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'I'm Still Competitive': Gov. Phil Scott Returns To Car Racing At Thunder Road (And Wins)

Gov. Phil Scott stands near his 14 car at Thunder Road.
Wilson Ring
Associated Press File
Gov. Phil Scott - pictured with his #14 car at Thunder Road on July 6, 2017 - has now returned to racing on a regular basis for this summer. He'd taken a break from racing after signing gun legislation into law last spring.

After taking most of last year off, Gov. Phil Scott is back racing at the Thunder Road track in Barre.

Scott has been racing at Thunder Road for almost 30 years, but he put his career on hold last year. He said opponents of the gun legislation that he signed into law in April 2018 threatened to come to the track to demonstrate their unhappiness with his decision.

"I didn't want there to be protests," Scott said this week. "I didn't want ... to have the politics come into something that's supposed to be there for entertainment and enjoyment."

Scott raced a few times at the end of last summer, and there were no protests. He said this encouraged him to return to Thunder Road on a regular basis this year.

"It's good to be back," the governor said Wednesday — nearly a week after he'd won the main event at the track.

"It's good to be back." — Gov. Phil Scott, on his return to car racing

"I'm still competitive. I mean from my standpoint, that's what's important to me — that I'm not in the way all the time, although .... probably there would be some debate on that," Scott said with a laugh.

A good driver needs quick reflexes to race at Thunder Road. It takes about 10 seconds to do a lap around the quarter-mile oval track, and cars often hit 80 miles per hour. Drivers often race three cars across and are within inches of the vehicle in front of them.

Scott said he doesn't think it's a safety issue for a governor to be racing in these circumstances because there's so much safety equipment in each car.

"They're very safe now. I've raced for ... almost three decades, never had any serious type of injuries," Scott said. "So I feel safe in the car."

Sen. Phil Scott and Sen. Bill Doyle seated in a racecar. Both have helmets on, Doyle is smiling and giving a thumbs up.
Credit Alden Pellett / Associated Press
Associated Press
In this file photo from June 2001, then-Sen. Phil Scott, right, prepares to take then-Sen. Bill Doyle on a lap around the track at Thunder Road.

According to Scott, there's been no change in the way that other drivers treat him during a race since he became governor.

"They race me hard, and that's OK," Scott said, "but I race them equally as hard."

Scott said he thinks his approach to governance is reflected in his racing style.

"I've tried to be respectful and civil, and listen to those who have different opinions, and try and work together the best I can," Scott said, "and not be that driver that just goes out there and runs into everyone and tries to force them off the track."

Because of his gubernatorial schedule, Scott said he's not able to race every week but hopes to compete in as many races as possible this summer.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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