Help Support Stafford Native And Longtime NASCAR Team Crew Member Peter Jellen

Peter Jellen (Photo: Courtesy Hattori Racing Enterprises)

Back before the days of I spent 19 years working as a reporter for the Hartford Courant. 

When I was just a young reporter on the racing beat roaming the garages of New Hampshire Motor Speedway I met Peter Jellen, then hauler driver and over the wall gasman for Bobby Labonte’s Joe Gibbs Racing team on NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series (now Monster Energy Cup Series). 

Almost immediately after meeting Jellen for the first time I realized there was no line of demarcation of reporter/subject when it came to talking to him. The minute you met Peter he was your friend, simple as that. Jellen grew up in Stafford, the town where I had moved to as a teenager, that only intensified the easy chatting experience.

The first thing I remember about meeting Jellen was that his enthusiasm and passion for what he did was off the charts and it was a passion he wanted to share with anyone that would listen. 

I covered my first race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 1997, and typically my first trip into the garage for each event quickly involved going to catch up with Peter. 

Over the years Peter had mentioned that someday I should ride to a race with him. At first we talked about me meeting him in Stafford on the way to Loudon, N.H. and riding shotgun in the Joe Gibbs Racing hauler for the final couple hours of the trip. It was an appealing idea, but I didn’t think it would make much of a story. 

In 2001, after I had done a feature on Peter, he had mentioned the idea of me flying to Charlotte and doing a full ride from the team headquarters to Loudon, N.H. for a race weekend.

The idea seemed better than a two-hour ride, but the logistics of trying to make that all part of race weekend in Loudon didn’t work right for me. Peter and I talked and we came up with a grand plan. I would meet him at the Winston Cup Event at Pocono Raceway, ride shotgun with him in the Labonte hauler back to the Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville, N.C., spend the week in the shop at Joe Gibbs Racing and then ride with him to the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis Motor Speedway and spend the weekend embedded with the team. I figured it was an idea my bosses would quickly reject. I pitched the idea of doing a weeklong series embedded with a NASCAR Winston Cup team and ending the series with a long feature on hitting the roadways riding shotgun with Jellen and the bosses went for it.

And off I went with Jellen. It was an amazing experience to say the least, one I’m always thankful Jellen made happen. It truly stands as one of my greatest memories of covering motorsports.

Jellen grew up at Stafford Speedway. He always joked with me that he moved to North Carolina to get away from racing. He ended up landing with the late Alan Kulwicki’s team and then spent many years with Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s most recently worked with Hattori Racing Enterprises. 

No matter his decades at the top of NASCAR, Jellen always had a soft spot for short track racing in Connecticut. 

Today Jellen is recovering from cancer surgery and his family is working to find a way through the financial burdens that came with that. Those looking to help can do so through the Gofundme page set up for Peter.

Gofundme: Prayers For Peter – Cancer Medical Fund

From The Hartford Courant – July 22, 2001: First Chance For Gas

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  1. Sharpie Fan says

    Prayers for Peter “Rabbit”.

  2. Thank you racedayct for your support and helping Peter!! God Bless

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