Hometown: South Burlington, VT
Division: Thunder Road Late Models
Car: Jiffy Mart #85VT Chevrolet Impala
2017 Season: Finished 2nd in Late Model Points; won Vermont Governor’s Cup
What are your favorite non-racing hobbies?
My favorite hobbies are snowmobiling and flying airplanes and aviation. My dad and my grandfather got involved with aviation on the same day – I guess it would be the early ‘60s – and my grandmother became a pilot as well. When I was 16 I solo’ed (flew solo) and when I was 17 I got my pilot’s license. I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s another pastime or enjoyment to take your mind away from work and things like that.
What do you do for work?
I work for a company that specializes in additives for the turf markets along with feed supplies. We produce high calcium products that are used in animal feeds, fertilizers and other consumer and commercial use.
What are your current racing plans for 2018? Do you have any goals?
We have the same plan as I’ve done the last few years, which is to race all the Thunder Road races – it’s a really good schedule for me. That fits what my off-time can allow, and I still enjoy it. The goal is still the same goal that I’ve had for the last few years, which is to finish as high up in the points as I can and hopefully go after the championship. We seem to be knocking on the door, but it’s all part of the year and how the year goes. But first and foremost, we want to have fun.
What was the highlight of the 2017 season for you?
Certainly winning the Governor’s Cup was a highlight. That race and how it played out, winning it with (Governor Phil Scott) there in front of a big crowd – you just couldn’t put it together any better for me. That put the icing on a very, very good year for me at Thunder Road.
You've been on the cusp of being a championship contender for a number of years. What was different, if anything, about this past season that helped you make the leap to being a serious contender?
Honestly, I think the new asphalt played a big role for me. I’m not a guy who likes a loose race car, and the old asphalt surface played into the hands of the people who do like that. So when they paved it, we just hit on it, and we read the track right throughout the year. It gave me the confidence that I needed to be patient when I needed to, be able to go when I needed to, and read what was going to happen. And I don’t think the surface was faster than what I could handle – for some of the competitors, it was a little bit fast in the beginning, and things were happening a little faster than normal. But probably more so than just the surface was the crew that assembled around me for the year and the effort they put in. The leadership from both Charlie Smith and Rick Paya was huge – everybody had confidence when we got in the truck that we were going to drive up there and have a good night. Did we think we were going to win them all? No, but we certainly drove up there hoping we could land a few. We got one, and we had more top-2s and top-3s than I’ve ever experienced in my life, so it was certainly an enjoyable season.
How did you get started in racing?
My parents actually lived in a trailer park that was just up the road from Catamount Stadium, so from as long as I can remember, I could hear cars at Catamount. I used to go there on the weekends and watch the racing. We sort of stepped away from racing for a while, and then in 1991, my father Dennis and I went to watch Gardner and Todd Stone race their dirt cars at Devil’s Bowl. On the way home, we decided to build a car, and I think it was 5 or 6 weeks later we were racing at Airborne. I didn’t know anything about racing, and I really kind of felt that I would help my dad for a couple races and that would be it. But I got hooked, and I been involved with it in either a crew chief form or now the driver’s side of it ever since. That’s my story of how racing has evolved for me.
What is your biggest life accomplishment so far?
I think probably just being a fair person to everybody – giving everybody the benefit of the doubt and not jumping to conclusions. I think that’s something I’ve learned over the years in the various positions that I’ve been in and circumstances that I’ve put myself into, either in racing, aviation, business, or personal life. I think that would be my biggest personal accomplishment.
Do you have anyone that you consider a role model or that you take after?
The easy one is always to say your father. He’s certainly been a role model in business, and also in the way he carries himself and handles himself personally and professionally. But I’m not sure that I have one particular person – I think it takes many people to shape who you become, and you’re as good as the people you surround yourself with. With everybody that comes in contact with me, I try to use what I can learn from them to make myself the best I can be, if that makes sense.
Can you tell me more about your family?
I have my wife Emily, and then I have two sons. Grayson’s my oldest – he’s 4 – and Wesley is coming up on 18 months. That’s my immediate family, and then my father-in-law Louis Cassani is my biggest fan. He goes to all the races and is really a big supporter of what I do at Thunder Road.
What’s your dream vacation?
One where I don’t have a phone or an iPad with me – where I can truly get away from it all.
If someone turned on the radio/media player in your car, what would they most likely be listening to?
Country music. I would probably say that No Shoes Radio from Sirius XM would be pretty prominent on there. It would be fair to say that country music would most likely be on, but it can range anywhere from country music, to rock music, to jazz, to Sinatra at some points during the day. But country music is primarily what I listen to.
If you were asked to appear on a TV show or in a movie, which one would you want it to be?
You know, I wouldn’t mind doing “Survivor” at some point, just to see if I could tough it out. And I believe I could play the head games as well as they could.
What other sports do you follow or play?
I couldn’t play sports in high school due to a back injury, so I never got involved in any stick-and-ball sports at all. Therefore, I don’t really watch a lot of that until we get to the playoffs, such as the World Series or Super Bowl. My primary focus is I that I live, breathe, and read about racing all the time. I like the NASCAR races, and I like to follow the Hollywood portion of it too, because I think there’s a fair amount of that in NASCAR. If I’m home on the weekend, I’m planning my weekend around trying to settle in and at least catch the tail end of a race – primarily the Sunday races, not the Saturday races, although I’ll certainly read up and follow what’s going on with those series.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your racing career?
I think Rick Paya probably has at this point. We’ve been together for a few years now, and his influence of critiquing both good and bad has made me think about certain situations. And second behind him, if not equal to him, would be Charlie Smith, who’s been with us and helping me for many, many years now. Both are very, very good at seeing what’s going on at the race track and understanding my weaknesses and my strengths. When you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen. Those two certainly in the last few years have made me more mature on the race track, more confident in myself, and helped instill the patience and confidence I need to be able to get to the front or even win races. It’s not easy to win a race – I haven’t won a lot of them, so when I do I certainly appreciate it, but they don’t come easy for me. It’s the one thing that keeps me going back for more, is that you cannot take it for granted until the checkered flag falls.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received is that life is about 10 percent what’s thrown at you, and 90 percent about how you handle it. That’s kind of my new motto. You can’t control what you’re dealt, but you can control how you play it.
Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
That’s a great question. I’m 46 years old – old for racing these days. Although my dad started when he was 41, so I kind of look at that and compare myself to him. If I’m still having fun, then I’ll still be racing. If I’m not, then at that point, I’ll know that I’ve ridden this as far as I can go, and we’ll see if my two kids have any interest in it or not. But I’m certainly going to look back on whatever it is in five years and continue to try to have fun.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
If I was to win the lottery, I’m not sure that a lot would change in my life. I’ve been very fortunate to be blessed with a lot of things throughout my life, and I think that probably what I would do is make sure that my family is secure and taken care of, and then I’d try to find an appropriate charity to support that I cared about. But I’m not sure that a lot would really change, to be honest with you. I think I’ve been very fortunate.