Austin Theriault BKR Development Driver Makes Last-Lap Pass For Dillon Victory
DILLON, South Carolina – Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, Maine, took the lead in the final corner of the final lap en route to victory in the PASS South Series season-opening South Carolina Clash 150 at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., on Saturday, March 9. The Brad Keselowski Development driver battled door-to-door with Preston Peltier over the final few yards to win the drag race to the checkered flag.
The victory was the first for Theriault with Brad Keselowski Racing and his second consecutive victory in PASS-sanctioned competition after winning the 2012 PASS North Series season finale at Oxford Plains Speedway last October in a family-owned car.
“I’m hoping this is going to be the start of a great year,” said Theriault, who enters his third season in the Brad Keselowski Racing development program. “The best part for me is that this is not the end of what we want to accomplish as a team. I think it’s only the beginning. We have some good race tracks coming up, and we’re pretty confident in what we’re bringing every week.”
Theriault qualified seventh and started third in the 27-car field after the Top-8 qualifiers redrew for their spots on the starting grid. Playing a tire management strategy throughout the night on the .4-mile banked oval, the BKR No. 29 Checkered Flag Foundation Ford Fusion dropped back as deep as 10th in the first third of the race before making steady movement toward the front through the middle stages of the event.
With less than 50 laps remaining, Theriault cracked the Top-3. He trailed Peltier with 10 laps remaining as the two drivers had checked out on the third- and fourth-place runners.
“I figured we were going to have a solid second-place finish,” said Theriault, who gave BKR its first victory since switching to Ford following the 2012 season. “I changed the way I was driving the last five laps, and I made up a little bit more ground. It got to the point where on the last lap we were there if something happened.”
Theriault got the opportunity he was looking for in the final two turns of the 150-lap race, when a lapped car held up the leader just enough for Theriault to make his move.
“We got down into Turn 3, and the lapped car was in the middle of the track,” Theriault said. “Preston bobbled and slowed the car down a lot in the center, but I was still driving in in that moment. I drove right to the bottom of the track, right to the apron, and got underneath him.”
The two leaders and the lapped machine exited the final turn three-wide – with Theriault and Peltier making contact in the the mad dash to the checkered flag before Theriault emerged with his first career PASS South win.
“I knew early on that I was going to have to play the tire game,” Theriault said. “Everybody else was going pretty hard. I just saved my tires the majority of the laps and gave up a fair amount of track position. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure at the time if it was the right thing to do, but obviously it was. Tires became a really big issue at the end.
“I just can’t thank BKR, (crew chief) Gary Crooks and the whole crew enough. This one was definitely not given to us, and it’s really nice to start things off this season on a good note.”