Unbuckled: Getting to Know Marcel J. Gravel


Hometown: Wolcott, VT

Division: Thunder Road Late Models

Car: Lucky’s Plumbing & Heating #86VT Toyota Camry

2017 Season: Finished 7th in Late Model points


What are your favorite non-racing hobbies?

I actually stay pretty busy with racing during the offseason, seeing as how the team is mainly just me and my dad. In the offseason, my hobbies are usually putting the race car back together for the following season, but I do get out and hunt some – I try to hunt as often as I can. Other than that, I hang out with my friends that I don’t get to see a lot during the summer, but otherwise I don’t do much.

 What do you do for work?

I work at Hannaford’s in Morrisville; I’m a Produce Associate there. I’m mainly there because I really haven’t figured out what I’m going to pursue as a serious career yet. But it’s been something good that’s kept me pretty busy, and I like the people there and they cope with my racing schedule, so it’s good. I do graphics designs as well (through Three Wide Designs) from time to time. So many people do design that it’s hard to stay super-busy with it, because everybody has their own guy, but I still do quite a bit of that when I can.

What are your current racing plans for 2018? Do you have any goals?

Right now we’re going to go back and run Thunder Road. I’ve got to try and talk my dad into letting me run a couple other races. I’d like to try Lee – I think that would be a fun track to go to. White Mountain would be as well. But we’ll kind of play that by how our season is going at Thunder Road. We had a good year this past year – seventh in points – and I’d like to think we could contend for the track championship. That’s always a goal, and I don’t think it’s unrealistic going into my third year, so that’s what we’re going down there to hopefully do.

What was the highlight of the 2017 season for you?

Absolutely the highlight was becoming the track record holder. I mean, I’ve been going to watch my dad race at Thunder Road since I was five years old, and the last record got set the year before I was born. So it was really cool to get the pole for the Milk Bowl – that alone was outstanding – and then I figured out that I got the track record, too. That had to have been the highlight, no doubt.

Take us back to that day. Did it feel like a good lap as you were running it?

Before qualifying, we had run 12.4’s (in practice) all day long, and broken down into 12.39’s a couple times, and that was pretty much on older tires. I don’t know if anybody else knew, but when we went out there (to time trial), we had pretty good hopes that we could get the pole with new tires on. I was going to be conservative on lap one, and I went through turns one and two and I’m like, “Man, this is a pretty good lap.” So the conservative card kind of went out the window, and I ended up giving it everything I had on lap one and it paid off. Lap two wasn’t very good, but lap one paid off, and it was kind of spur of the moment. I didn’t do what my plan was, but it worked out pretty well.

How did you get started in racing?

I’ve been watching Dad race since before I can even remember. I’m in my house right now looking at pictures of him in the Tigers and in the Late Models, and I have a desk that has all his pictures around it with mine. I just watched him race for so long, and I begged him to let me race when I was five and I couldn’t even race yet. The first chance he had, he got me in something, and it’s kind of been our thing – we’ve been doing it ever since then. When I was seven years old, I ran my first race at Thunder Road, and I’m going to be 22 when we start next year, so it’s been a pretty good ride.

What is your biggest life accomplishment so far?

My biggest accomplishment is definitely in racing, mainly because…I don’t want to sound like I don’t have a life, but racing IS my life. That’s all we do – we breathe, eat, and sleep it. All I’m thinking about all the time is racing. the biggest accomplishment would be holding the track record at such a prestigious race track like Thunder Road, because that is not easy to do. I know it’s only one lap, but a lot of work went into that one lap, and it’s awesome to have it all pay off for me, Dad, Drew, my mom – everybody knows we’re a pretty small team, and to hold that track record and the Milk Bowl pole is definitely my biggest accomplishment.

Can you tell me more about your family?

It’s outrageous the amount of help Dad puts in. He works 50 hours at his regular job during the week, and then he comes home and puts in…I don’t even know how many hours on my race car. Without his support, I would be nothing – I’d probably be at Thunder Road helping somebody or watching. His support means everything to me. He’s the one that keeps me going around – I just get to sit behind the wheel and turn it. My mom doesn’t do a lot on the car, but she’s the biggest moral supporter. I don’t go out on that race track without seeing here beforehand and her telling me “good luck”. She doesn’t miss races, she’s always there feeding my guys and me, making sure I’m where I need to be. She looks after me pretty well. My crew guy Drew is the only crew guy I have that’s not a family member, and Drew’s become almost like a big brother to me. He actually looks up to me, which I think is amazing, so I try to do the best I can so that everybody enjoys their experience at the race track with me.

