Hometown: Danville, VT
Division: Maplewood/Irving Late Models
Car: Berlin Optical Expressions/P&H Transportation #38VT Chevrolet Impala
2017 Season: Finished 8th in Late Model points; 1 feature win; Late Model Car Show winner
What are your favorite non-racing hobbies?
My favorite hobby right now would probably be watching my two boys Travis and Jackson with their athletics. Right now we’re in the middle of basketball season. Both of them are three-sport athletes – soccer, basketball, and baseball. It might seem like an odd thing to list as a hobby, but watching those two grow and mature throughout the years – especially Travis, who’s getting ready to graduate from high school – has been a fun thing to be a part of. Watch Travis mature as an athlete, and watching Jackson take the same steps that Travis did at this time of their lives (age 6), is pretty cool. I’ve been putting a lot of time into watching them.
What do you do for work?
I’m a financial advisor. I help manage retirement portfolios and build strategic portfolios to help people to and through retirement. There are a number of approaches for growing your portfolio during your working years, and then once you reach retirement, there’s different strategies involved depending on whether you want your portfolio to continue to grow or whether you want to take income from it. So I help people meet their needs and goals for when they retire.
What are your current racing plans for 2018? Do you have any goals?
This season, we’re doing the same as we did last year, which is running the full Thunder Road weekly schedule along with any ACT events that might be at Thunder Road. I’ve got some fantastic sponsors – Berlin Optical Expressions, P&H Transportation, R&R Fireworks, Sign Depot, Kingdom Embroidery, Performance Power Coating, and everyone else – who all signed back on. Plus I’ve got a fantastic crew as well; we’re having a lot of fun. Last year ended up going pretty well after a rough start, and we ended up finishing 8th in points, which was two spots better than we finished in 2016. So this year we’re really looking for a top-5 points run, and maybe even a couple more wins. We think we gained a lot of experience these past two years, we’re definitely looking forward to being a top contender this year.
What was the highlight of the 2017 season for you?
The highlight definitely was winning on U.S. Army Night. Anytime you can get a win at Thunder Road, whether it’s the Memorial Day Classic that I won in 2016, or a weekly Thursday night show like last year, is a big deal. Thunder Road is such a difficult track and has such a high level of competition that any night you can come away with a podium finish, let alone a win, is definitely an accomplishment. I’ve already accomplished more at Thunder Road then I ever dreamed that I would have in the Late Model division, so anything from here on out is just pure, fun enjoyment on top of everything else that we’ve done so far.
You struggled the first half of last year, but you really turned things around in the second half. What led to the turnaround, and is it something you can carry over into this year?
We definitely struggled a lot at the beginning of the year and had some pretty low finishes, and it wasn’t necessarily due to crashes or mechanical failures. Due to the new pavement, our setup was abusing tires pretty badly, and we were blistering a lot of right rear tires. A lot of events, we were doing well up until the final 5 or 10 laps, and then I actually had to let off in order to save the tires just to make it to the end. That’s what hurt us a lot at the beginning of the year. The second half of the year, we worked very closely with R B Performance going back and forth on setups about what to do, how to do it, and what adjustments needed to be made. That was the biggest turnaround of our season. It really helped out a lot with getting the balance of the car right. We weren’t far off, but there just a few things we were missing, and Mark Brackett and his team up there definitely set us in the right direction. Our partnership has bonded more this winter as well, so we’re really looking forward to working with them in 2018.
How did you get started in racing?
My dad Stacy started racing back in 1987 when I was six years old. From that point, going forward, I was hooked. I always wanted to be around the car and at the shop. I didn’t really start going to the races though until a couple years later when he was racing over in Groveton. He ran there until 1991 or ’92, and that’s where a lot of my childhood memories of racing were. I would be hanging around the shop watching things and playing with the other kids, and then we’d go off to the races, and you’d sit in the stands and watch some racing, and it was fantastic. As soon as I was old enough, my brother Pat and I both started helping Dad working on his car – at the time, you had to be 16 to get in the pits at Thunder Road. He was running the Tour at that time, so it just kind of progressed with me getting into. And of course, once I received my driver’s license and was able to drive, the only thing I wanted to do was buy a Street Stock and go racing.
