Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault will continue his development as a race car driver by stepping into a Super Late Model car this season for selected races.
He is a development driver for Brad Keselowski Racing, the team owned by the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide driver, and has already run a pair of Super Late Model races for him.
Theriault will return to the Late Models and the American-Canadian Tour seeking his first tour win and a points championship in April. The American-Canadian Tour season opens with the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 15.
“I’m trying to go up the ladder and each step is more difficult and more challenging,” said Theriault, a senior at Fort Kent High School closing in on his 18th birthday later this month. “The Super Late Model cars have more horsepower. By going down south (for Keselowski), I’ll be even closer to the racing hub. I’ll get more exposure.”
He said his schedule with Brad Keselowski Racing is “still tentative but I believe it will be in the ballpark of six to eight races.”
He will look for other long distance races to supplement his Brad Keselowski Racing and American-Canadian Tour races “if time allows.”
He has met Keselowski just once but is hoping to get to know him and learn from him.
Theriault’s gig with Brad Keselowski Racing was authored by Falmouth race car driver and team owner Scott Mulkern and one of the crew chiefs for Mulkern’s race team, Gary Crooks.
Crooks oversees Keselowski’s driver development program and Mulkern recommended Theriault to him.
“So I watched him a couple of times and I liked what I saw,” explained Crooks, who also owns his own race team in North Carolina. “I really liked his presence in the car and his decision making. He knew when to race hard and when to back off.
“When I got to know him, I was impressed with his knowledge of the race car. And he’s a very likable guy.”
Crooks passed along the recommendation to Keselowski and Brad Keselowski Racing general manager Wayne Setterington and it became a reality for Keselowski.
Theriault got caught up in a wreck in his first race for the team in November “but it wasn’t his fault” said Crooks. His second race resulted in an 11th-place finish.
Theriault is looking to build on the momentum he built at the end of last season in the American-Canadian Tour .
He had moved from his father Steve’s race team after finishing seventh in points two years ago to Rick Paya Motorsports but Paya made some personnel changes during the summer which led to Theriault’s decision to part ways with Paya in August. Theriault returned to his own race team and was reunited with crew chief Mickey Green and it paid off.
Theriault racked up top-five finishes in his last six American-Canadian Tour races to move from seventh to third in the points standings.
“We had a difficult first part of the year but we did the best we could and then we caught on fire at the end,” said Theriault, who will be back with Green this season in the American-Canadian Tour car.
Theriault, who decided to give up his high school wrestling career in order to pursue the Brad Keselowski Racing opportunity, will race again for the team at the Watermelon Capital Speedway in Georgia on Jan. 28-29 in the Speedfest 200.
His future plans with Brad Keselowski Racing include the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway in March; the Rowdy 251 in Berlin, Mich., in June and both ends of the Snowball Derby, Super Late Model and Pro Late Model, in December at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.