PHOTO: Vermont Lt. Governor Phil Scott is helping Vermonters send the message ‘We Are Vermont Strong’. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

— by T.J. Ingerson

LOUDON, N.H. — Phil Scott is unlike any other stock car driver. He races because he has a passion for it. It’s his hobby. He goes to Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl in Barre, Vt., every week, driving his familiar green No. 14, with one goal in mind: to win.

But, Phil Scott is also the Lieutenant Governor of Vermont. And today, he races for an entire state. He is Vermont Strong.

After damaging floods tore through the State of Vermont in the wake of Hurricane Irene, Scott’s day job took precedent. He had to miss one of the biggest races of the season at Thunder Road, one he felt he could win, to be one of the leaders that the state needed.

“[Vermont] has suffered from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene,” Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott said. “Some parts of our state were devastated. Many parts, including many roads and bridges, have not been reopened. We suffered over a billion dollars in damage. We’re encompassing on our tourism season. I have to say, with all the rain, we’re going to have one of the most beautiful fall foliage seasons in a long time. But what we found, with all the media attention, is that there are many cancellations.”

Scott, today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, is one of 43 competitors to race in the third edition of the ACT Invitational. But, unlike the other 42, Scott’s message is clear – Vermont is open for business. Vermont welcomes you to come and visit them. And that Vermonters are strong.

“There are so many areas that are truly are open. We [welcome visitors] to the state,” Scott said. “I sat out the last race at Thunder Road, which I thought I had a legitimist chance of winning, but I had to tend to the duties of being Lt. Governor. When I received this invitation [for New Hampshire], I thought about sitting this one out. But then I thought, ‘what a better place, then amongst the racing community, to spread our message about Vermont.”

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, a young Vermont couple, Lyz Tomsuden and Eric Mallette, who reside in Rutland, created the I Am Vermont Strong logo after a Facebook campaign started following the damage suffered. The message was clear. Vermonters are strong and will get through this. They are unlike any other.

Phil Scott’s hood will carry a slight different message. We Are Vermont Strong is what is on Scott’s hood today, but will have the same meaning and the same impact. He feels that Vermonters are in this together and will get through it together.

“We changed it, with their permission, to ‘We Are Vermont Strong,’ because we are all in this together. I thank [fellow ACT competitor] Brian [Hoar] for all his support and many others. There are many, many wonderful stories that you’ll find throughout Vermont about neighbors helping neighbors through this crisis. We are down to promote the cause and telling our stories.”

But Phil is also a racer. And while he is here to spread the message of the state he calls home, he is also here to attempt to win.

“I’m competitive by nature. I came to race,” said Scott. “But, my expectations aren’t the highest. We came with a brand new car that’s never been raced. It has somewhat of an experimental setup on it. We had a limited amount of practice this morning, but it wasn’t terrible.”

Scott, in his competitive nature, offered up a joke at the end of the press conference.

“Actually, though, it was bad enough so I think I should start on the pole.”

Scott then proceeded to draw the pole in the random handicapped draw. He will start next to White Mountain Motorsports Park Champion Quinny Welch.

The ACT Invitational is scheduled to start at approximately 5:30pm tonight.

STARTING LINEUP — The ACT Invitational
American Canadian Tour — New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
Saturday, September 24, 2011

(# – denotes rookie)

1. Phil Scott, Middlesex, Vt.
2. Quinny Welch, Lancaster, N.H.
3. Guy Caron, Lempster, N.H.
4. # Pete Yetman, Peru, Mass.
5. Tom Carey, Jr., New Salem, Mass.
6. Shawn Martin, Turner, Me.
7. Dan McHattie, Cavan, Ont.
8. Scott Payea, Milton, Vt.
9. Ricky Rolfe, Albany Township, Me.
10. Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, Vt.
11. Glen Luce, Turner, Me.
12. Donald Theetge, Boischatel, Que.
13. Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, Vt.
14. Aaron Fellows, Croydon, N.H.
15. Donnie Lashua, Canaan, N.H.
16. Jean-Francois Dery, Quebec, Que.
17. Ray Parent, Tiverton, R.I.
18. Brent Dragon, Milton, Vt.
19. Jamie Aube, North Ferrisburgh, Vt.
20. Dany Trepanier, St-Edouard, Que.
21. David Michaud, St-Annes, Que.
22. Joey Laquerre, East Montpelier, Vt.
23. Jeff Taylor, Farmington, Me.
24. Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Me.
25. Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass.
26. Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.
27. Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
28. Karl Allard, Ste-Felicien, Que.
29. John Donahue, Graniteville, Vt.
30. Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Dover, N.H.
31. Brad Leighton, Center Harbor, N.H.
32. Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H.
33. Patrick Laperle, St-Denis, Que.
34. Jeff White, Winthrop, Me.
35. Todd Davis, Claremont, N.H.
36. Richard Staskowski, Hope Valley, R.I.
37. Ben Lynch, Derry, N.H.
38. Luke Hinkley, Claremont, N.H.
39. T.J. Brackett, Buckfield, Me.
40. Mark Lamberton, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
41. Ryan Vanasse, Warwick, R.I.
42. # Dave Farrington, Jr., Jay, Me.
43. # Ben Ashline, Pittston, Me.