Gov. Phil Scott still plans to return to the race track this year, but persistent sprinkles Sunday delayed his debut as a racing governor.
Scott was set to drive at Thunder Road SpeedBowl in Barre before officials postponed the Merchants Bank 150 just before race time.
Racing at Thunder Road is something Scott’s done annually for 25 years, but this would have been his first time since becoming Vermont governor in January. If and when the governor does race, it’ll likely be a first in the nation, according to Scott’s staff. Governors golf, governors own baseball teams, but there’s no evidence other sitting governors race cars.
The 58-year-old Republican, who said during last year’s election campaign that he expected he’d have to give up car racing if elected, said he has since realized that racing will be a welcome reprieve from the job — as long as his schedule allows.
“This does bring me back to some semblance of normal life,” Scott said, noting that being governor has meant giving up much of his independence.
Scott got back behind the wheel of his green and black number 14 late-model race car for a practice session Saturday before making the decision to enter Sunday’s Thunder Road season opener. Practice went well, he said, as he finished in the top five in each run, he said.
“So that says to me, out of 35 cars we’re in the top five, we’re still competitive and had a chance,” he said after Sunday’s race was postponed.
As governor, Scott no longer drives his personal car, but is chauffeured by a state trooper, who accompanies him everywhere he goes.
Despite the focus on security during most of his day, Scott said he has no fears that racing is too dangerous for the state’s top executive. Though the sport has him touching bumpers with fellow racers at 80 miles per hour on a tight, quarter-mile oval, Scott said he considers car racing safer than bicycling, one of his other hobbies.
“I spoke to security about it and they were comfortable with me doing a few races,” Scott said. “I thought as long as I didn’t commit to a full schedule and had the flexibility of working around whatever I had to do and knowing I could cancel at the last minute.”
Sunday, it wasn’t official business that canceled the race, but a little rain.