Hometown: Pittsfield, VT
Division: Allen Lumber Street Stocks
Car: Road Rage Racing/Fuster Plumbing & Heating #79 Dodge Neon
2018 Season: Finished 16th in Street Stock points; 2 podium finishes
What are your favorite hobbies outside of racing?
I love deer hunting. I really do – even when it’s a skunk year and I don’t get one. Just being out in the woods and nature is kind of a Zen thing. It’s so peaceful. The cell phone’s gone, the hustle and bustle is gone – it’s just you and the animals.
It’s definitely a real counter to how hectic things can be at a race track.
It is. With everything in life, you have to have balance.
What do you do for work?
I work commercial construction for Engleberth Construction. We do it all from the ground up – schools, colleges, hospitals, whenever need be. And all aspects of it, really. We could be doing framing one week and could be doing drywall or finish carpentry the next week. You never quite know. There’s a lot of guys that are very well-rounded; some people are more focused in one aspect. But it takes all kinds.
How long have you been involved?
I’ve been in construction for at least 15 years, and I’ve been with Engleberth almost eight years come this summer. They’re a great company, and they’ve treated me really well. It’s not really a job for me; I consider it a career.
What are your racing plans for 2019? Do you have any goals?
I sure that, like everyone else, the goal in mind is to do the best you possibly can. I mean, everybody – whether they say or not – what they’re thinking of is championship. Everybody wants to win, and that’s just the nature of the beast. As for our goals, I really, really want to see how close I can get to the championship. Of course I’d love to win it, but I don’t expect to. There’s a lot of great talent and fast cars on that track, so it’ll be quite challenging. But our main goals are to be faster than we were last year, to do better in the point standings, and maybe make a bit more of a name for ourselves to help get some sponsors for the following seasons.
What was the highlight of the 2018 season for you?
The highlight of my year was two boys that came up to me with their white Thunder Road hats asking me to sign them. The way it made me was really indescribable. I even asked them if they knew who I was and if I was the right driver, and they said, “Yeah, you drive the ‘flag car.’” That was probably it. I’ll never forget my first heat win – or any of them. And after my two podium finishes, I was on cloud 9 for weeks to follow. Just thinking about them still puts a smile on my face. But being able to talk to the kids and have a little bit of influence to maybe even help guide them and give them some pointers for later on in life – that’s probably the highlight for me.
How did you get started in racing?
Technically, I started really young. I grew up around muscle cars. Ever since I could crawl, my stepfather would build Chevelle’s, Nova’s, Monte Carlo’s, Dodge Dusters, Ford Torino’s – just all the good stuff. He started teaching me young, and I started street racing while I was still barely a teenager. (Laughs) He also used to take me to Seekonk Speedway to watch the races there, and it was something I always wanted to do, but we could never afford. So this has really been a childhood dream come true. When we start my second season, I’ll have just turned 40, and I’m finally getting to realize that dream and that goal. It was just everything.
What made it so that 2018 was the year you could finally go racing?
I finally had squirreled up enough money put off to the side where we could buy a cheap race car. It really came out of the blue – I didn’t figure it was going to be able to happen. But a few friends of mine already race and are always talking about it, and I just ended up with the opportunity to buy Tyler Austin’s old car from Brandon Gray. I knew the car had a lot of history, and it was what we thought was in our budget at the time, so we just kind of went for it and jumped in head-first. The first day we got on the track, we didn’t even know anything about stagger, camber – none of it. As far as I knew, the car was going to be set-up with 50/50 weight and all the same tire pressures. It was a stiff learning curve the first half of the season.
You definitely started showing the results from that learning curve the second half of the season though.
We got pretty fortunate. From Day 1, we were starting to get advice from really great people. The first day, Jamie Davis came over and basically congratulated me on being able to keep my line, and he gave me a little advice here and there. Then you had people like Frenchy LaFountain that would have a great conversation with you, or Tommy Thunder, and little by little, people would try to explain what does what and how to doing things. Tyler Austin and his dad were a huge help as well. It was everything from the little techniques that I could do behind the wheel to helping give my crew chief a little advice here and there. Not that he really needed a lot – if anybody really jumped into it full-force, it was him. With the amount of hours and just all the thought and actual caring that he puts into that car, it’s just as much his as it is mine, really.
Who is your crew chief?
My crew chief is Joe Fuster of Fuster Plumbing & Heating. Imagine that – an OCD plumber that just has a knack for everything. He can do mechanics, welding, farming…I haven’t seen anything yet that he can’t do.
Can you tell me about your family?
My family is all in Massachusetts. We grew up in the city – I moved out when I was 18, did a little traveling, then came up to the countryside of Vermont and absolutely loved it. I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else. But now I really have a family of my own with my team manager and girlfriend Tabitha – well, Tabby. Her daughter Ashley, as far as I’m concerned, is my daughter, too. And my daughter Monica just had a little one of her own, so now I’m a grandfather. I’m hoping that my granddaughter will be in the next generation of race car drivers.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment to be?
My biggest accomplishment, racing-wise, would be actually doing it. The amount of time and money, and everything that goes into it – people might thing that it’s just putting your foot down and turning left, but they have no idea about all the technology, the measurements…there’s too much to list, almost. Bringing home a couple trophies last year was huge. My first year, we were just expecting to get some seat time, get used to the car, and get used to the track. Never in my wildest dreams did I figure I’d be bringing home a couple trophies my first year. As for my biggest lift accomplishment, I believe it’s just the man that I’ve become and the people that I’m lucky enough I can surround myself with. Really, that’s it. Knowing the people that I know is huge for me.
Do you have anyone that you consider a role model or that you look up to?
