Hometown: Morrisville, VT
Division: Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers
Car: L&L Farm Inc. #40 Chevrolet Camaro
2017 Season: Finished 3rd in Flying Tiger points (2 feature wins)
What are your favorite non-racing hobbies?
When I turned 50, I bought a Harley Street Glide. It was my first motorcycle. I knew to wait until I was at least 50 to own a motorcycle, because everything I drive is full-tilt. So I figured I’d be old enough and wise enough by then.
And what’s the verdict?
Well, I have that and I also have a Mustang convertible, and I don’t know how fast either of them goes. So there’s the verdict. (Laughs) I love doing that when I’m not racing or haying – those don’t leave much time though.
What do you do for work?
I have my own dairy farm. We built a new state-of-the-art facility in 2014. We now have two robotic milkers, automated barn cleaners, and the works; it’s pretty nice. Me and Brandon run the farm. My father comes back from Florida for six months out of the year and helps with it as well. It’s pretty much just the three of us. He helps us do the cropping, and I probably sell 10,000 square bales of hay to horse people.
What are your current racing plans for 2018? Do you have any goals?
My plan originally wasn’t to run full-time – but with the year I had last year, it kind of made me want to run more this year. And then it turned out that two of my biggest competitors from last season aren’t going to be a factor this year. So that really geared me up to go for it in 2018. We want to win the championship this year, no doubt.
It’s been a long time since you won your last Thunder Road championship. How would it compare to win another one now?
It’d be great at my age – 53 years old. We won the ACT Tiger championship in 1989, in 1990 I won the International Series – which a little series for the Tigers – and then in ’91 I won the Thunder Road championship. It was a really nice 3-year run. And I should have New York (Airborne) in ’92, but it didn’t quite work out. Someone’s got to finish second though.
What was the highlight of the 2017 season for you?
The first big highlight was coming back after seven or eight years of not even being in a race car and finishing second to Brendan Moodie on Opening Day. That was almost as good as a win – I knew I still had it. Other than that, there was being up in the points all year, winning the last points race, and winning the Mini Milk Bowl. And we had nine podium finishes, which was tops of any driver in any division at Thunder Road. That was a surprise to me when I learned that.
Why did you decide to come back this past season after so many years on the sidelines?
Well, Brandon started racing in 2016 in the Street Stocks, and the goal was to get him into a Tiger. So we started looking for a Tiger and found one – and then we ended up buying two. And I said, “Oh well – let’s try it.”
You were originally planning on just running a few races last year. At what point did you say, “Let’s go for the whole season”?
It just came from running well and how much fun I was having. I ran Late Models for a number of years, and I have no interest in doing them again. But this Tiger division is just a lot of fun, and it’s also affordable.
You might be the only person who’s run both the new Tigers and the previous generation of Tigers back in the 1980s. How do they compare to each other?
They’re actually pretty much the same. That’s what inspired me to get into these Tigers now, because they reminded me of the old-school racing that we used to do back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s a division that started growing last year and it’s growing even more for 2018. It should be fun for the fans.
How did you get started in racing?
My brother bought a Tiger car in 1984. He bought it from Guy Brown – it was an old Ford Falcon. He raced it that year, and partway through the season, Norm Andrews got thrown out of Thunder Road, and we ended up buying his car. So we had two cars, and I decided to run a couple times. I ended up rolling over at Catamount four times end-over-end and cracked some ribs. That was the beginning of my time racing, and I pretty much started in Tigers full-time in 1985. So I started 33 years ago. I believe I’m the longest-tenured person currently racing at Thunder Road if Clem Despault doesn’t show up. (Laughs)
How is racing different for you now then it was back in 1985, and how has it evolved? Not just in terms of how the cars work, but the atmosphere at the track and the people in the pits?
Regarding the cars, we ran the big slick on the right front, but other than that, the cars are pretty comparable. We had leaf springs in the rear back then, and we’ve got coil springs in the back now, but a lot of the basic stuff is the same. As far as the people, the old Tiger division, and even when we first became Late Models, people got along and you could borrow stuff and this and that when we started. And then it got to a Late Model period where everything was a secret and nobody wanted to show you nothing. Today, our Tiger division is a pretty good group. If you’re missing something or need something, then you can go to another guy. The camaraderie is pretty good in the division as a whole.
Do you have anyone that you consider a role model or that you take after?
I’d say my father. I bought the dairy farm from him, I worked for him – I mean, I pretty much grew up working with him.
Can you tell me more about your family?
I have my wife Karen, my daughter Brittany who’s 28, and Brandon who’s 23. My father and mother, Joe and Marcela, live on the farm and help me when they’re here in the summer.
What is your biggest life accomplishment so far?
Owning my own business, raising my family up, and my racing career. I think I have a lot to be proud of, and I’m very competitive in everything I do.
What’s your dream vacation?
I’ve done plenty of those dream vacations. They involved being on a Caribbean island with a waitress bringing me a drink.
That sounds really good right about now.
If someone turned on the radio/media player in your car, what would they most likely be listening to?
I listen to country music. I listen to “The Highway” and “Roadhouse”, and I mainly listen to the old stuff. I grew up on country music.
If you were asked to appear on a TV show or in a movie, which one would you want it to be?
“Survivor”, because of my competitive nature. I would love to do a show like that and try to play the game.
What sports do you follow or play?
I like the finals in college basketball. I like football as well, and I follow some baseball. College basketball is great though. They’re playing for the real reasons – they’re playing it as a sport and not about the money. For the most part, anyway – you know what I mean. (Laughs)
Who is your biggest supporter at the track?
My wife, my father, and my son. They’re there every week, Brandon races with me, but my biggest supporter and help is my father. He’s there pretty much every week – it’s pretty much just me and him working on the car. And he likes whupping up on them as much as I do, plain and simple.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your racing career?
Norm Andrews. He built cars for us, he ended up driving for us after Mark built him a car, and Norm taught me a lot of the tricks of racing. The restarts, holding back on the outside…I mean, I could always go to him and ask. He was a big part of us starting in racing. And if he hadn’t gotten kicked out of Thunder Road, we wouldn’t have bought his car, and we definitely would not have kept racing with that Falcon. (Laughs) That’s a true story. Me and Norm really followed the same paths in Thunder Road history with previous owners.
Did you enjoy being known as the “Bad Boy” of Thunder Road over the years?
In a sense. I had thick skin, but to me – I mean, I’d get booed or this or that, and I can tell you I stopped an interview this year because there was a guy booing in the stands and I could hear him. I stopped the interview, and I hollered up to him, “Love me or hate me, you’re watching me.” Yeah, I probably earned some of it, but I didn’t think I was THAT bad of a guy to race against. I was a hard-nosed racer, kind of like a Dale Earnhardt, where second ain’t good enough. I will tell you, a lot of people watch the Tiger races in that pits, and a lot of people are going to Thunder Road that haven’t been there in 15-20 years because I’m there.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t give up, and always try to succeed at what you do.” I got that from my grandfather. It’s true as far as in business or in anything else you set out to do. Just don’t give up. It’s easy to give up on stuff, but you’ve got to be mentally tough. It’s a rough world.
Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I would love to think that I could still be able to race in five years. I’d be 58; I think that’s a possibility. In five years, I also hope milk prices are a lot better so I could maybe afford to race more. (Laughs) They’re terrible right now – I’ve never seen it so bad. We have trouble just breaking even right now. Someday it may turn around, but we’re going to lose a lot of farms in between though, that’s for sure.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Sell the farm! (Laughs) Hopefully the lottery is big enough at my age that I could then retire and enjoy life.