Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault is putting together an impressive season while racing Late Models in the American-Canadian Tour and Super Late Models for Brad Keselowski Racing.
The 18-year-old driver finished a career-best fourth in a Keselowski car in the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park (Ga.) on Wednesday night.
It was Theriault’s fourth top-10 finish in six races for Keselowski this year to go with five top-10s in five races in the ACT series. He is the only driver in ACT to register top 10s in all five races.
The World Crown 300 had an interesting twist.
Theriault explained that they had time trials and then ran a 150-lap segment, all green-flag laps, before a predetermined number of cars was inverted for a 100-lap segment.
For example, if eight cars were inverted, the eighth-place car would start the second segment first and the first-place car would start eighth and so on.
Following the 100-lap segment, only the cars that remained on the lead lap and the first car one lap down qualified for the final 50-lap sprint over the half-mile asphalt track.
“The car was decent off the trailer but we kept working on it and threw the kitchen sink at it before the race,” said Theriault, a recent Fort Kent High School graduate. “The car really came alive and I started passing cars left and right in the first segment. And it never fell off.
“It wasn’t going to be a top-five car [off the trailer]. Sometimes you have to take chances and this time it paid off,” added Theriault.
Chase Elliott, son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott, won the race, followed by Bubba Pollard, Sprint Cup regular David Ragan and Theriault.
“The car was good on long runs. It just needed to be a little quicker off the green flag [restarts],” said Theriault, who said the 100-plus-degree heat was something “I’m not used to.”
“It was a great learning experience,” he added. “I was running laps with some of the best drivers in the country, gaining their respect.”
It was Theriault’s best finish of the season for Keselowski. He also has a fifth, seventh, eighth, 13th and 18th.
“I think everything is coming together,” said Theriault. “We’ve had some really good runs and some runs that we didn’t quite show what we’re capable of. We also had some bad luck. We’ve had a couple of tires go down and we’ve bent a couple of things on the car.
“Overall, we’ve been really competitive at every race. The guys I work with are really good. They don’t give up. We all seem to jell together,” said Theriault.
His next race for Keselowski will be the Iowa 150 at Iowa Speedway on Sept. 14.
He said running in the Super Late Model series “is like going to the Oxford 250 every race. You’re going up against the best drivers and teams in the country [at that level], teams that not only have a lot of financial support but teams that also have a lot of technical backing.
“You learn how to manage your equipment, how to pass cars, when to race and when not to race. It’s kind of like the art of racing,” he said.
In the ACT series, Theriault has finished in the top five in four of the five races and he also has a ninth-place finish.
He is fourth in points, 42 behind leader Wayne Helliwell Jr.
He would love to win the points championship but said it will be a “close battle.
“I’m going to have to win some races if I’m going to win the championship,” said Theriault, who is still looking for his first win on the tour.
He finished third in points last year thanks to top-five finishes in his last six races.
There are five points races remaining.
His next race will be a nonpoints race at Thunder Road, the Vermont Governor’s Cup 150, next Thursday, and he will then run the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday, July 22.
He had a career-best third at the TD Bank 250 last year and became the youngest driver (17) to finish in the top three in the 38 years of the prestigious race.