Theriault Carries Momentum Through Gresham
BKR Development Driver Turns Sights To Home State This Weekend
JEFFERSON, Ga. – Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, Maine, turned one of his best qualifying efforts of the last two years into a strong sixth-place finish in the Southern Super Series Racing Radios 125 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., on Saturday, April 28.
The Brad Keselowski Racing development driver now has Top-10 finishes in each of the first two Southern Super Series races of 2013 against a very stout field of Super Late Model teams and drivers. Theriault qualified a season-best fourth at Gresham – and started the race from the third position after a redraw for starting spots among the Top-6 fastest time-trialers – and enjoyed solid night on the fast, banked half-mile.
“I’m really proud of the effort we had. We just missed it (on the setup),” Theriault said. “We should have probably freed up the car a little bit more before the race, but that’s just one of those things we’re learning as a team. We all go to the race track to win – and it wasn’t like we didn’t have a car capable of winning – but it was well worth the time and effort we put into the whole weekend.”
Theriault, 19, has his eyes set on the World Crown 300 at Gresham in July, one of the four races considered part of the “Grand Slam” of Super Late Model racing in the United States. He’d made the relatively late decision to participate in the Southern Super Series race at the track Saturday, hoping he and his BKR No. 29 Checkered Flag Foundation Ford Fusion team could get a better understanding of the Hoosier tire compound utilized on the series.
He left very encouraged.
“Basically we were using that race to try and figure out the tire that those guys are using. We just felt like we needed more time on it,” Theriault said. “We sort of used it as a test for the bigger races coming up. I think we had a lot of success with it. I think we learned a lot that we can take back to Nashville and Gresham later on this year.”
Qualifying was a big part of Theriault’s performance in the Racing Radios 125. He improved on his practice speeds during time trials, something he has gotten better at over the last two seasons after beginning his career in northeast racing circles where heat racing – not time trialing – is the norm.
“It was definitely one of the best qualifying efforts I’ve had – and it’s something I set as a goal before the season started, to be better at that,” he said. “I felt like last year we had good cars, but starting in the back made it more difficult to try and win these races. You have to burn your stuff up coming to the front, and you put yourself in a bad position sometimes around other guys you know you’re better than. I feel like I’ve gotten better as a driver when it comes to qualifying, and (crew chief Gary Crooks) has made some changes, too, to help.
“As a team, we’re getting better at it.”
Now Theriault has a return trip to his home state of Maine to participate in the PASS North Series Southern Maine Chrysler Dodge Jeep 150 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 4. Like nearby Oxford Plains Speedway, where Theriault rallied for a Top-10 finish two weeks ago, Beech Ridge has been very good to Theriault over the past few years.
Theriault won his first career ACT Late Model Tour event at the track in July of 2012.
“Beech Ridge is one of my favorite tracks, as well as Oxford,” said Theriault, who has six straight Top-6 finishes in PASS-sanctioned races, including two victories, dating back to last season. “I seem to run well at those type of tracks. They’re more of a momentum track, and part of the race is all about saving tires and keeping track position at the same time on the flatter tracks.
“Going back to last year and the year before in the ACT car, those tracks were always the ones that I looked forward to. I’m confident in what we’re bringing again this weekend. We’ll see what we can do.”
Though he finished ninth in the 150-lap PASS event at Oxford Plains on April 21, Theriault was disappointed not to have performed better in front of his local fan following.
This weekend, he wants the AT Racing No. 57 Pelletier Ford Ford Fusion to help avenge some of that.
“This week is a good opportunity to rebound from a little bit of a disappointing effort at Oxford,” Theriault said. “It’s a great chance with the AT Racing team to see if we can’t get a win. I know the cars are capable, the equipment’s capable, everybody on the team is capable. We’ll try to continue doing the things we did do well there, and we’ll work on things that didn’t work as well for us.
“I’m really looking forward to it.”