Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault will jump back into a race car for the first time in several weeks when the Brad Keselowski Racing development driver runs in Saturday’s fifth annual Battle at Berlin 251 at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich.
He will again be driving the No. 29 Checkered Flag Foundation Ford Fusion.
Drivers had a prelude to the race two weeks ago at Berlin Raceway but it was rained out after 20 laps.
Theriault finished in a race at the flat, .438-mile oval a year ago.
Between Pro All-Stars Series North and South Super Late Model races and his Souther Super Series features, Theriault has strung together seven consecutive top-10 finishes.
When he isn’t racing, he has been a jack of all trades at the Keselowski Race Shop and said he has been learning a lot from the people for whom and with whom he is working.
“There are a lot of knowledgeable people with a lot of years of experience in racing,” said the 19-year-old Theriault.
He said whether it is mechanics, drivers or team owners, all have been willing to share advice with him and point out mistakes they have made.
“You get different opinions concerning courses [of action] they should have taken as well as different ways to approach stuff. It’s nice to be able to soak up information so you can make your own decisions based on what they have told you,” said Theriault.
He also finds it beneficial to be working in different areas.
“[Monday] I’m doing body work. Tomorrow, I might be helping to set up a car [for a race], the next day I might be building something,” said Theriault. “It’s all a new experience for me. Where I’m needed is where I go.”
He is confident heading into Saturday’s race.
“The track is kind of similar to Oxford [Plains Speedway] and Beech Ridge [Motor Speedway in Scarborough] although it’s a little [longer]. The banking and configuration are similar,” said Theriault.
Oxford Plains is 3/8th of a mile and Beech Ridge is one-third mile.
“I grew up around those kinds of tracks. That’s what I cut my teeth on,” said Theriault, whose home track as a youngster was Caribou’s Spud Speedway, which is also one-third mile.
“The track is pretty well-suited to my driving style. You have to try to keep the rear tires on the car and not spin them coming off the corners,” said Theriault. “You have to control the horsepower and transfer it to the rear tires while trying not to spin them.
“You have to control the throttle and the gas pedal so you can keep the momentum up when you go around the corner,” he added.
He said the team struggled at the track a year ago but “we have better notes this year and we had a top-five car a couple of weeks ago,” when the race was rained out after 20 laps.
“The car was lacking a little bit of speed on the long runs but we came back to the shop and looked at a couple of things and made some changes so I’m looking forward to it,” said Theriault.
The race will kick off a busy five-week stretch for Theriault.
He will run a PASS South race at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, N.C., on June 22, a Southern Super Series race at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., on July 4 and then return to Maine to run the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on July 20.
He has his own No. 57 Ford Fusion car with him in North Carolina and that is the car that has racked up back-to-back third-place finishes at the TD Bank 250 the last two years.
It since has been transformed to a Super Late Model and he has finished ninth (OPS) and seventh (Beech Ridge) with it this season.
“It’ll probably be the final race I’ll do in Maine this year because I want to concentrate on putting my resources into winning big races down south and trying to build up my resume,” said Theriault.
“We’re going to work on it to try to make it a lot more competitive. It was a little sluggish in the first two races. Converting it to a Super Late Model is certainly a challenge although we have won a (SLM) race with it,” said Theriault.
“We’re looking forward to it. It’s a pretty big race. It would be awesome to win it. We’ve been close two times. We could have won but things didn’t work out in our favor. It would be nice to finally seal the deal,” said Theriault.