KENLY, N.C. — Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault wanted to bounce back from a frustrating sixth-place finish in the Battle at Berlin 251 in Marne, Mich., on June 15.
A late-race pit stop for tires had sent him back to 16th and he managed to move up 10 spots over the final 20 laps. He said if the race had lasted another five to 10 laps, he could have earned a top-three finish.
There is no better way to bring an end to the frustration than by winning the next race, and that is exactly what Theriault did Sunday at the Rumble In The Pines 150 Pro All-Stars Series South Super Late Model race at Southern National Motorsports Park.
“It was what we needed. We needed a good recovery from the misfortune at the 251,” said the 19-year-old Theriault, a Brad Keselowski Racing developmental driver. “The guys have been working really hard and I wanted to get them a win. Everybody has been putting in extra hours and giving their best.
“I knew coming into the weekend that we had a great opportunity to rebound from the race in Michigan and everything went as well as it could have,” added Theriault, who won a PASS South race at Dillon Motor Speedway in South Carolina earlier this season. “It was nice to get a win.”
He has three top-five finishes in four PASS South races so far this year.
He won the pole for the Rumble In The Pines 150 but started 10th after the top 10 qualifiers had their numbers drawn out of a hat for their starting position.
But he caught a break on the first lap when he avoided a wreck.
“A couple of cars got collected in the wreck in front of me. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. I made a commitment to the top of the track and it emptied to the bottom so there was an opening for me to go through. Quite a few cars behind me also got collected. I was lucky on that one,” Theriault said. “My car was awesome.”
He moved into the top five just five laps into the race over the 4/10-mile banked oval and took the lead for good halfway through the race.
“But it was a little bit of a nail-biter for me,” said Theriault. “There were a lot of wrecks at the end so there were a lot of re-starts. That gives the guys behind you an opportunity to pounce and that can screw you up on re-starts. You don’t want to spin your tires. You want to be able to clear [the second-place car] early. If you wind up racing them side by side, you can wear your tires out.
“But we were able to clear all the second-place cars by the first corner,” Theriault said.
Theriault had to overcome one other obstacle: Oppressive heat.
“I felt it a lot of times. But half of it is mind over matter. A lot of athletes go through it. You’re physically tired but you have to keep going,” said Theriault. “One of the drivers had to receive an IV [fluids supplied intravenously] and oxygen after the race and I wasn’t that far behind him [from needing it].”
Theriault’s next race will come July 4 in the Southern Super Series at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., the 30th annual Slack Autosports World Crown 300.
He said he will have to better adapt to the heat and humidity and one of the things he is doing to combat the heat is drinking Pedialyte, an electrolyte solution usually given to children to replenish minerals lost when the child has a stomach illness.
In addition to working at the Brad Keselowski Racing shop, he is also spending some of his spare time working on his own car in preparation for the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on July 21.
“I’m putting the body panel on it right now,” Theriault said Monday night.