Now, you would think that a father would be really proud of his son to get his own job and bring home his first race car, but my dad wasn’t. (Laughs) Dad was mighty upset when my brother and I first rolled into the driveway with that first Street Stock – and it might have been because he had already told us not to buy it. But we worked all summer long in 1997, and we put our first Ford Mustang on the track at the Milk Bowl that year. And with myself behind the wheel, and my brother calling the shots, we had a fun day. Not necessarily a good day – I don’t even remember where we finished. But I experienced everything from just driving on the track for the first time, to going down over turn 2 for the first time, getting spun out, almost rolling over, and also spinning somebody else out. There’s a picture Big Bigelow has of me spinning out another car, and I had told him, “the guy chopped me.” And you can see from the picture it was a blatant dump. (Laughs) But a lot of fun and a lot of new experiences were had that day, and that really kept us going up until we won the championship in 2000.
At that point, Dad had transitioned from ACT racing over to White Mountain Motorsports Park in New Hampshire. For the 2001 season, he had his car ready to go, and he had his old Tour over in the barn just sitting there. So I sold my championship Mustang, purchased that Late Model from him and my mother, and went Late Model racing down there. We had discussed the idea of running a Tiger or a Late Model at Thunder Road, but it just didn’t make any sense. If we ran a Late Model at White Mountain, Dad would be able to help us with setup. It was something that he knew something about, whereas a Tiger was foreign to all of us. And seat time was a factor as well. Thunder Road is a track where it can be very hard just to qualify for events, let alone run well in them. And as a rookie, I was going to get more seat time at White Mountain then I would have at Thunder Road. So our decision was made to race with Dad and against him, and that year I won Rookie of the Year and picked up my first victory ever – I’d never won in the Street Stock division.
From there, we ran 6 or 7 years at White Mountain, and then in 2008, we went ACT racing and did that for a few years to gain more experience at other tracks. The only place I’d ever raced a Late Model was at White Mountain and a couple Milk Bowls at Thunder Road, so Pat and I were ready to race elsewhere. Once we did that for a stint, our families were starting to grow and we really needed to stay home more. So we did an “outlaw” schedule for a few years where we ran every race at White Mountain and Thunder Road that was 100 laps or more. Then things turned a little bit and we had a little more time in our schedule, and after the 2015 season, we were approached by our current sponsors – Berlin Optical, P&H Transportation, R&R Fireworks, and the others – about running weekly on Thursday nights. That’s when we made the change to running full-time at Thunder Road. It’s been a great change, because it keeps our weekends open for our families and their events, whether it’s sports or camping or anything else in the summer. Thursday nights we go racing and have a good time, and our families enjoy it. I guess that’s a pretty long-winded answer to your question, but that’s my career in a nutshell.
Yeah, you spent longer on that one question than some do on an entire interview.
Well, I figured if I just kept going, it might answer another question or two that you had later on. (Laughs)
Can you tell me more about your family?
Of course there’s my wife Jill, who is first and foremost important to me. She’s very supportive in everything I do in our marriage and in our family life. On the racing side, there’s my crew chief and brother Pat Cahoon. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today by any means. In the beginning, it just kind of worked out where I bought the race car and I was going to be the driver. So he said, “Okay. Then I’ll figure out how to make it turn left.” I don’t think either of us really knew what that meant back then. But the time and effort he’s put into reading and the knowledge he has gained over the last 21 years is beyond my wildest dreams. Without him, I wouldn’t have anybody else around me to do that. As advanced as these cars are today, it’s hard to be an owner/driver/crew chief all in one. So it’s a huge plus to have him by my side to work on the setup, and the knowledge he has of that is fantastic. A lot of credit is given to him for this race team – pretty much everything we’ve done in racing has been done together, and I’m sure it will be that way until the end.
Check back on Thursday, March 15 for Part 2!