Unbuckled: Getting to Know Mike Foster


Hometown: Williston, VT

Division: Maplewood/Irving Oil Late Models

Car: Delairs Carpet Barn/K. Bellavance Hauling & Aggregate/Alluring Weddings & Events #7VT Ford Fusion

2018 Season: Finished 18th in Late Model points

What are your favorite hobbies outside of racing?

Pretty much all I do is work, ski, and race. I started skiing when I was is high school, and I typically go four or five times a year -- I like to ski at Bolton in particular.

What do you do for work?

I'm a project manager at Malone Properties. I'm in charge of a team of 20-30 people, and we build, lease, and manage buildings both in central Vermont and around the state. I've been working for them for almost 21 years now – nearly half my life. Pat Malone is a great guy to work for. He lets us do what we want on projects as long as they get done, and he's just really supportive of everything we do both at work and outside of work.

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

I'm planning to run the ACT Late Model Tour full-time, and it looks like I'll also be helping John Donahue at Thunder Road on Thursday nights and trying to win a championship with him. As for me, I'd like to finish in the top-10 in points and just try to have good, consistent finishes. But really, the big thing I'm looking forward to going to these different tracks, going back to the Bacon Bowl and to Ste-Croix in Quebec, and just having fun and continuing to improve. Also, we're building a PASS car, and we're hoping to run that 4-5 times, mainly at Thunder Road and White Mountain. We'll be getting support from some great sponsors such as Delairs Carpet Barn, K. Bellavance Hauling & Aggregate, and Alluring Weddings & Events, and we're going to try and do them proud.

What was the highlight of the 2018 season for you?

We had a 2nd-place finish in a heat race at Oxford (on Oxford 250 Weekend). That was a big moment, because we felt like we were making strides, and it showed in that race. Unfortunately, we then blew an engine going through tech and didn't even get to run the feature. We also had some good runs at White Mountain. We just struggled at Thunder Road, but we're hoping to figure that out this year and start putting up some good runs there as well as at the other tracks we'll be going to.

How did you get started in racing?

I’ve been watching and going to races since I was a kid. But my involvement really got started when Bart Foster – who is not related to me – gave me the opportunity to race go-karts for him. As a 13- or 14-year-old, I prepared his kid’s kart and his kart on a weekly basis as an actual job at his restaurant. I’d prepare all the go-karts to go racing on the weekend, and for that, he gave me the opportunity to drive one of his go-karts. A couple years later, I purchased a couple go-karts from him and kept racing.

Then when I was about 16 years old, I decided to make the move to Thunder Road. I hung around with Joey Laquerre Jr. beginning in1988 and helped him because he had raced go-karts with me. At that point, it was little Joey and Jeff Laquerre, Kip Stockwell, Tony Andrews, me, and some other people that had gone through Thunder Road racing go-karts at Joey Laquerre’s track in East Montpelier. So it was just normal for me to go and hang out with little Joey at Thunder Road. Burger (Greg) Blake was a family friend, so he kind of noticed I was hanging around the track in 1988. And in 1989, he called me to ask if I wanted to be on his crew full-time. I wanted to drive a race car right then, but I kind of figured that before I could be a good race car driver, I needed to understand the dynamics of what a race car does, and how different changes make it change, and the philosophy behind it to make me a better driver.

Of course, I ended up getting caught up with Burger and spent from 1989 to 2000 following him around the region. Eventually, I became his crew chief. We were racing 30-some-odd times a year – Thursday nights at Thunder Road, then the ACT Late Model Tour Saturdays and Sundays somewhere between Thunder Road and Canada. In 2000, I’d basically had enough and stopped racing. I’d actually bought a race car from Burger, but unfortunately, I got divorced the same year, and the car sat in the garage as a result. I ended up having to sell it because now I was single and trying to raise a family, and I worked for a solid 3-4 years trying to get back on my feet. Then one year I was at wrestling match with my kids, and I heard they were starting a football team in Barre called the Vermont Ravens. So I ended up playing with those guys for seven years, and I eventually purchased the team with a couple of my buddies and became the head coach. I finally decided to get done with that in, I think, 2012 or 2013.

