Impressive Runs For Theriault At Snowball Derby
Rookie Finishes 4th In Snowflake 100, Day Ends Early In Snowball 300
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Austin Theriault finished fourth in the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., on Saturday, December 1, and came within 60 laps of posting a second Top-5 finish on the weekend before an electrical issue ended his first Snowball Derby 300 prematurely on Sunday, December 2.
Theriault qualified 33rd for the Snowball Derby after finishing third in a large field in the 50-lap Last-Chance Qualifier on Saturday, and he drove all the way into the Top-10 at the midway point of the 45th annual 300-lap event. He managed to get on the same tire strategy as the race leaders by the time he was running as high as third with less than 60 laps remaining, but a broken power steering belt sapped his engine of power and forced him to retire early from the prestigious Super Late Model event.
Theriault, of Fort Kent, Maine, finished 20th in the Brad Keselowski Racing No. 29 Checkered Flag Foundation Dodge Charger.
“We didn’t get the finish we wanted on Sunday, but we ran up front and I learned a lot,” Theriault said. “I still want to work on qualifying. That’s something I can come out of the weekend shooting for next year. But all in all, I couldn’t ask for anymore. There’s nothing else we could have done. The guys did their best.
“We weren’t a lap down, we weren’t riding around in the back when the (battery) issue happened. We weren’t a slug out there. We would have been contending for a Top-5 and possibly a win. I’m not disappointed, and I don’t think anyone else is either.”
Theriault was the last car to qualify on time for the crate engine-powered Super Late Model Snowflake 100 on Saturday, and he drove from 30th-place on the starting grid to fourth at the checkered flag in a race that does not allow for pit stops for tires. Timely cautions and a well-handling race car allowed him to earn his way into the Top-5.
With a few more laps, he might have had enough car to contend for a victory.
“I thought we had a car that could definitely could compete for win on the long run,” Theriault said. “If we could get some early track position, we were going to have a shot at the win. We passed some cars early, got the cautions when we needed them, and finished in the Top-5. It was a good run for us.”
Following a similar game plan in the Snowball Derby 300, Theriault worked his way into the Top-20 by the time the first caution flew. A good pit stop from the BKR crew gained him some more track position, and he avoided many of the wrecks that plagued the middle stages of the event to work deep inside the Top-10 to run third on Lap 200.
That’s when the battery issue reared its head and forced Theriault off the pace with 59 laps remaining. He was running eighth at the time.
“We were able to come out on the same tire sequence as the leaders. We didn’t have to waste a set of tires just trying to get track position,” Theriault said. “But by the time (the power steering belt broke and sapped the battery) and I felt it, the battery had already been drained. It was just a matter of time. I turned all the fans off, turned all the power off so we weren’t drawing any more power, but the damage had been done. It was a matter of time until it went away.”
Still, Theriault was encouraged by the team’s overall performance for the weekend – which included setting fast time in the first Snowball Derby 300 practice of the weekend and Top-10 speeds in all the Snowflake 100 practice sessions.
“Both of those races, the Snowball and the Snowflake, are some of the biggest races in the country,” Theriault said. “You definitely have the best drivers and best teams trying to compete for 30-something spots. To qualify for both in my first attempt, I am definitely proud about that.”