The late Alan Kulwicki won the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup (now Monster Energy Cup) points championship and has been inducted into five halls of fame.
Donnie Richeson, the competition director for Ken Schrader Racing Inc. and crew chief for Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault in the ARCA series, used to work with Kulwicki and said there are a lot of similarities between Kulwicki and the 23-year-old Theriault.
“Austin reminds me so much of him. He’s like a mirror image of him,” said the 56-year-old Richeson on Wednesday.
Theriault and Richeson lead the points in the ARCA series heading into a stretch of four races in 20 days beginning with the Shore Lunch 250 at Elko Speedway in Elko, Minnesota, at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Through five races, Theriault has amassed 1,325 points to lead 2016 ARCA Rookie of the Year Dalton Sargeant of Boca Raton, Florida by 110 points. Shane Lee of Newton, North Carolina, is third with 1,180 points.
After winning the season-opening Lucas Oil Engine Treatment 200 at Daytona International Speedway, he has posted two fourth-place finishes, a fifth and a sixth in his last race at Toledo Speedway on May 21.
“We’re tickled to have him. It has been a pleasure working with him so far,” said Richeson, who has been involved in racing for 42 years and is in his 14th year with Schrader. “He takes his job seriously. He puts a lot of time and effort into it. He’s at the shop all the time. He does what he can. He’ll work on the cars with us, he’ll go pick up a part to save us some time so we can get ahead.”
He likes the fact Theriault gets the most out of the cars during the race while also taking care of them.
“He will bring the car home in one piece with a finish that was warranted and you can build on that. If you have to fix a damaged race car, you can get behind and that makes the year so much harder,” said Richeson, who feels Theriault is capable of running in the Monster Energy Series someday.
“He is certainly capable of doing this for a living whether it’s on the Saturday level (Xfinity or Camping World Truck Series) or Sunday level (Monster Energy Series),” said Richeson.
He noted that politics and business deals are involved with making it to the Monster Energy Series these days.
Theriault has been happy with the start.
“The beginning of the season always presents more challenges,” said Theriault, who will race in Minnesota for the first time in his career.
It will be the fourth track at which he will making his debut so far this season.
The three-eighths-mile oval is similar to the ones he grew up racing at in Maine like his home track: Caribou’s Spud Speedway.
“I’m anxious to get there. We’re going to take a car we feel can handle the most beating and banging and see where we end up,” said Theriault.
He said he and his team were disappointed with their sixth-place finish at Toledo but he said it was important to still manage a decent finish.
“It wasn’t a total loss. Being able to salvage a sixth on our worst day is why we have such a good points lead,” said Theriault. “We didn’t have any major issues.”
He will have a new Chevy for the June 9 race at Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile track in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
Seven of the last 15 races will be at tracks at least 1 1/2 miles long.
“It will be a good test for us so see what we need to work on and where we’re really good,” said Theriault.
Richeson said there is one goal for the season and that is winning the points championship.
“I told Austin when I first met him that (it doesn’t matter) whether you win one race every year or five races, winning a championship is something you carry with you for the rest of your life. You will be introduced as a champion. They don’t say he won this race or that race,” said Richeson.