In the meantime, I had talked my son Hunter into going and helping Cody Blake with his team because it was kind of what I did with Burger (Cody’s dad), and racing is a sport where you get that family aspect and camaraderie. And while I was hanging out with him while he did that, I had the opportunity to drive Todd Rueda’s car. We were having lunch at work, and he was like, “Do you want to try it?” And I was like, “Yeah, why not?” So we went up to Thunder Road and jumped in a Late Model for my first time driving anything in probably 25 years. I was jumping in a Late Model with those guys and just going out there and trying to stay out of the way. And I just caught the bug again and decided to buy my own race car and go racing. A lot of people thought I was crazy jumping into a Late Model, but it’s what I know. My expertise is being a crew chief, but I’m going to give a shot at driving. This is our third year, and I think we figured a lot out last year. Thomas Estes came on board as my crew chief, and that made a huge difference. I’ve got a bunch of good guys – Mickey Brouillette and Donny Welch are guys who’ve worked for me at Malone Properties, and I have a younger kid named Carter who’s come on board. He was there last year, and we’re grooming him into somebody who can hopefully be there for the next 30 or 40 years. Then with Pat buying the track, I’m part of that now as far as making improvements, and being hands-on with that is a special thing.

That’s a really cool story. It kind of gets to the heart of why a guy your age would suddenly show up with a race car. Most people just see that part, but there’s a lot that happens in the background leading up to it.

Exactly. I’ve spent pretty much my whole life at Thunder Road apart from those six or seven years I was playing football. I didn’t go to the races those years just because I knew that I couldn’t – if I did, I’d be back full-swing. It only took going four or five times after I was done with football and I was back. And I’m glad to be back. For people that don’t understand, we might argue and not get along at certain points of the season, but it’s a real family thing. There’s 60 or 90 or 100 guys in our division including crew members, and we all know each other. It’s hard to explain, but those who are part of it understand it.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment to be?

Definitely my kids. I have two great sons who I think I’ve raised right. I’m very proud of them. I don’t think I could say that anything’s a bigger accomplishment than that. To watch them grow up and grow into being amazing young men is a cool feeling.

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

When you’re growing up, your dad’s always your hero, right? I tried to base everything that I did in my life on him. My dad was a construction worker, and I did that because he did it. So I’d go with my dad first. And also just working with Pat Malone and everything we’ve done together. He really is like a big brother to me – that’s the truth. He’s my boss, of course, but at the end of the day, it’s a family thing like racing. Malone Properties is my family, too. You don’t stay with a company for nearly 21 years if you don’t feel some sort of connection to it and the people. Building Malone Properties with Pat and being part of that with him has been a huge accomplishment. I’ve built buildings throughout the state of Vermont, and I’m proud of that. My work, my kids, Pat, and my dad are the people I look up to.

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

To be honest with you, I haven’t really taken that many vacations. Throughout my life, spending the weekend racing – going to tracks and just spending time with my friends – have been my vacation. Just going into battle with the other drivers and teams and trying to come out on top and win a championship, and then the partying and fun after, was probably the best years of my life.

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

The power to make people smile. A lot of people think that I’m a gruff, grumpy guy most of the time. I’ve been fighting that reputation for most of my life – that I’m just this grumpy, driven guy who doesn’t show much emotion.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

I hate drama. I wish more people would tell it like it is and not leave anything unsaid.

What are the top three items on your bucket list?

I’d like to go to New Orleans and hang out. I want to build a building in New York City. And the last thing is carry a checkered flag. Maybe we can cross that last one off this year.

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

Working on my race cars. Especially during the summer. (Laughs)

Who is your biggest fan at the track?

My mom. She goes to the races every week. I don’t think my mom has missed even 10 races in the last 20 years whether I was racing or not. She goes back to the days before Burger was racing, but it was a really big deal the whole time me and Burger were racing together, because my mom and Burger’s mom are best friends. So she’s been a fixture at Thunder Road for as long as I can remember. Whether I’m there or not, my mom is there. She’s a racing fan, she’s a Thunder Road fan, and she’s my biggest fan. It would be awesome if she got to see me carry a checkered flag there.

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

I have to give Burger that credit. We spent 13 or 14 years together doing what we did, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I mean, when I was a little kid going to the race track with my friends – back when the grandstands were still wooden – I used to tell everyone that Burger was my cousin. Which was not true, of course. But to go from thinking that this guy is my hero to ending up as his crew chief is pretty amazing. I have to give him the credit of being the person that really pushed me into racing.

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

Not to take life so seriously. It’s one thing to be focused and driven and to be the best at what you do, but I missed a lot of things with my kids because of it. I was always there for them, but I could have spent more time with them. Being focused and being the best at what you do takes a lot of determination and sacrifice. And I wish I could have done that a little bit differently and been more of a family-oriented guy.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

I don’t really know. I hope that I’m still involved in racing, and I hope that I have a couple grandkids and life’s good for my kids. And I just want to be living a happy life.

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

I’d be doing the same thing I’m doing right now – building buildings, going racing, and doing what I do. I don’t need to do anything else or anything more.