UVM alum goes undercover

It’s no surprise when UVM graduates go off to do great things, but in Steve Phelps’ case this included going undercover. A UVM class of ’85 alum, and now the senior vice president and chief marketing officer (CMO) of NASCAR, Phelps appeared Oct. 24, on the new CBS show “Undercover Boss.” The show gives top executives an opportunity to disguise themselves as entry-level workers, allowing them to see the truth, and the problems, behind their own company. It has around 13 million viewers each episode, and was reported to be the number one new series for the 2009-2010 season, according to CBS. “I think the show is something interesting and different than the usual,” first year Nate Steiner said.  Phelps appeared on the show when he took to the race track, working with the pit crew, disguised as a race fan who had won a competition. The camera crew following him claimed to be filming a documentary in order to avoid suspicions from the crew.  “I worked as a rear tire carrier,” Phelps said in a recent interview with CBS’ BNET. “I worked out the way they worked out: heat training, weight training, things of that nature.” Phelps also worked as a sign and wall painter, a tire inspector and even a concession stand manager during his time undercover at the racetrack. Handing out hot dogs gave this high-power executive a look at his business outside of the confines of his office.  A Vermont native, Phelps graduated from UVM with a bachelor’s degree in economics. As an undergrad, he ran cross country and was a member of the track and field team. But despite his athletic past, Phelps still struggled on the show.  “I didn’t work the actual race because the team would have finished last, I was that awful,” he said in the interview. Although he’s not the best at changing four tires and filling a tank of gas in less than 13 seconds, Phelps is truly a powerhouse in business. He has been named twice by Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40,” a list of some of the top executives in the sports world today, according to CBS. As senior vice president and CMO of NASCAR, Phelps is responsible for overseeing all affairs concerning marketing, diversity, sales, public relations and development. He does this all from the NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., according to CBS.  Even though Phelps has made it big as a head executive, he doesn’t forget those who work beneath him in order to make the company run smoothly. When asked what his favorite part of the show was he said, “you know, I think the best part of the experience was just the opportunity to work with these great people who are the face of our sport.”