LOUDON, N.H. — Aside from one wrinkle on the left rear quarter panel, Austin Theriault of Fort Kent brought his car home unscathed in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday.
The 18-year-old started 23rd and finished 19th, one lap behind race winner Kyle Larson, in the G-Oil 100. Theriault won the Mainely Motorsports TV Maine Young Guns competition to earn a berth in the race with Go Green Racing, which is based in Old Orchard Beach.
“He did a great job. I wish we gave him a little bit better car,” said Go Green Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire.
St. Hilaire said his organization was stretched thin because he had NASCAR Nationwide Series cars in Kentucky and one Sprint Cup car at Loudon.
“We’re short on parts and everything to make things go fast. He did a heck-of-a job and we’re happy,” said St. Hilaire.
Theriault dodged a multi-car crash on the backstretch late in the race.
“It’s almost unbelievable that we missed a couple of those wrecks,” said Theriault. “I got run into coming out of 2 and I saved the car. Then there was a big pile up on the back stretch. We barely got through that one. We brought the car home in one piece.”
Mainely Motorsports TV host Stephen Perry said he’ll hold the Maine Young Guns competition again next year, but may make some changes. He was appreciative to St. Hilaire for lending the car.
“Giving Austin Theriault the opportunity to come down here and race in front of the NASCAR crowd and [Theriault bringing] it home in one piece and a top 20 is just huge,” said Perry. “I can’t thank Archie enough to involving us at Mainely Motorsports.”
Theriault had to rush from the East Series car to his American-Canadian Tour Late Model for the 50-lap Bond Auto Parts ACT Invitational. Under a handicapped system, Theriault started 36th in the 42-car field.
He worked his way up to 11th, before fading back and finishing 15th.
“I hate to complain, but it’s really hard [to pass],” said Theriault. “The way the track is configured, it’s more difficult to pass, it’s not impossible. It’s hard to keep your momentum up if you’re’ trying to pass on the bottom.”
Ray Parent of Tiverton, R.I., held off Patrick Laperle of St-Denis, Quebec to win the fourth annual ACT Invitational.
Theriault said he was confident that he had a strong car. He posted the third-fastest time in practice Saturday morning.
“When we were up to 11th, I thought we had something; at least a top-10 or top-5 car,” he said. “Once we got clear of the traffic with about 5 to go, we couldn’t do anything [to pass cars in front].”
Fellow Aroostook County native, Shawn Martin of Turner, who is originally from Frenchville, bested Theriault by two spots. He finished 13th after starting 30th.
“We got some damage early on in the race and it just messed the aero up on the car so much. It’s ridiculous how much it tightened up the car,” said Martin. “Other than that, we had a good car.”
Rowland Robinson Jr. of Steuben started last after having trouble getting through technical inspection. He worked his way through the field before battling a tight condition.
“I thought we had a good piece, but I started to use the right front and it was getting tighter,” said Robinson.
Ricky Rolfe of Albany Township led all Maine drivers by finishing fifth and leading laps. Other Maine finishers: Travis Stearns of Auburn was 14th, Jeff Taylor of Farmington was 19th, Glen Luce of Turner was 21st, Dave Farrington Jr. of Jay was 24th, T.J. Brackett of Buckfield was 32nd and Ben Ashline of Pittston finished 33rd.