Do you have anyone that you consider a role model or that you take after?

I probably sound like a broken record, but definitely my dad. That’s even outside of the race track. He’s done a lot of things at Thunder Road that I haven’t done yet, and I’ve done some things that he didn’t get to do, so combined we’ve done some pretty cool stuff. Even in the real world, he’s really successful in his day job. Both my parents are, really, but I feel like for a guy, it’s easier to look up to your dad. He definitely is a role model for me, and I always care about his opinion and what he thinks of what I’m doing, and I take criticism from him better than from anyone else. He’s definitely been the biggest influence in my life – regular life, racing life, whatever it is.

What’s your dream vacation?

I don’t even know what it would be, honestly. Some of my friends have been to the Dominican Republic, and I think that would be cool to go to. I don’t really know if that’s a dream vacation or not though. I’ve never seen Las Vegas – that would be pretty cool, too. I don’t really have the adventurous type in me, I guess. I like to go to new places, but I don’t have any places in mind that are like, “Man, I gotta get there,” or are a bucket-list place. So probably one of those two I mentioned.

If someone turned on the radio/media player in your car, what would they most likely be listening to?

I listen to “The Highway” on Sirius XM most of the time. A lot of my friends really aren’t into country music, and I know it probably seems weird that I am, but I really will listen to a lot of different things. Country is my preference personally, but I’ll also listen to rap, pop, whatever it is. A lot of my friends put some different stuff on there, and I listen to it and know a lot of it, but most of the time it’s going to be country.

Do you have any favorite artists?

I like the new country – I like Florida-Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, those kind of guys. But other than that, not really.

If you were asked to appear on a TV show, which one would you want it to be and why?

I recently watched How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, and I wanted to be on that show. It’s hilarious, and it would be cool to be on that show. And I think that Barney needs a sidekick on that show personally, and I could be that guy. We need new seasons of that show made a.s.a.p. so I can be in them. (Laughs)

What other sports do you follow or play?

I played baseball every year but my senior year in high school – I dropped it because I was focusing on racing more. I played basketball every year, and I really enjoy playing that. I still play pick-up with my buddies from time to time, and I watch the Celtics on TV. I follow the Red Sox as well, but I don’t watch baseball as much as I do basketball. I never played football – I’m a little bit too scrawny for that – but I do watch the Patriots.

Who is your biggest supporter at the track?

It’s hard, because I feel like there’s different levels of support. Like, my mom is supportive in picking me back up when I have a bad day or when something doesn’t go quite right. Not that my dad isn’t, because he’s totally supportive too. I would say my parents split that role 50/50 – my mom does a lot more of the emotional side, and my dad does more of the preparation and getting the race car ready. Without either of them, it wouldn’t work, so it’s definitely got to be my parents for all of their support when we’re there, when we’re not there, and everything that they do.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

This one is probably the hardest one for me. Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve received a lot of good advice in my lifetime, but there’s not one thing that really sticks out for me. My grandfather always tries to give me advice, but he’s not so much into the racing, so I haven’t really gotten much advice from him about that. My dad, my uncle – everybody gives you advice, and you have to take it for different situations. I feel like I have a lot of good advice for every kind of situation that I’ve come to in life because I’m not afraid to listen to people. I can take constructive criticism from anybody, and I’ve never taken advice from anybody and felt like they steered me wrong. They told me what they thought was best for me to do, and if I went with it, I went with it, and I didn’t, that was okay too.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would like to think that I would know what I was going to do with my life by then. (Laughs) I don’t mean that because I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m sure I’ll have everything figured out by then. I hope I’m still racing at Thunder Road. By then, I hope I’ll have won a race, because I’m getting a little tired of not winning. Mainly, I’d like to have everything figured out. I don’t want to get specific, like saying I’d like to have a family and kids  – not that I wouldn’t like to have that, but it kind of goes with the timing. And maybe in five years, hopefully I’m a Thunder Road track champion.

Dream big, right?


What would you do if you won the lottery?

I’ve talked to my dad and my mom about this question a lot, and I would spend a little bit of money foolishly, I’m sure. Overall, I would do my best to make sure I could stretch it out for my whole life. Those lotteries get up pretty high, so I’d like to think I could save some money so that my kids could do some cool stuff. But I would definitely buy some race cars and I would go embarrass myself in something that I probably wasn’t ready for like a Cup car or something. But why not? (Laughs)