Chasing the checkers

Cam Gadue poses next to his car aftering winning a race at Devil's Bowl Speedway. Photo courtesy of Cam Gadue. 

In his rookie season racing in the Portland Glass Mini Stock division, Cam Gadue exceeded everyone’s expectations, including his own.

The 18-year-old freshman at Castleton University shocked the Devil’s Bowl fans, finishing second in his division. He took the checkered flag in the final race of the season on September 2nd, solidifying his spot as the runner-up.

It was his second win of the season, not to mention his six top-3 finishes.

Gadue was not expecting this immediate success. “Going into the year, I just expected to basically ride around in the back and not really be a contender,” he explained. “I ended up doing a lot better throughout the year than what I thought.

For most of Gadue’s first race ever, he ran in the middle of the pack. However, with five laps to go, he wrecked his car and finished in 10th place. That ended up being his worst finish in the entire season.

And not only did Gadue win his final race of the season. That race was the final race for his division on Devil’s Bowl’s asphalt track. After this past season, Devil’s Bowl Speedway will transition to a dirt track. Justin St. Louis, the Media/Marketing Director and announcer at the speedway, explained the decision.

“The most successful years were when it was a dirt track, and that’s what the clear majority of fans and drivers want. Our asphalt track had a good run for a while, but dirt racing is trending upward in a big way right now across the country and it’s no different here in Vermont,” St. Louis said. He added that there is a bigger financial burden on the drivers for asphalt tracks.

Conversely, Gadue prefers asphalt tracks because they are more predictable and easier to control. Plus, he states that cars go faster on asphalt. “I like going fast.”

The driver of the #23 car, a modified 1998 Chevy Cavalier “mini stock” racecar, can now say that one of his biggest accomplishments was winning one of the last races on that asphalt track.

He bought his beloved car from Dale O’Neil, who won a championship with the same car at Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburgh, New York in 2016. But Gadue credits his surprising success to confidence. “I got better and better at driving the car. I learned how to drive it faster, I learned how to make my entrance into the corner a lot smoother.”

St. Louis added his thoughts on Gadue’s growth, saying that “He drove one of the best cars in the region as far as the Mini Stock division goes, and I think that accelerated his learning curve,”

St. Louis said. “Cam and his dad are great people, too, and that made them a lot of fun to have around.”

Roo Forrest, who raced alongside Cam and finished 3rd in the division standings, praised Gadue as well. After some tight battles on the track, Forrest believes that he actually made him better. “Cam pushed me each week to become better because I knew that he was going to be better each race,” he said.

Mikayla Hull, a friend and fan of Gadue, talked about the excitement she felt watching a longtime friend leave it all out on the track. “It was really thrilling to watch, especially because him and another guy were neck in neck. It was so exciting to see him win it.”

Cam Gadue described the experience inside the race car as very hot. The heat is unnoticeable while driving, he explained, because all of the focus is on racing, but once there is a caution, the heat catches up. Volume is also a factor, as the noise from the exhaust of his competitors can get quite loud. “That part can actually be kind of intimidating,” he said. “When you’re side by side with someone and their car is screaming in your left ear.”

As his first season at Devil’s Bowl came to an end, the runner-up reflected on his accomplishments. Motivated by his love for racing and his favorite NASCAR driver Bobby Labonte, Cam Gadue fulfilled his childhood dream of driving a race car. It took him the whole season to realize it, but as he practiced for his final asphalt race, the realization of his dream come true hit him.

And just to add one last exclamation point to his season, Cam travelled to New York to do one last race at the Airborne Park Speedway dirt track. Gadue, a young man from Vermont, showed up at that track and took first place. All he had to say was, “Unbelievable!” Gadue ended his year with three wins, all which came in the middle to ending stages of the racing season.

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