Hometown: Barre, VT
Division: Thunder Road Late Models
Car: Burnett Scrap Metals #66VT Ford Fusion
2017 Season: Finished 3rd in Late Model points (4 wins)
What are your favorite non-racing hobbies?
Hanging out with friends and family, watching sports, and just kind of taking it easy. I don’t have a lot of hobbies outside of racing, actually. Outside of work and working on the race car, I just like kicking back with friends, family, and my dog. I know it sounds lame, but those are probably my hobbies outside of racing.
What do you do for work?
I supervise the parts department at Milton CAT. They’re a heavy equipment dealer for Caterpillar in Richmond, VT. I’ve been there for going on seven years.
What are your current racing plans for 2018? Do you have any goals?
We haven’t really nailed it down 100 percent yet – some things are still up in the air – but just from talking with my car owner and crew chief, I think we’re going to focus on winning “King of the Road” next year. That’s going to be one of our top goals going into next season. So we’ll definitely be running weekly at Thunder Road focusing on the title, and we’ll see what other races we pick up beyond that – we’re not sure yet which ones.
What was the highlight of the 2017 season for you?
The highlight definitely had to have been winning the Milk Bowl. It’s just a huge, huge race – it’s one of those races that is just so hard to win. Everything has to go perfect, and to be able to have won that race with the team that we have was definitely the highlight of my season, and possibly my career. To be able to notch that in our belts was pretty cool.
Did it mean a little more to you to win the Milk Bowl have having finished runner-up the year before (2016)?
Yes, absolutely. It was nice to get that redemption so quickly the following year. It’s such a cool race for obvious reasons, and to be able to be that competitive the last couple years has been a lot of fun. To actually have won it this year is a dream come true.
How did you get started in racing?
I got started in racing basically from my parents bringing me to Thunder Road when I was a toddler. I just grew up at the race track – I went there every Thursday. My father (Jim) actually started working on (current Thunder Road co-owner) Cris Michaud’s Late Model, and I started hanging around with my dad and started going to the race shop with him and working on that car. We ended up starting to race Street Stocks ourselves in 2005, and things just slowly took off from there.
How did you end up getting involved with (current car owner) Christopher Burnett?
I was in my first season racing Tigers in 2010, and I was driving for Sean McCarthy at the time. We got in a pretty nasty wreck at Canaan Fair Speedway during a Tiger Tour race, and the car was bent up pretty bad. It was a Saturday race, and we had a race coming up the following Thursday at Thunder Road, and Chris was running that (Tour) race with another driver in his Tiger car. And he actually approached me that night and knew that I was running for Rookie of the Year at Thunder Road, and at that time, he didn’t have anybody in his car on Thursday nights – just for the Tiger Tour. So he told me he wanted me to drive his car and finish out the season to run for Rookie of the Year. I’d met Chris one time before that, so it was pretty neat that he ask me. And it was just an instant friendship and bond that blossomed from there. I’m just forever grateful for the opportunities he’s given me from that moment on.
What is your biggest life accomplishment so far?
Having a stable job and purchasing a house would probably be some of the big life accomplishments. And seeing as how I’ve chosen to surround the majority of my life with racing, I guess winning the Milk Bowl would be a big life accomplishment for myself as well.
Do you have anyone that you consider a role model or that you take after?
There’s a lot of people who have influenced me in a lot of different ways – a lot of people in my family, in particular my brother and my father. Both have very strong work ethics, and I look up to them a lot. And there’s a lot of other people that support me in racing and that I draw a lot of strength from, including my girlfriend. I look up to her and her strength – it helps me a lot. But there’s nobody in particular that I would say is a role model – rather a lot of different people that I look up to.
Can you tell me more about your family?
Obviously there’s my brother and girlfriend. She’s been with me every single race – it’s hard to imagine, but we’ve been together a long time, and she literally has not missed a race since we’ve been together. Her support is huge. My mother is the typical mother – she’s worried, but excited at the same time, so she’s always been there for me. And of course my father – he’s the one that got me into racing, and he’s been there every step of the way. He hasn’t missed a race either, and I couldn’t imagine doing it without him. And then my sister as well – she’s been around racing her whole life too. She lives in Massachusetts now, but she still comes up multiple times every summer and supports me. There’s just so many family members and friends that support me and support the race team. It’s really special.
What’s your dream vacation?
Going to the Snowball Derby with both a Snowflake and a Snowball Derby car.
Of course it’s racing-related.
