Unbuckled: Getting to Know Tyler Austin


Hometown: E. Calais, VT

Division: Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers

Car: Creative Visions/Leahy Press #5 Chevy Monte Carlo

2018 Season: Finished 6th in Flying Tiger points; 2 feature wins


What are your favorite hobbies outside of racing?

I like to work on cars, ride snowmobiles, and deer hunt. I enjoy just being out in the woods and hanging out with my friends and family.

Do you ride a lot of snowmobile trails around here?

I actually haven’t had a snowmobile for the VAST trails in a while. I just have an older snowmobile, and I go riding in the woods on some friend’s properties and such. I took a little break from VAST riding.

What do you do for work?

This past summer, I actually got my feet wet in painting. It’s only outdoor stuff right now; I was just trying it out. I’m very open-minded at this point in life about what I want to do for work. It’s just the way I’ve been. In the winter time I do a lot of shoveling, snow-blowing, and other snow removal.

What are your racing plans for 2019?

My racing plans for this year are looking the same as last year. We’re going to be racing full-time at Thunder Road in the Tigers, and we’re going to try to run a couple races at White Mountain as well. Maybe we’ll run once at Speedway 51, but I’m not sure about that. Those are up in the air because of sponsorship – we only get sponsors to cover for Thunder Road, so everything else is extra. I have some great sponsors that I need to thank for their support: Creative Visions, Leahy Press, Donald Pelletier Lube and Service, and Bear Naked Growler. My friends and family also provide a lot of support and keep me going, and I’m thankful for them, too. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them at the track.

Do you have any goals for the season?

My first goal is to have fun again. I’d also like to do better in points – I’m not trying to win the championship, but I’d like to get closer. My third goal is to make more friends. I made a lot of friends last year, and I’m just enjoying it. It was a lot of fun.

What was the highlight of the 2018 season for you?

My highlight was probably my second win (on August 16). That should have been my first win, because I actually had to earn that one. We started 13th that night, and it was probably the craziest night of racing I’ve had in a long time. I got to race with a lot of good people, and it was just good clean racing with Joel (Hodgdon) and Brandon (Lanphear) and a number of other people I race with.

Last year was your second year in a Tiger. What was different compared to your first year that help you be up there winning races?

My first year was a real learning curve kind of year for me and my crew. We don’t really have a big crew – it’s me, my dad, my buddy Chris Luce, Rob Taylor…my brother Zack is a big help too. At the end of last year I also had a couple other big helpers, Noah and Richie, that came in. And it’s just a lot to take in when you come from a front-wheel drive car in the Street Stocks. They’re a lot different – everything’s backwards. It’s like starting all over again. We had to learn how to race all over again. But I knew how to drive, so we just took the first year as a learning year and had some ups and downs. The second year, we picked it up and wanted to do well – and we have to do well in order to keep our sponsors happy and everything else.

How did you get started in racing?

It’s actually a pretty funny story. We used to go watch racing at Thunder Road when I was younger, and I also rode and raced around with stuff, but I was too old for the go-karts when I decided I want to actually race. So we bought Donny Yates’ Warrior championship car and we put a seat in it for the kid’s class over at Groveton – it’s called Speedway 51 now, but it was originally Riverside Speedway. That was when it all started. I started out as #05 because it was just Donny’s number, and it was the same number on when I got it, and it was also my favorite number – I rooted for Donny whenever he was racing. I raced over at Groveton for about four years, I believe, and then I went to Thunder Road and raced my first event there on the weekend of my 16th birthday. It was cool, and I really enjoyed it, because Thunder Road was always the place I wanted to try after I got into racing. No one in my family had raced there other than my grandfather way back in the day. I never got to watch him or hear about it much.

Can you tell me about your family?

