Welcome to Vermont Motorsports Magazine! Let's begin by introducing ourselves; my name is Justin St. Louis, and I'll be the guy writing the stuff here. And you must be my favorite kind of person: a race fan.
As with all things just beginning, this blog will be a work-in-progress over the next few months or years, but I'll work hard at it, trying to bring you up-to-date, accurate news from all over the Green Mountain auto racing scene. And we won't let the name "Vermont" limit us to just the borders of this state - there are Woodchucks racing all over the place, and we'll do our best to keep up with them. Heck, we'll probably go places where there aren't ANY Vermonters on occasion.
I’ll admit that I’ve spent A LOT more time at asphalt tracks than dirt tracks, but I promise to give fair and adequate coverage to all of Vermont’s grassroots-level racers and tracks.
Basically, here’s the point of Vermont Motorsports Magazine: The goal is to report on the stories that are important to Vermonters that care about local stock car racing and their friends, family, and heroes that turn the wrenches, write the checks, or hammer it down into Turn 1 just a little harder than the next guy.
At the deepest of my roots, I am a race fan. Red-blooded, true blue, any cliché you’d like. But on top of that, there are some layers – I’m a competitor, a former official, and, through no real fault of my own, a member of the local motorsports media. I spent a few years in freelance journalism rarely getting paid. I liked it, but I started to get ideas about writing to make a living. So I spent a fair amount of time in the PR world, basically writing about what I was told to write, and representing a company. I liked that, too.
But in both of those disciplines, I was instructed to temper my comments and not share opinions anywhere near as much as I would have liked, and I didn’t care for that part of it that much. Sometimes, I couldn't tell the whole story because it would make my employer(s) look bad. It happened at every outfit I worked for, and I totally understood, but my inner rebel wanted more instant gratification.
I didn’t want to be a PR lackey any more, having to write things I didn’t necessarily want to write about. In my first paying gig, I sort of had a reputation as the "controversial" writer, the one that told the stories exactly as the drivers told them to me. It wasn’t always popular with management, and it certainly wasn’t always popular with the drivers.
But man, I loved it. I will always remember early Saturday morning at the 2005 Milk Bowl:
Me: "Rocket! What’s up?"
Roger Brown: "You might want to stay away from Patrick today."
Me: "Uhhh… Laperle?"
Brown: (laughing) "You got him perfect at Lee, I could hear him saying the words as I read them."
Brown: "Yeah, he’s pissed, and he’s looking for you."
Suffice it to say that Patrick Laperle, who was not only a great source for one-liners, but had started to become a friend, was a little hot after I printed everything he said – and I mean EVERYTHING – after a good race gone bad at Lee USA Speedway the week before.
Laperle found me about 10 minutes after I got the heads-up from Rocket Roger, and he let me have it pretty good. "I thought we were talking as friends," he said. And in the moment we were, but I also clearly had the microphone in his face, and he knew exactly what he was saying and that, friends or not, I was a reporter and I was doing my job.
My point here is that I’m not willing to sacrifice my journalistic integrity for a paycheck. If people want to spout off at the mouth, they’re more than welcome to, but if that mic is on, don’t leave it up to me to censor what you say. Some guys – and Laperle is usually one of them – say controversial things on purpose. Some guys stay clear away from it with a generic, "We had a great run going, but it wasn’t meant to be, blah, blah, blah." That’s their choice, but it’s my job to write what they tell me.
The best example of that came at this year’s Milk Bowl with Travis Barrett of Green-White-Checker. Joey Polewarczyk got black-flagged for rough riding, and gave Travis a generic-type "we’ll accept it and move on" kind of interview. As a kid his age with his potential, looking for the next big ride, that’s exactly the type of stuff he should be saying, because it’s PC and it’s what the big-wigs want. On the other hand, Cris Michaud and Brad Leighton kicked the hell out of each other when Travis asked them what was going on, because, honestly, what risk is it for them to take? Both guys are in their 40s, are very accomplished racers, and are in it simply to win races.
Here’s the drill: Joey Pole’s got a lot riding on his shoulders and needs to do everything right, especially when he’s under scrutiny. Michaud and Leighton, they’ve got nothing left to prove except that they’re not taking anyone’s crap. Kudos to a guy like Travis Barrett for printing everything those three men said, as they said it. That takes integrity from a writer that’s willing to push personal relationships aside for the best, most honest, most fair product for the race fans that deserve to read about it.
And that’s my mission here at the brand-new Vermont Motorsports Magazine. It’s Green Mountain racing for Green Mountain people, with a Green Mountain attitude. You’ll see positive and negative, accolades and controversy, and both sides of every story.
Thanks for checking out VMM. It’ll be a fun ride.