Fort Kent native Austin Theriault has left Rick Paya Motorsports and returned to his family’s race team.
The 17-year-old Theriault raced for his father Steve and their race team a year ago in the American-Canadian Tour and finished seventh in points. He was second in the Rookie of the Year standings, winding up just three points behind Windham’s Brad Babb.
Theriault felt moving to RPM would take him to the next level. RPM drivers had won seven of the last eight ACT points championships. Current points leader Brian Hoar had won the last two for RPM.
But he hasn’t reached that level, so Theriault and Paya parted ways last week.
“It was just better that we went our own way,” said Theriault. “It was a mutual decision between Rick and our family.
“(RPM) wasn’t quite what I needed. I thought, in time, things would get better but it just quite never clicked. I feel a little more confident running our own car,” added Theriault. “There was some other stuff, too, as far as the crew was concerned. It all compounded.”
Paya said in a statement in Vermont Motorsports Magazine that “I wanted to make some personnel changes to the crew of the No. 57VT that I felt were needed to take the team to the next level. (Theriault and his family) weren’t comfortable with that. They decided they would be better off going back to what they were doing last year. It was a mutual decision to go our separate ways.”
Theriault is currently tied for seventh in the points thanks to his best finish of the season, fifth, at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough on July 30.
He has three top-10 finishes in six races and failed to qualify in another race.
His fifth-place finish came six days after he drove to a third-place finish at the 38th annual TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.
He was believed to have been the youngest driver to earn a podium (top-three) finish at the 250.
Theriault elected to drive his family’s 2010 Ford Fusion rather than an RPM car for the 250.
Theriault said he has great respect for Paya and RPM.
“They have a great organization and they’ve had a lot of success with a lot of people. It just didn’t work out for us,” said Theriault.
“The most important thing now is what can we make of the latter part of the season. That’s what we’re looking forward to right now,” he added.
Theriault will be reunited with last year’s crew chief, Mickey Green, and he said he is receiving a lot of support from Crazy Horse Racing Parts in South Paris.
He feels his chances of having a strong finish in his No. 57ME 2010 Ford Fusion are “pretty good.
“We’re back to where we were last year with the addition of a lot more knowledge and a lot more experience. Hopefully, that will make the difference,” said Theriault. “There will be another learning curve because we’re on our own again. But I think we’ll overcome that fairly quickly.
“We’re looking forward to getting our first win and we’re at the point now where we’ll capable of it. We’ve got some tracks coming up that we’ve run well at.”
There are eight races left although three of them are non-points races.
Veteran racer Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I. will replace Theriault in the No. 57VT.
The next ACT event will be at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Friday and Saturday.
Following the weekend’s racing, Theriault will begin his senior year at Fort Kent High School on Tuesday.
Ralph Nason keeping low profile
Racin’ Ralph Nason is keeping busy these days but he hasn’t been racing.
He still has a race car he could jump in at any time but the only man to win three consecutive TD Bank 250s (1998, ‘99, 2000) said don’t bank on it.
“I have a Harley Davidson (motorcyle) I can jump on at any time and it seems to have as much magnetism as working on a race car,” said the 71-year-old Nason. “I miss racing but there are some parts of it I don’t miss.
“When I was racing, that’s what I loved to do. Win, lose or draw, I had a blast. But there’s too much commitment these days. There’s too much of everything,” added Nason, who owns the record for the most career money won at the TD Bank 250 ($187,715).
Nason and his wife Nancy still run four businesses, including Unity Raceway.
He sold his race track in Quebec, Autodrome Montmagny, two years ago.
The latest purchase was a variety store near Unity Raceway.
The name of the store?
The Pit Stop.
Modifieds returning to Spud Speedway
Percy’s Auto Sales Maine Modifieds will make their second appearance at Caribou’s Spud Speedway on Saturday night beginning at 6.
The race card will also include the Super Streets’ Best of the Best Finale along with features in the Street Stocks, Fast Fours, Northern Lights and Late Model Sportsmen.
It will be a double points night for the regular classes.