He’s gone now, but my grandfather was probably the most honorable, humble man I will have ever known in my entire life. All of his lessons that didn’t quite sink in when I was younger, they’ve all shown their face, and it’s all hit hard at different times later on in life. But if anything, my role model was my grandfather.
How did you get the nickname “Paco”?
A couple of friends gave it to me when I was 10 or 11 years old. I’m not quite sure how it came about, but it’s stuck ever since. They said it, everybody started calling me it, I didn’t mind the sound of it, and it just became history. Now it’s probably what 98% of people know me as.
What’s the most memorable trip or vacation you ever went on?
I’ve actually never gone on vacation. But I had a really good time making a road trip down to Douglas, GA last year to get the actual enclosed trailer for the race car. That was a pretty good time. They’re about half the price down at the factory versus what they would ask up here. Other than that, I guess I’d say the trip over to Speedway 51 for the Twin State Series last year, where I watched Scott Weston pull in and just jump right into his trailer and start trying to put a motor together that he had in pieces. And he still made it on time for practice and the race.
How is it that someone your age has never been on vacation?
Between work and just life in general, I never really made a lot of money. I was always just living paycheck to paycheck making ends meet. Fortunately, as I’ve grown older, some of my wasteful spending went away. So little by little, we could start putting some money away. And now it all gets spent on the race car. (Laughs) The first think I was told about racing was that, if you want to make a small fortune in racing, start with a large fortune.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
I’d love to be able to erase or transfer people’s pains or illnesses out of their bodies so they would never have to deal with it again. Some people say X-ray vision, some people say super-speed, but what could be better than going up to a loved one that you know may be terminal and just be able to take all the sickness out of them? It’d be almost like a Green Mile–type deal. That would be my superpower of choice.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Lying would probably be my biggest pet peeve. If you tell me one thing, and later on tell me something completely different, it really aggravates me. That’d be my first one. I’m not even sure if it’d be second, because it’s right there with first, but number two is when I see people mistreating children. Other than that, I think I’m pretty understanding and pretty forgiving on most things in life. I understand people are human, so what might be a pet peeve for me might be normal for somebody else, and what I do on a regular basis might be a pet peeve for others. But if you say something, you should do it.
What are the top three items on your bucket list?
I want to ride around the Grand Canyon on my Harley, and I’d like to move up in the racing scene, whether it be Tigers or Late Models. I really don’t see me ever being able to afford running a Late Model, but I hope to at least move up to Tigers eventually. Finishing getting my pilot’s license would be pretty awesome, too. I took some lessons, I got to fly a Cessna the very first time I was in the plane, but when it comes right down to it, it’s racing or a pilot’s license, and racing is going to win. (Laughs)
Finish this sentence: on a Friday night, you’ll typically find me….
In a little red barn with my crew chief working on the car or just discussing what we could try to do differently. If I’m not doing that, then I’m trying to spend time with my girlfriend and team manager Tabby, and just trying to enjoy life.
Who is your biggest fan at the track?
That would be our camera crew Jim Denis and his daughter Catherine. They volunteered every race last year to come watch the race and videotape it, and you can hear him screaming and just cheering us on all the way back by Bud Hill. Having a camera crew was more along the lines for homework so I could see where I messed up, and it was a little bit more a view. But from my understanding, between my driving, and the lucky saves I’ve made, and my camera crew up on the hill, we actually have somewhat of a fan base up there. They’re calling it “Paco Nation”. When I found out about it, I laughed so hard, because I never expected it. At the Milk Bowl, we went up there with the rest of the Road Rage Racing T-shirts and passed them out to everyone.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your racing career?
There’s a few different things. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was always my driver, so I kind of looked towards the way he was. I watched a lot of CS Racing videos online since they showed the inside of the car, and that helped a lot with doing my homework on corner entry and exit and throttle positions. But really, it comes down to my girlfriend Tabby and my crew chief Joe. They’re always pushing to do better, to go faster. If something’s not working, try something else, you know? Don’t be afraid to experiment. If it doesn’t work, go on the next thing.
If you could pass along one piece of advice or a life lesson to your younger self, what would it be?
Prepare for your future as young as you can. When you’re younger, you just seem to have all the opportunities get thrown at you, and too many people end up squandering a lot of them. And you find out that it’s a lot harder to come by those opportunities later on in life. So it’s better to be prepared earlier on instead of just winging your way through and then one day waking up and saying, “Allllll-right – I’ve got start planning ahead now.” When you’re young, you think you have all the time in the world and you’re invincible – until you’re not.
Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
In life, I’d like to see myself as a homeowner. I really would like to be able to have my race car in my own garage where I can work on it whenever I want, and not just for a couple hours a night after work or on the weekends. As for racing, I’m hoping within five years that I’ll be looking at a Tiger, if I’m not already in one. And I hope to have, by that time, already won at least one championship. We’re going to try our best.
What would you do with your life if you never had to worry about money again?
I’d be a very busy man. If I never had to worry about money again and I could spend it as I like, I would help out a lot of people. The first thing would probably be to buy a huge apartment building with about a hundred apartments. I’d take all the homeless veterans, or people that just need to catch a break, and give them a place to live rent-free for a year or two while they get on their feet. When they have enough saved up to where they can move out on their own and have their own home, I’d bring in another person that needs help. If you could get even one of them to pay it forward, then it’d be an ongoing cycle where we could start healing ourselves. My grandfather was a veteran. He was a marine, and he fought in Korea and Vietnam. I know a lot of those guys come back and they’re not quite right, but when my grandfather came back, the only thing he focused on was his community and the children around him. He volunteered his time at the public pool and always had a pocketful of change that he would give to the kids as they came through, because back then we had penny candy stores. All he wanted was to make the kids smile.