Of course. That’s a big stretch, isn’t it? (Laughs)
If someone turned on the radio/media player in your car, what would they most likely be listening to?
The Foo Fighters, probably. I’ve like them for quite a while. There’s no particular reason – I just like their music quite a bit. I haven’t seen them in concert yet, but maybe someday.
If you were asked to appear on a TV show, which one would you want it to be and why?
Fast N’ Loud, the car show. They seem to have a good time, and towards the end of every episode, the host (Richard Rawlings) likes to crack open a cold beer, so I think we’d get along just fine. (Laughs)
What sports do you follow or play?
I used to play basketball in high school, and I’m still a basketball fan. I’m pretty much a New England sports fan exclusively, so I like to watch the Celtics, and I like to watch all the Patriots games – I don’t usually miss any of those. I’m definitely a big Patriots fan. Me and my girlfriend actually named our dog after Tom Brady – that shows what kind of fans we are. I like to watch the Bruins every once in a while as well whenever they’re on and we’ve got nothing else going on. It definitely helps pass the time in the winter while we’re waiting for the racing season to get here.
Who is your biggest supporter at the track?
Obviously aside from Chris, who pretty much puts everything into giving us everything we need for the race team, I’d say our crew chief Andrew Hill is the next key player for our team. He’s been able to really help take our program to the next level, so having Andrew as a part of our team is definitely a big asset. Another person that doesn’t necessarily come to the race track with us anymore, but is still a huge part of the team, is Todd Berte. He actually owns the race shop that we house the car in, and so if it wasn’t for him, we’d essentially be homeless. So he’s a big key to the whole race team. It’s guys like that who don’t get a lot of recognition – for example, my buddy Dan Durkee is at the race shop almost as much as I am. People like that are people that not a lot of other see or recognize, but they make a huge difference when it comes to preparing these race cars and winning races.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your racing career?
The two people that have influenced my racing career the most have probably been Tom Curley and Cris Michaud. It’s ironic, because both have now been co-owners at Thunder Road, but if you had asked me this question three years ago, I would have had the same answer. Tom obviously shaped the way many racers have come to race, and he influenced many lessons, either directly or indirectly, and I felt like that definitely applied to me. His drivers meetings were kind of a gospel and you just had to sit there and soak it all in and apply it on the race track. As far as Cris goes, like I’ve said, I grew up watching Cris and hanging around his race shop. I watched him go from barely qualifying for races to winning track championships, and to see that evolution and to see him do things the right way and handle fans and sponsors definitely did a lot for my racing career when it got going. And now Cris today might be one of my hardest critics. I’ve had Cris come down on me hard in a couple of situations, so there’s definitely no leeway when it comes to any past relationship – if anything, he might be a little tougher on me than some others. (Laughs) Which is okay – it’s kind of a good thing, if anything.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve got a couple for this. One thing I was told right from early on in racing was, “It’s hard to make a car faster when you’re putting it back together every week.” Basically, if you’re wrecking a race car and you’re having to rebuild it, you’re not making it any faster. It was good advice, and I’ve always kept it in mind. Thankfully, I never really had to worry about that at a young age, because I simply didn’t have the money to wreck – I just did not have the money as a 17-year-old kid to be able to afford to wreck my race car. So I didn’t put myself in a lot of compromising positions, because I knew if I wrecked my car, I wouldn’t be racing the next week. I probably was a little too conservative in the beginning and didn’t really need that advice, but as you develop and take more chances, and there’s more financial backing in your program then you’ve ever had, it’s good to keep that in mind and take calculated chances that weigh risk vs. reward. The other thing is that “races are won in the race shop.” That’s a big key. Some guys don’t put the time in that it takes to really have a top-notch program, and they expect to go to the race track and be fast and competitive. Putting some of that time in at the race shop really pays dividends. That’s been a pretty big lesson that was given to me at a young age.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully at least in the same position I’m in now. I hope to still be racing with Chris and Andrew, running Late Models, and having fun. That’s the key – the more years go by and teams are together, sometimes some of the fun can get zapped away. So the key is to keep things fun and light, and if you just are having fun and keep working hard, results will come. So hopefully we’ll still be running Late Models at Thunder Road, and we’ll still be having fun, and hopefully in five years we’ll have some championships.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is hire a lawyer. (Laughs) That’s what they say you have to do, is hire a lawyer. The second thing I would do is pay off all my debt. And then we’ll go from there and see what happens.