BKR Driver Hopes Home State Provides Backdrop For A Big Win
FORT KENT, Maine – Two summers ago, Austin Theriault became the youngest podium finisher in the nearly four-decade history of the Oxford 250 when he finished third behind NASCAR star Kyle Busch. Last year, he returned just as strong for the midsummer classic and posted another third-place finish.
Now the 19-year-old Fort Kent, Maine, native is ready to try and finally bring home the big trophy when he heads to the 40th annual TD Bank Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Maine, on Sunday, July 21. After competing under Late Model rules in each of the last two seasons, Theriault will be making his first start in the race as a PASS North Series-sanctioned Super Late Model race.
“It is different this year, only in that it’s going to be a Super Late Model race,” said Theriault, who will be in his familiar, family-owned No. 57 Pelletier Ford Ford Fusion this weekend. “You still have capable drivers, cars and teams that will be running up front. I feel like we’re plenty capable of being in that mix.
“The Oxford 250 is important to me in this sense – I like coming back to my roots. Maine’s a big part of it. That race, that track, it’s been really big for my career. We enjoy going there as a team, and I enjoy racing it.”
Theriault has reason for optimism beyond his two podium finishes in the Oxford 250. He capped the 2012 season at Oxford Plains by winning the PASS North Series 150 there in October, and he’s gone on two win two PASS South races in 2013 while driving for Brad Keselowski Racing.
During a recent break in his racing schedule, Theriault had his car with him at Crooks Racing in Mooresville, N.C., in advance of the Oxford 250. He posted Top-10 runs with the No. 57 in PASS races at both Oxford and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in the early spring.
“I think we needed to improve on the long runs,” Theriault said. “The first two races in Maine this year, I felt like that’s where we were weak. In 250s before, that’s where we were strong – once the tires were worn out, we were able to make up a lot of ground on those guys in front of us.”
Theriault has a busy week ahead of him before he ever hits the grounds at Oxford Plains. He’s testing the Super Late Model of reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski for two days at Riverside Speedway in Antigonish, Nova Scotia – where Theriault and Keselowski are both entered in the IWK 250 on Saturday, July 20.
Following that race, Theriault and crew chief Johnny Killen will hop on a plane to be at Oxford in time for the Oxford 250.
“Winning the Oxford 250 is something that would be really awesome to check off your bucket list,” Theriault said. “There’s a lot of prestige behind it. A lot of guys have won it, and a lot of really good guys haven’t. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
“If you look at the races I’ve won, this would be the biggest win that I have so far – and the biggest for a lot other drivers, too. It’s the crown jewel in the Northeast.”
Theriault hopes that his experience at places like Oxford and Beech Ridge will help him this weekend – along with the good karma that comes from being back in his home state to race.
“It’s very unique here,” Theriault said. “You don’t find tracks like these down South. Beech Ridge and Oxford are one of a kind, and I’ve learned a lot racing those tracks. I give them a lot of credit for where I’m at now and how I drive a race car.
“That’s why I enjoy coming to this race, in particular. I don’t find the pressure is on at all. Obviously, we want to perform, and we’re plenty capable of doing that.”