Unbuckled: Getting to Know Joel Hodgdon


Hometown: Craftsbury Common, VT

Division: Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers

Car: Richard Bell Land Surveying #36

2018 Season: Won Flying Tiger & Myers Container Service Triple Crown championships; 4 feature wins

What are your favorite hobbies outside of racing?

Hunting and snowmobiling. I did some hunting already this fall and shot a nice 8-pointer. The trails don’t open until mid-December because of deer season. I love to ride in New Hampshire when I can, though.

What do you do for work?

I’m a mechanic. I own my own shop here in Craftsbury. I do general automotive, but I like to work on diesels. I've had my own place for a couple years now. It just kind of happened; when I had my daughter, it was time to step up and be a big boy. (Laughs)

I know it’s early, but what are your racing plans for 2019? Do you have any goals?

I’m actually undecided at this point. As of right now, I own two cars, and I’m hoping one sells. As soon as one sells, then I’m probably going to be jumping up to the Late Models. I’m not going to be able to run weekly, though. We’re going to try and hit some of the bigger races – the first one for sure. I don’t really know how else to say it, but family comes first. Last year, my wife supported me being gone 110 percent, and this year, I think things are going to be a little different.

What was the highlight of the 2018 season for you? I’m sure there were a lot of them.

(Laughs) I don’t know if I can really pick one that stands out above the rest. I’d say winning the championship is obviously the biggest highlight of the season, but the Milk Bowl has to be right there. We came so close the year before and had a flat tire, and just – I don’t know if you want to say we had a vendetta, but that one we wanted in the worst way.

You’d been racing part-time at Thunder Road for a few years before last season. What was it that made you decide to go for it last year and commit to running for a championship?

The crew, really. We had planned on going for that Triple Crown championship and the Milk Bowl, and my crew guys stepped up. After the first three races we ran, we were sitting second in points to Dwayne Lanphear – who I wanted to beat more than anybody out there. And the crew stepped up and said, “hey, let’s run a full season.” It definitely paid off.

How did you get started in racing?

My dad (Paul Hodgdon) used to race in the Tigers at Thunder Road, and when he quit, he built me a kid’s car for Groveton. I ran my first race over there, and it was just a one-time deal. But then a month or two later, all of a sudden this Mustang was sitting behind the shop. Surprisingly, it took me a couple days to finally ask my dad why there was a Mustang sitting out behind the shop. And he bought to build into a Street Stock for me.

It’s like he said, “okay, you’re doing this.”

Yeah. The funny thing is, he said “we’re going to try this. We’re going to race a few races, and we’re going to see what happens. We’re not going to get you hooked on it yet.” But I’ve been racing ever since.

Can you tell me about your family?

I’ve got both my parents, obviously. My dad has been there in racing for me – including with the wallet when I was younger. He saw potential in me and knew we should do this thing. And my mom has always been there. She’s had her ups and downs on racing, but she’s never missed a race. She’s just as supportive as the old man in different ways.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

Definitely my biggest accomplishment is my daughter. She’s brought a better person out of me. That was huge, becoming a father.

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

Definitely my father. He got me started in this, and he probably regrets it to this day, because he wants me to focus on other things, but he’s definitely been my biggest supporter no matter what. The last couple years, he actually stood back and stayed in the grandstands and let me do my own thing.

What’s the most memorable trip you ever went on?

We went to the Daytona NASCAR race one July for my mother’s birthday. It was me and my family, and it was the Daytona race where Austin Dillon stuffed it in the fence. Unfortunately, it was a rain delay, and we went back to the hotel, and found out there that they were actually racing, so we buzzed back to the races. And it was so late, we decided to leave a little early, and the minute we left is when that accident happened. I was pretty bummed we missed it, because it happened right in front of where we would have been.

Let that be a lesson to never leave early, right?

Yeah. We were just trying to beat traffic, but that would have been a sight to see, for sure.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Lying. People who lie are definitely a pet peeve of mine.

What are the top three items on your bucket list?

I want to go hunting in Canada, I want to drive a Late Model, and I want to be a millionaire. (Laughs) There’s a lot more on my bucket list, but those three definitely come to mind.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I would want to be invisible, because I want to be able to walk up on something that’s happening and see what goes on when people don’t think anyone is present. You learn a lot about people from what they do when they don’t think anyone is watching.

Finish this sentence: on a typical Friday night, you’ll find me….

In bed at 8:30pm. (Laughs) That’s what I am on Fridays. I don’t do a whole lot besides hang out at the house, so I’m usually just hanging out with the family, kicking back, and snoozing after the week.

Who is your biggest fan at the track?

Boy, that’s tough. I’d have to say it’s either my wife or my daughter. It’s amazing how much my daughter loves racing. She’s only three years old, but she wants to race already. She loves the trophies, she loves the cars – it’s kind of scary, almost.

So are you saying that, in three years, we might see a go-kart in the Hodgdon house?

Oh, there’s definitely going to be a go-kart in three years. Also, adding to the biggest fan question, Rick Bell has to be a very, very, very close second. He’s been one of my sponsors ever since I started.

If you could pass along one piece of advice or life lesson to your younger self, what would it be?

Never be afraid to take a risk. For instance, this year, me and racing. I’ve always been the type to listen to other people’s opinions and have them kind of lead the way. But this year, we took a risk of running a full season not knowing how it was going to go, and it definitely paid off.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Watching my daughter race her go-kart and hopefully running a successful business.

What would you do with your life if you never had to worry about money again?

If I didn’t ever have to worry about money again, I’d take the crew, buy a couple more race cars, and go do some racing. That would be pretty solid to me.

Any specific series?

I’d try them all! (Laughs)