Families of Thunder Road: The Pelkeys

BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) If you're a sports fan in Vermont, there's a good chance the name Pelkey conjures up images of the ice, a homegrown hockey superstar and recently crowned gold medalist. I am of course referring to Montpelier native, UVM alum, and Team USA forward Amanda Pelkey...but she's not the only professional athlete in her family.

"We've always just tried to support her the best we can and root her on," said Amanda's cousin Chris Pelkey, a Late Model driver at Thunder Road. "We know she's awesome. And she's a great person, so it's good to see her succeed."

"A lot of people ask us how we feel and how the family's been," added Jason Pelkey, a cousin of both Chris and Amanda. "We've all been really excited. We all love doing our own thing. Chris and I are out here racing too and doing best as we can as well."

Chris has been a staple at Thunder Road the past few years, starting in the Tigers and working his way up to the top division at the nation's site of excitement.

"I grew up about two miles from the track," he said. "My mom and dad always brought us here, my dad and uncle used to race, and I've always been into it and a bit of a gearhead. I like tinkering with things. So after sitting up on the hill for 13 years, I started in the pits, moved up from there, and got our own car and starting racing."

While Chris always knew he wanted to race, it took a little while for Jason to decide he wanted to pursue it into adulthood.

"Jason and I started racing at the same time at the track in the White Mountains racing kids trucks," Chris said. "He kind of got out of it for a little while and I stuck with it."

"My cousin Chris started racing a Tiger here a handful of years ago," Jason added. "He moved up to the Late Models and we had a Tiger laying around. I said 'Why not jump in it?'"

There's one feature of Jason's car that makes it pretty easy to tell that the two are related.

"I didn't want to change the numbers off of it, and there was already a number that someone had that I was interested in, so we figured might as well stay with the 64," Jason said.

And even though the cousins have their own cars to worry about, they always have each other's back.

"Oh definitely," Jason said. "If there's ever a problem, especially during the race, if someone has to come off, then we're usually right there hand in hand ready to help."

"Neither of us really leave the shop until both of us are ready or at least in good positions, and we know we're gonna both make it," Chris added. "So he's there for us, we're there for him."