire State Building, but when we got
inside I saw the metal detector and was afraid that the ring would set the alarm off so we
left.” After a carriage ride around Central Park, they stopped at the church and Peter popped
the question. Now who ever said that drag racers are not romantic?
Peter in the Stocker
Today, Peter has his sights set on another Lucas Oil World Championship in Super Stock and he is
also way up in the points in Stock Eliminator. “I was doing well in Super Stock going into Indy
and now I like my chances to win it all,” he said. “If someone gets really hot they could catch
me and if they do, well, then they deserve to be champ.” Kevin Helms, the two-time champ in
Stock looks like a real threat in that class but Peter still could win there, too. “It will be a
real battle right down the stretch but I love the challenge. Kevin’s a great racer and a great
champ, but it’s not over yet.”
As far as the future, Peter, who is a graduate of St. John’s University in New York, looks
forward to racing in some other sportsman classes and he always has his eyes on the pro ranks.
“I may change classes in the future just to try something different, and driving a Pro Stock car
is my ultimate dream.” He then mentions the “Professor,” Warren Johnson, as the guy he’d love to
drive for. “Next to my dad and my brother, Warren is the guy I most admire in this sport because
he does it all, builds the motors, drives the car, tunes it and everything and still wins. He’s
the best.” Believe me, that’s high praise from a guy who hasn’t done too badly himself in the
world of drag racing. Especially one who started out going in the wrong direction.
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