Unbuckled: Getting to Know Jason Pelkey


Hometown: Barre, VT

Division: Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers

Car: Memorial Sandblast #64 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

2017 Season: Finished 12th in Flying Tiger points (1 feature win)


What are your favorite non-racing hobbies?

When I’m not racing, I’m usually at the mountain snowboarding, mountain biking or going hiking – a lot of stuff with the outdoors. I also play a lot of hockey year-round. Sometimes I’ll go into a men’s league for soccer, and I’ll play with a bunch of people from around home. I live in Killington now, so I’m a little bit away from Barre, which makes that a little harder.

 What do you do for work?

I’m a sign shop technician at Killington Resort. What I do is I design and make signs for every department in the company. Then we have to put the signs out in their final locations around the resort. I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half now. It was a job I got right out of college – full-time with benefits, so it’s kind of what you go to school for, right? I also wok for the Spartan Arena in Rutland. I’m an operator there, so I drive the Zamboni, do ice maintenance, and sharpen skates – anything around the hockey rink, really. I grew up around hockey, and my family’s been in it since we were young, so it’s nice to have a job involving something you’re passionate about.

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

We’re going to be back in the Flying Tigers this year. We noticed with the last race (Milk Bowl) not having the restrictor plates in that it was time to move up to another motor – get a spec motor with everyone else and change with the times. We’re hoping to be just as competitive as last year, if not more competitive – that’s always the goal. We’ll see what happens.

What was the highlight of the 2017 season for you?

You always have the big dream of getting your first win at Thunder Road – a lot of people remember being up on the hill and saying, “I want to be down there one day”, and being able to have that experience, to get in front and see the checkered flag was definitely something else. But then there’s also the small competitive and fun ways of winning, like photo finishes and such. I’d say those are definitely the big highlights – and whenever you finish well, it’s usually a highlight, because you get to do it in front of a lot of people that you know and are there to support you.

How did you get started in racing?

Back when I was 12, I would go to White Mountain Motorsports Park with my cousin Chris. He was racing in the Kids Truck division at the time – he’s a year older than me, and it’s a 13- to 16-year-old division. I would help him on his truck, and the following year, I bought Cody Blake’s Kids Truck and Chris and I were competing in the Kids Truck division all the way up until we were 16. Then he moved on the Tigers, and I started doing Enduros every year at Thunder Road. I did that for about seven years while watching Chris and helping him out in the Tigers. And then he made the jump up to Late Models, and we had the Tiger laying around for a year, and we figured, “you know, why not? We own it, we have it – might as well get it out there.” So I decided to jump in last year, and I had a blast, and now it’s hard to go back to how things were before.

You come from a racing family as well. How has that impacted you as a racer?

My dad Mike and a lot of my uncles grew up racing, and of course Chris also races, so they’re definitely big influences as to why I’m even in a seat today. But it’s nice to see them get back at the track, too, because it was something that they grew up with and something that they love. So seeing them at the track doing something that they used to love to do and still love to do – it gets them right in their element. And that’s something a son would love to see with any relative, I would think.

What is your biggest life accomplishment so far?

It’s always nice to put a smile on people’s faces, whether it be someone that gets to watch you do stuff that you love to do and see them react to it – I think it’s a lot about making your friends and family be able to be proud of you. That’s always a life accomplishment, I think. So feeling that someone is proud of you is always a good goal, as well as being able to make yourself proud of what you’ve done.

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

I’d say my dad inspires me the most. I do a lot of the same stuff that he did growing up, and I watch how hard he works and what he goes through every day. There’s not a lot of people I know that work as hard as him. He puts in hours after hours just to keep a family business running, and he does it with a lot of family, so I’d say between my dad and my aunts and uncles, they’re the hardest-working people I know. They’re definitely big role models in that sense.

Can you tell me more about your family?

In the race shop, it’s usually Chris, my uncle Rob (his father), my dad, myself. There’s a buddy of ours named Alex and there’s also Will. We have people that come and stop in the shop just to say hey, and they’re usually there working on the car by the time I get back to Barre to work on the car as well, so those are the faces I’m used to seeing when I walk into the shop. My mom and my aunt Brynn are always there for support – my mom doesn’t usually go to the races, but having other family like everyone on the hill is also great, because loves the fan section, you know?

Your cousin Amanda is going to be represent the U.S. in the upcoming Winter Olympics on the Women’s Ice Hockey team. What does that mean to you and your family?

She definitely has a lot of support from the Northeast. We’ve all been watching her grow into an amazing hockey player, so seeing her be able to accomplish the goal of making it to the Olympics, which she’s had since she was a kid, is truly amazing. As she goes into the Olympics, we’re all overwhelmingly excited – a few of our family members are fortunate enough to be able to go over and watch, which is great. She’ll have some family support that’s going to be right there. And I’m sure she also knows that we’re all going to be supporting her back home as well.

What’s your dream vacation?

It’s always nice to go somewhere warm where there’s a little bit of ocean sand, because I’m so used to living in a land-locked state. But it’s also nice to be able to get out in a mountain range as well. It’s hard to say exactly what place though. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but I believe I’m going there in March, so I might be able to realize that dream.

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

It changes from day to day. I usually switch between a country station and a youth hip-hop station. So probably Froggy or Z97.1 FM. I’ll listen to pretty much anything artist-wise, but an all-time favorite I have are The Offspring. It’s always a good favorite.

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

That’s a good question. I think I’d want to be in the movie “Mystery, Alaska”. It’s a hockey movie, and they skate on the lakes and rivers of Alaska, and they end up playing a professional hockey game against the New York Rangers in Alaska on a pond.

How long have you been involved in hockey? What other sports do you follow or play?

I’ve been playing hockey since I was three, so I went through all the divisions, basically ending after college. I played soccer all the way up through college, and I played lacrosse my last two years of college. I played rugby my last two years of college as well. Back when I was only racing Enduros, it was easier to have time for all these sports, but now that I’m racing in a weekly division, there’s much less time to be able to do these other activities and hobbies. It’s definitely worth it though when you’re out there on the track and in the seat.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on your racing career?

I’d probably go with my father. I never was able to see him race growing up – he’s jumped in the seat for Chris’s Tiger in the past, but it wasn’t anything like he used to race when he was into it. So when he was able to get me into it, it was nice to see how in his element that he was.

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

There’s two of them. The first one is “Take a chance,” because if you don’t, then you’ll never know what can come from it. The other one is “Don’t keep looking behind you, because then you’ll trip on what’s in front of you.” You want to keep moving forward.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I’m not positive where I’ll be – I could be out West, I could still be right here at home in New England. So location I couldn’t really tell you. It would be great to still be racing in five years. The sport gets more and more expensive each year, and you’ve got to keep up with sponsorship and being able to support such an expensive sport. So if I can keep racing, that would be great, but we’ll see.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I’d probably get a nice piece of land, a nice house, and build a track out back, like a dirt track or something. And maybe I’ll build a rink over there too – away from the track, so it doesn’t cause any damage. We’d have all the toys, bells, and whistles.