Gun control may keep stock-car-racing governor off track

BARRE, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's stock-car-racing governor is questioning whether to race this season at a local speedway where many spectators are hunters after an outcry from gun owners over gun restriction legislation he signed.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott changed his stance on some gun restrictions after the arrest of an 18-year-old former Fair Haven Union High School student who had bought a shotgun and ammunition and was accused of plotting to shoot up his former school.

Some gun owners have called him a traitor for supporting raising the legal age for buying firearms and banning high-capacity magazines.

Scott has been racing at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre for decades. He's checking with the owners and other drivers to see if they have concerns about whether any animosity about his signing the legislation would affect the atmosphere at the speedway if he races, said Rebecca Kelley, his spokeswoman. He's still doing that outreach and hasn't made a decision, yet, she said.

"It's an event for everybody and he doesn't want that to be sort of a cloud over what's normally a fun event for all," she said.

Thunder Road said it had been contacted by Scott but said it considers what was discussed a private matter.

Down the road at Cumberland Farms, where spectators often stop after races, clerk Sheila Smith, a gun owner and hunter, said it's the governor's choice but if he races he will get "booed."

"He's just going to get a bad rap. He's going to get booed a lot," she said.

Tim Isabelle of Barre gets to several races a year and doesn't care if Scott races or not.

"I think he's washed up myself," Isabelle said, mentioning competition from younger racers. "Could he still win? Yeah, probably," he said.

Fellow racer Bobby Therrien, of Hinesburg, who works in the racing performance shop where Scott keeps his cars, said he understands Scott's concerns but hopes the governor races this season. The sport is a getaway for the governor, he said.

"He's a figure of Thunder Road," he said. "He's the winningest driver in the late model division so it would be a shame to see him not compete this year."