Thursday May 24, 2018
Henry Ford said that auto racing began five minutes after the second car was built. It has grown enormously popular since then, and today, stock car racing is the second most popular televised spectator sport in the U.S., second only to major league football. South Burlington resident and stock car racing legend Robbie Crouch was inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame (VSHF) last month.
Crouch, 66, well deserves the honor. He was one of the most successful stock car drivers in Vermont, other Northeastern states, and Canada for more than 40 years.
Crouch is grateful for the VSHF’s recognition. “I didn’t have great expectations of making a career when I started,” he says, “I just did it. With the recent accolade from the VSHF, I look at my racing as ‘The gift that keeps on giving’!”
Born and raised in Tampa, Florida - and later appropriately nicknamed “The Tampa Tornado” - Crouch first attended stock car races with his father at Tampa’s now-razed Phillips Field when he was six-years-old. After beginning his racing career at the age of 16, he competed in the five-nights-a-week Northern NASCAR summer Late Model Sportsman circuit in 1972, running at Thunder Road in Barre, Catamount Stadium in Milton, Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburgh, New York, and Sanair Speedway in Québec.
He won the Devil’s Bowl that year at the age of 20. Crouch considers that particular victory as his greatest racing thrill. “That was a huge confidence builder and taught me something about racing and taking advantage of opportunities.”
Upon moving to Vermont in 1979, Crouch won back-to-back championships in 1983-84 on the restructured NASCAR North Tour. He also captured four more championships in five years (1986-88, 1990), and his combined Tour race wins doubled the total of the next best record. “After being a bridesmaid a few times, it was great to get the wins,” he proudly proclaims.
Crouch won Thunder Road “King of the Road” honors three times (1983-84, 1986) in addition to track championships at Saint-Félicien and Val-Bélair in Québec and Claremont, New Hampshire. He also captured the highly competitive Oxford, Maine, Open Series title in 1986, and he raced with the NASCAR Busch North Series, taking eight victories from 1988-95.
In 1988, Crouch received the Don MacTavish Award for contributions to stock car racing, and he was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Among his more than 100 career wins at 29 different northern tracks, Crouch possesses a record four victories in the prestigious Vermont Milk Bowl, as well as seven triumphs in the New England 300/Fall Foliage 300, three Memorial Day Classics, four Vermont Governor’s Cups, and two New Hampshire Governor’s Cups.
Speaking of Governors, Vermont Governor and avid auto racer Phil Scott was once a member of Crouch’s crew, and Scott was one of the speakers lauding Crouch at the VSFH induction ceremonies.
Would Crouch ever think about following in Scott’s political footsteps? “The closest I will get to the political arena is supporting Governor Scott,” he says, “The governor is smart, honest, and does what he believes regardless of the political benefit or liability. He would be a hard act to follow.”
Established in 2011, the VSHF is a nonprofit organization that recognizes individuals whose achievements and efforts have enhanced sports, athletics, and recreation in Vermont. Previous VSHF inductees include South Burlingtonians Ted Hoehn (2014, tennis) and Jack Leggett (2015, baseball coach/athlete). Robbie Crouch is a worthy addition.
SOURCE: William Wargo, Contributor