Friends, classmates, and fellow racecar drivers are remembering Joey Laquerre, 17, of Washington, Vermont. He died this weekend following injuries he sustained in an all-terrain vehicle crash early Saturday afternoon. According to Vermont State Police, Laquerre was operating the ATV on West Corinth Road in Washington when he left the road and crashed into a tree. Washington Fire and EMS brought Laquerre to Central Vermont Medical Center, where he later died, Vermont State Police said.
Laquerre was a rising star on the American Canadian Tour racing circuit, and had developed a following at Barre's short-track speedway, Thunder Road. He also competed as a racecar driver at other speedways around the region.
At U-32, the East Montpelier high school where Laquerre was a senior, friends and classmates leaned on each other for support Monday morning. The school lowered its flag and brought in grief counselors, administrators at the school said. Students also left Laquerre's racing number, 51, on the front door, and wrote messages on a big poster hanging from his truck in the parking lot. Those messages included tributes such as, "You will be forever in our hearts."
"He was very popular," observed Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt. "You knew there was something special about this kid, and he was going to make it."
Scott is also a racecar driver, who competed against Joey Laquerre at Thunder Road. Scott said other drivers and fans knew Laquerre as "Lil Joey."
The Laquerre family is racing royalty in central Vermont. Lil Joey's father, grandfather, and late uncle, whose memorial in the Hope Cemetery in Barre is a granite racecar, have all been standouts in regional motorsports.
Scott recalled a moment in a race about a month ago that will stick with him. He said while racing, Laquerre made a move that forced the lieutenant governor into the wall, causing serious damage to his car. Scott said he was initially upset, but was very impressed that Laquerre approached him after the race to apologize and discuss the incident.
"That respect that he had for other drivers, and the willingness he had to admit when he made a mistake told me, 'This kid's got some integrity,'" Scott told New England Cable News.
"It's definitely a shocker for the entire racing community," said racecar driver Nick Sweet, telling NECN he is heartbroken for the Laquerre family. "He was that type of kid that just put a smile on your face when you talked to him. He was definitely a special individual and definitely will be missed by everybody."
In Vermont, it is not required that you wear a helmet riding an ATV. Still, several sources told NECN Joey Laquerre was wearing a helmet and a chest protector at the time of his crash, because he took safety very seriously.