LOUDON, N.H. — Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault got his first taste of NASCAR competition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday.
The 18-year-old placed 23rd out of 40 cars in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East qualifying at the Magic Mile for Saturday’s G-Oil 100. Friday was his first time turning laps behind the wheel of the No. 38 Mainely Motorsports TV Ford.
“Not too bad,” said Theriault of his qualifying run. “It’s a lot better than I expected. We made some adjustments [to make it better]. Realistically, we’re just trying to have a good day out of it. We’re not trying to set the world on fire.”
Theriault’s crew chief, Todd Graffam of Saco, was impressed with the run.
“He’s adapted real quickly. He’s never qualified these kinds of cars, and time trials is a whole different animal. He did a really good job at that,” said Graffam. “I think he’s faster than the car we have for him, honestly. He’s smooth.”
Theriault was 29th fastest in the only practice session.
Theriault earned a berth in the NASCAR race after he was one of three finalists for Mainely Motorsports TV’s Maine Young Guns competition. He bested Brad Babb of Windham and Joey Doiron of Berwick to win the prize — a chance to race in the K&N Pro Series East race at NHMS with Go Green Racing, which is based out of Old Orchard Beach.
“It’s a great program we’ve had going with Mainely Motorsports TV,” said Go Green Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire. “Austin’s a bright young kid; a talented driver. It’s his first time in one of these cars. It’s a whole new game for him.”
Saturday will be a busy day for Theriault. In addition to running the G-Oil 100, he’ll also pilot his usual No. 57ME Ford in the fourth annual Bond Auto ACT Invitational American-Canadian Tour Late Model race. Theriault is currently third in ACT Late Model points with one points race remaining.
St. Hilaire said the ACT Late Model is between 700 to 800 pounds lighter than the East Series car. Graffam said he thinks that won’t be a problem for Theriault.
“The only challenge for him, I think, is the lighter car — there’s no horsepower,” said Graffam. “You go hard into the corner and you don’t use a lot of brakes [with the ACT car]. These [K&N cars] are kind of a little more tippy, a lot heavier and a little harder to turn. He’s a race car driver. He’ll figure it out.”
Theriault was 11th in the ACT Invitational last year, but placed second in the ACT All-Star Challenge a year ago at NHMS.
Theriault will race the G-Oil 100 at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and then hop into his Late Model for the ACT Invitational at 4:30 p.m.
Hattori Racing sweeps qualifying
Hattori Racing Enterprises teammates Brett Moffitt and Sergio Pena swept the front row in K&N Pro Series East qualifying, with Moffitt claiming his third pole of the year.
Four-time East series champion Andy Santerre of Cherryfield is the general manager for HRE.
“The guys did a great job putting the cars together,” said Santerre after qualifying. “We’ve got one steel-body car and one composite car and they’re both on the front row. It goes to show that the rules are pretty good and the cars are pretty equal. It should be an interesting race tomorrow.”
By starting first, Moffitt will have an opportunity to build on his 19-point championship standings lead over Kyle Larson, who will start third.
Moffitt excels at the bigger tracks in the series. Of his nine career wins, five of them have come on tracks measuring .75-miles or longer, including last fall’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“For me, it’s just all about the bigger tracks we go to,” said Moffitt. “Here, Iowa and Dover. I just look forward to those every year. I just have a lot of fun with them. I adapt to them well.”