My grandfather actually raced the Volkswagen Beetle (Mini Stock) division back in the day, but I don’t really know a whole lot about them. He was always working at Thunder Road at the pit gate every week when I was watching the races, and we’d go down and visit him and say hi. He was always pushing us to go to the race track, and that’s why I really got into racing, if you think about it. My dad really liked it, and we all enjoy it. We just do it to have fun. Me, my dad, and my brother are there every week, and my mom and grandparents help out here and there. It’s just a big family thing, and a lot of close friends help, too. My dad and my brother are big, big contributors to it. My dad got me into it and sets up the car most every week, and my brother helps with tires, and Chris Luce is a good close friend that’s always helped me for a long time – ever since I started at Thunder Road. I really appreciate that a lot, because he knows a lot now and he can help out a tremendous amount whenever we ask him something. Rob Taylor is someone I went to school with, and he helps out a lot too every week. Anything you need, he’s there; you just have to ask him.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment to be?

My biggest accomplishment is being able to learn a bunch of trades. I’ve been grateful to learn a lot of trades throughout life. I’ve learned how to do mechanics – work on cars, work on snowmobiles, work on anything with a motor, mostly. And I’ve gotten to work on houses doing carpentry and painting. I’ve also done yard services and such. It’s pretty cool stuff to learn about, because you need it to get through life.

Do you have anyone that you consider a role model or that you look up to?

I would say my father. He’s taught me a lot about everything – including how to be short and sweet. (Laughs)

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

I don’t go on them very often, to tell you the truth. The last one I went on was a road trip to Maine – which is not very far. But we went to the New England Forest Rally, and it was with 3 or 4 of my friends. We just went out in the middle of the woods with our cars and parked them on the side of the trail and set up our spot to watch all day. It was pretty cool, because I’d just left Thunder Road the night before, and I drove out there to meet them, and was just a lot of fun.

The dog in the background seems to approve.

Yeah, that’s my little beagle. She’s my little baby. Her name’s Ava.

Tell her I said hi.

I will. (Laughs)

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

That’s a wicked one. If I had a superpower, it would probably be just to make a good impression on everyone. That’s why I try to do anyways. I’m not perfect, but I try.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve is someone that thinks they’re better than everyone else – more specifically, someone who think they’re better when they actually aren’t. That’s probably the only one I have. I like to be friendly with everyone. At least, I try.

What are the top three items on your bucket list?

The first one is probably to win a Tiger championship. Number two would be to drive a Late Model. And probably just keep racing fun. I just want to keep having fun. I’ll give you one more that’s not racing-related: I want to settle down and find a really good job. I’ve been exploring my whole life, and I’m getting to be ready to settle down.

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

Unless it’s a special occasion, I don’t really go out a whole lot. That’s part of my settling down thing. But if I’m going out on a Friday night, you’ll probably see me having a couple drinks and hanging out with some friends and family.

Who is your biggest fan at the track?

I hear about it all the time, and I look up once in a while, and I see my brother’s little daughter yelling and screaming. She’s always talking about the race cars every time I see here. She comes down after the race into the pits screaming and hollering. Her name’s Brooklyn. She enjoys racing quite a lot. I’ve got multiple big fans, but she’s number one.

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

There’s not really one person. But my dad really got me into in and kept me going the whole time. He’s always made sure I have a good car and everything is always safe and not going to break down on me. Also, when you’re moving up through the ranks, and there are other teams that have had success, you ask them questions and get cars from certain people – you know what I mean? And the whole Shawn Fleury crew has helped us out tremendously with that. They’ve helped us learn the Tiger car pretty well. I thank them big-time for that.

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

Don’t take so long to figure out what you’re going to do in life. (Laughs) Like, if you’re going to want to do something, just figure out what you want to do all the time every day. Stop waffling on stuff – just make a decision and go for it.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

Just living on my own and enjoying racing still. Hopefully racing Late Models and doing it with the same friends and family that I’ve been enjoying it with. That’s all I really want to.

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

Man, I’ve never been asked that question. Wicked. I probably would just travel around the country and see how many race tracks I could visit. There’s a lot of tracks to visit. The first place I’d go would be Bowman-Gray Stadium. That’s a cool track. I’ve been watching a couple episodes of the series about it, and it’s pretty cool.