Unbuckled: Getting to Know Robert Gordon


Hometown: Milton, VT

Division: Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers

Car: H20 Well Drilling #20 Chevy Monte Carlo

2018 Season: 9th in Flying Tiger points; 1 podium finish; Thunder Road Sportsmanship Award winner


What are your favorite hobbies outside of racing?

I hunt a little bit. I also ride snowmobiles, but I’ve been so busy doing the racing thing and the working thing that I haven’t even been riding yet this year. The season has just started, though, so there’s still time.

What do you do for work?

I drill water wells and install pump systems. I’ve been doing it for 30 years, and I’ve been doing it for myself since 2001. I just do it in northern Vermont – I’ve got more work than I can do right here in my little area, so I don’t have to travel very far at all.

And it explains the H20 on the car.

It explains a lot of things. (Laughs)

What are your racing plans for 2019? Do you have any goals?

At this point, I’m definitely thinking I’m running Thunder Road again in the Tigers. As far as goals, I’d always like to better than the year before. I’d really like to win a race down there if possible – I don’t know if it is, but we’re going to try like heck this year.

What was the highlight of the 2018 season for you?

Other than winning the Sportsmanship Award, I guess it was coming in second place on double point night. It was my first podium finish at Thunder Road, and I was to the point where I didn’t know if it was going to happen. It’s definitely a whole different ball of wax down there from what I’m used to racing. It was great having that good of a run that night – the car was really good.

What did it mean to you to be named the Thunder Road Sportsmanship Award winner?

It meant quite a bit. To me, it’s more important than winning a championship. They gave out five championship awards that night and only gave out one sportsmanship award. It’s kind of what racing is all about – just having a good time. Yeah, you want to do well, but I don’t think doing well is as important as having a good time while you’re doing it.

How did you get started in racing?

It’s something I’d wanted to do for years. As a kid, I went to Catamount Stadium – not very often, but I did get to go some. Then once I had my own business, I bought an old piece of junk car, and just went out and started with that and worked my way up from there.

You’ve won a lot of races and championships at other tracks around the region. What made you decide two years ago to come race at Thunder Road?

It was mainly because the other two tracks (Airborne and Devil’s Bowl) went to dirt. I hadn’t missed a race at Airborne since 2002; I’d made every race every year. I think I won two championships there and three at Devil’s Bowl, but Airborne was definitely my home track to start with. Between both tracks, I won almost 50 features, so it was a pretty good run. But when they went to dirt, I just – I dig holes in the dirt every day of the week, and I didn’t want to dig it out from underneath my car three days a week, too.

What’s the experience been like for you adjusting to a new track and taking on this new challenge?

It’s definitely different, and definitely harder, both with the type of racing that the track provides and the excitement of it. When people say it’s the “Nation’s Site of Excitement”, they say it for a reason. You’re on the edge of your seat every lap, every corner, every stretch. When you sit down and think about it, we run over four laps a minute – we’re at about 14-second laps. That’s a lot going on in a minute’s time. There’s not a lot of relaxing. At Airborne or Devil’s Bowl, I can go down the stretch, and I’m looking around and I can see my brother sitting over up in Turn 1 and my buddy sitting in Turn 4. At Thunder Road, you can’t look around too much.

What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?

One is owning my own company. And I just barely bought a house a couple months ago. Well, I bought a big garage and it came with a house. It’s a big deal for me.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on you as a racer?

I guess my family and friends – just having them there and having their support. When we first started, we had a pretty big crew. We had my cousins, and my wife Julie, and we kind of all did it as a family and friend thing. Everybody would come over on Thursday nights and Friday nights, and we’d all have a good time, play around with the car, and then do the same thing at the track.

Can you tell me more about your family?

My dad is still around – my mom passed away quite a few years ago. He was a farmer, and he’s sold all his cows and retired now. There’s me and Julie, and I have three kids: Corey, Katie, and Cassie. And I also have four grandkids. My son is 32, and my daughters are 28 and 29. It’s just me and Julie still at home – we have an empty nest now.

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

In 2014, I believe, I won the championship at Airborne and Devil’s Bowl and we finished third in the country in the asphalt division for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. So I got invited to the banquet down in Charlotte, NC. That was a pretty good time. It was actually the first time I’d ever flown on an airplane. That was pretty different and pretty out of my realm. I couldn’t believe how clean the city was for as big as it was. We’d get up in the morning, and they’re out there sweeping the streets and picking up cigarette butts. They kept the city pretty clean. The hotel we stayed at was right there at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That whole experience is something I guess I never thought I’d do, and probably will never get the chance to do again.

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

I guess it would be being able to tell where water is and how deep it is. It would come in really helpful for my job. I could make a lot of money – I could do flat-rate jobs, guaranteed water at no charge for one set price, and I’d make out like a bandit. That’s probably not the answer you’d get from most people. (Laughs)

What are the top items on your bucket list?

I’ve already been to Vegas, so that’s one that down. Winning a championship at Thunder Road would be pretty awesome. I’d also like to pay my house off, since I just bought it.

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

Hanging out in the garage. We usually have 6, 8, 10 people who stop by every Friday night at different times. We hang out, have a couple suds, shoot the breeze, and just have a good time and relax. If I’m lucky, we’re not working on race cars. If it was a good Thursday night, we’re not working on them – not hard, anyway.

Who is your biggest fan at the track?

I have a lot of guys who come down to watch me race. There are 2 or 3 guys that I know for a fact are there every week. I know some guys that are there every time the gates open! But I’d have to say a lot of the kids. I’ve given away a lot of trophies over the years. I just put shelves up in my new garage, and I started counting my trophies – I’ve got something like 120 trophies up my shelf here. For a few years, mainly 2013-2015, every time I would win a race or was in the top-3, usually the sponsor of the race would present the trophy, and a lot of times their kids would do it. I’d sign the trophy and give it back to the kids. They loved it. So I have a lot of small kids that became fans pretty quickly because of that. The sponsors loved it, the kids loved it, and the race tracks loved it because everybody else loved it. I haven’t really been able to do it the last couple years, though, because I haven’t been winning a lot of trophies lately. (Laughs) Hopefully that will change this year.

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

That’s a tough one. Probably pay more attention in school – pretty simple. I’m not a very book-smart guy, I’ll put that way.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

I hope to see myself right where I am now – in good health, still racing, and still working.

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

I don’t know – I’d probably be dead.

That’s a little morbid.

(Laughs) Well, I’d have so much money that I’d just go party all the time and do all kinds of crazy things, and it probably wouldn’t work out. That’s what keeps you in check.