Phil Scott grew up in Barre, Vermont racing wooden buggies with his friends through the city’s downtown streets. As a young age, he made his way to Thunder Road International Speedbowl (VT) to watch his neighbor, the “Flying Frenchman” Norm Chaloux. From that young age, he developed an itch to race. Now at the age of 58, Scott is preparing for the biggest race of his life, the race to be the next Governor of Vermont.
From the time he attended his first race at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement,” Scott had a desire to be at the race track. After school he would head home to paint the colors and digits of his racing heroes, such as Ronnie Marvin, Bobby Dragon and Chet Wood, on the wooden buggies he and his friends would race through the streets. Neighbors would stand on the street corners to watch Scott and his friends, and to make sure they stayed safe.
At the age of 16, Scott began working on the real race cars that he watched at Thunder Road and at other tracks throughout the Northeast region. He turned wrenches for legendary drivers Robbie Crouch and Joey Kourafas before getting a chance to build his own resume at the Barre, Vermont race track.
With over 25 years of experience under his belt, Scott is a three-time champion, two-time Milk Bowl winner and the track’s winningest Late Model driver with 29 career wins.
Earlier this year, Scott announced his intention to begin the race to become the next Governor of Vermont. He won the Republican primary, making him the party’s candidate on the November 8 ballot.
But before he put all of his focus on that race, Scott has another race to prepare for. The gubernatorial candidate will strap in behind the wheel of his No. 14 Late Model this weekend for the 54th Annual Vermont Milk Bowl.
“I’m still competitive and we have a great team, a great car, so this weekend we’re looking to take advantage of that. It would mean a lot (to win),” Scott said while traveling between meetings on Wednesday. “It’s a huge race, I’ve won it twice. It’s very difficult to win. There’s not too many people that get an opportunity to win the race, much less win it twice. To win it three times would put the icing on the cake and maybe give me some satisfaction if I am successful in November and never get to race again. To look back at that final race with some pride.”
Since announcing his intentions to run for Governor, many people have written off Scott’s chances of strapping in behind the wheel of a race car if he wins the November election. But the blue collar race car driver and business owner isn’t sure he’s ready to give it up that easily.
“Obviously the next race that I’m in, that I have to complete, is the race for Governor,” Scott stated. “If successful, that’s a pretty important position that will take a lot of dedication and a lot of hours. I haven’t said I will completely quit racing, but obviously it will have an effect on whatever I can do. I know some that don’t understand racing have said that I would have to give it up. If successful, I would like to do one or two races as Governor. I don’t think that’s ever been replicated across the country and I think it would get some notoriety.”
One obstacle Scott may face if elected Governor is the high amount of security surrounding a highly-ranked official such as a State Governor. On the highways of Vermont, Scott will be transported by security and won’t have to do any of the driving. But if he is to race on the high banks of Thunder Road again, he wants to be the one doing the driving.
“I know some have said that I’ll have to put a second seat in the car, and I’m not sure I’d even want to ride with anyone else,” Scott joked. “I’m thinking more about the possibility of having a blue light escort in front of me to maybe part the ways so maybe I can win a race again. That would give me a little bit more of an advantage at that point.”
Prior to running for Governor, Scott served five terms (10 years) as a State Senator and is currently in his third term as Lieutenant Governor. Through all of his political steps, the racers, the race fans and the officials at Thunder Road have treated him with nothing but the utmost respect.
“I’ve been Lieutenant Governor now for three terms and I’m always appreciative of the fans, the competitors that treat me normal. Sometimes I think they treat me a little too normal,” Scott said with a laugh. “No, but having said that I told them initially when I became Lieutenant Governor that they didn’t have to give me any special breaks and I may regret that, I’ve regretted it quite a few times actually over the years. At the same time, it keeps me grounded and keeps my roots firmly on the ground and my finger on the pulse.”
Support from his competitors has come in many different forms since he announced his plans to run for Governor. Thunder Road’s biggest star, Nick Sweet, accepted an offer to drive Scott’s race car during a parade while Scott shook hands of those on the sidewalks. Eight-time American-Canadian Tour champion Brian Hoar, one of Scott’s arch nemeses during his racing career, offered a public endorsement of Scott from the Auto Dealers Association of Vermont.
“Brian Hoar, who I have a tremendous history with banging doors with Brian Hoar,” Scott said. He was my nemesis at one point, obviously a very talented race car driver. But he is now the President of the Auto Dealers Association of Vermont and they publically endorsed me. He game some incredibly gracious remarks and that means a lot, it goes beyond the competitiveness.”
At the end of the day, Scott looks at his racing career as something that helps the normal, hard-working Vermont resident look at him as a person and not a politician. And quite frankly, that’s because he is one of them.
“It not only helps me relate to them, I am one. I grew up in Barre, a very blue collar community. I’m a working guy. I have been all my life and I appreciate those who do,” Scott declared. I have a strong belief, I’m running for Governor to improve their lives. I think that we have an opportunity to make a better Vermont and improve the life of every day Vermonters, those who struggle working two or three jobs trying to make ends meet. I’m there to help them and give back for what they gave me. That inspires me to run, they inspire me to run and it’s not about my ego. It’s all about trying to make an improvement to what I think are some of the challenges we face. I believe it’s the affordability in Vermont and trying to focus on the economy, that’s something that I look forward to doing.”
While Scott has his eyes set on winning the biggest race of his life in November, he’s taking things one step at a time. His next race is the Milk Bowl on Sunday, and he wants to win that race, too.
“I’d like to win both races,” he said. “We’ll take it one step at a time and hopefully we’ll win the one this weekend.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Phil Scott for Governor