Caribou driver targets record at Loring land speed races

Posted July 12, 2011, at 5:31 p.m.
Last modified July 12, 2011, at 7:52 p.m.

LIMESTONE — The roar of jet engines is just a memory at the former Loring Air Force Base. This weekend the sound of high-performance racing engines will fill the air as more than 150 motorcycles and cars make their attempts at world records at the third Loring Timing Association Land Speed Races.

Spectators will be treated to one of the premier motorsports events in the country, according to race director Tim Kelly, as speeds of up to 300 miles per hour are expected in the motorcycle and car divisions on the 1.5-mile track.

One local racer, Jason Theriault of Caribou, is creating quite a stir with his blown gas super street 1995 Nissan D21 Hardbody pickup. Theriault, a record-holder in the blown modified mini pickup class with a speed of 123.66 miles per hour, set at last year’s event, will be seeking to snap the record in F/ BGSS, a new class for him.

The current record, 191.066 mph, is held by Mike Reichen of Illinois.

“My goal is 200 miles per hour. Last year they only allowed me to go 150 miles per hour,” said Theriault, who is 33. “I had an oil pressure-sending unit go bad. I did not achieve 150 mph, which is what I wanted.”

Since his decision to move up a class, Theriault has spent nearly 600 hours on various safety and speed upgrades.

Theriault’s interest in engines started at a young age as his first paying job was at Whitey’s Small Engine Shop where he worked on mowers, rototillers and lawn tractors at age 10.

Theriault met his wife, Janet Bossie of Caribou, while racing go-karts at Spud Speedway in Caribou. They have one son, Damon, 9. Bossie’s dad, Marcel, is the track announcer at the speedway.

Theriault’s love for speed and driving were developed at the wheel of a racing kart and a Subaru Legacy that was given to him. The potato field roads around his home became his learning laboratory.

While in his mid-teens Theriault began looking for a street vehicle, eventually purchasing his 1995 Nissan D21 pickup. It became his daily driver. A love for drag racing and stereo sound systems led to some interesting modifications to his pickup.

His first competitive use for the pickup was entering sound system contests. He would travel around the Northeast and Canada to enter his truck in these events.

“They would use a drag racing-style Christmas Tree starting system,” said Theriault. “When the light would go green, two vehicles parked side-by-side would crank their stereos to see who could reach maximum decibels.”

Theriault set the record about 10 years ago at the Sanford Sound competition in Sanford.

“I filled the floor of my pickup with four inches of cement and tied it to the ceiling of the cab with some bars to make it rigid,” he said. “I pegged 168 decibels. That’s louder than a jet engine. The Space Shuttle is 180 decibels at take off.”

From sound system to drag racing and custom car shows, Theriault made his mark in the New England area. He entered the NOPI Nationals at Epping (N.H.) Dragway in July 2010. He walked away with Best of Show in the Custom Car class, the Elite Best Engine award and first in the Custom Pickup class. His score in the overall judging for Best of Show was 98 of 100 points.

Theriault became interested in land speed racing when the Loring Time Trials came to Limestone two years ago.

“I was drag racing my Nissan at the time,” he said. “In fact, I was working on the truck and I did not want to even go over and waste my time.

“Everyone talked me into going. Once I was there, it was all over with, I was hooked! I came home and started changing things to go land speed racing.”

Theriault, an automotive technician, has worked the past 18 months at Gagnon’s Auto and RV in Caribou, which is also a sponsor. He currently holds eight ASE certifications and has never attended a post secondary automotive trade school.

He is a self-taught fabricator for the most part. With his involvement in racing, he decided to learn all the skills needed to put a world-class vehicle together.

“My inspiration was Boyd Coddington of the television program and guys like that,” said Theriault. “I would like to open a shop. The only thing that is hurting me is location. I could move away and do real good, I think.”

At a car show in Mars Hill, Theriault met Mark Strelka, a master fabricator and TIG welder at CAM Manufacturing in Presque Isle. He mentioned to Stelka that he would like to learn how to TIG weld since he already knew how to MIG weld.

“I showed him the ropes,” said Strelka. “I brought my Miller Dynasty TIG welder right to Theriault’s shop. He was interested in the craft; he takes pride in his work. He likes to do everything himself.

“In a couple weeks he had the basics. Jason is a quick learner and a smart person. He liked TIG welding so much he bought a machine just like mine.”

Kelly likes Theriault’s chances to go 200 mph.

“Let me quote Joe Timney, board member of the East Coast Timing Association: ‘That truck is stupid fast.’ To that I add Jason has the equipment to easily go 200 mph. We want to make sure he can do it safely.”

Theriault thinks he can hit 200 mph.

“I’ve got plenty of horsepower, probably more than anybody out there, but others are more aerodynamic than I am. This is the fastest gas-powered truck in the U.S.,” he said.

He relishes the opportunity to have the speed trials at Loring.

“Not having to travel three or four hundred miles is great. It’s right in my backyard. It is the best track in the United States for land speed races; longest, flattest, smoothest, best track there is! I think spectators will have a good time,” Theriault said. “They will see a lot of stuff they never have really seen before with easy access to cars and drivers. I hope to see many people there to cheer on not just me, but all the competitors.”

Admission price to the three-day event is a one-time $10 fee. For more information about the Loring Timing Association event, check out www.lta-lsr.com.

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