INDIANAPOLIS — Austin Theriault of Fort Kent and Ken Schrader were the big winners during the ARCA national championship awards ceremony held recently at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.
ARCA President Ron Drager presented Theriault and champion car owner Schrader with the traditional championship gold rings and a signed, congratulatory letter from Maine Gov. Paul LePage.
Menards Merchant Coach Jim Johnson capped the evening off with the official presentation of championship trophies and checks.
“It’s a great honor to be the ARCA champion,” said Theriault, the first ARCA champion from Maine.
“A championship is about overcoming the odds and persevering. To sum it up, it’s the people around you that are key. I had the best car owner, the best crew and the best crew chief. My family is here tonight. They made me the person I am today. I don’t want to think about where I’d be without them. Special thanks to ARCA, Menards, General Tire, Sioux Chief and all the sponsors who make this one of the premier series in the country. This is my first time racing for a championship in a national series … it’s truly an honor.”
Theriault also reflected on his career that was nearly over before it got off the ground.
“Two years ago … December … I was sitting on the couch with a broken back staring at the walls, asking myself, ‘is this the end for me?’ Then I thought I’d make one last try … PRI, 2016. I got myself dressed like I was looking for an opportunity … came by myself. I just happened to bump into Kenny and Ann [Schrader]. What’s the chance of bumping into the person who can take you to the next level? I couldn’t have asked for a better family in this sport. Everybody has a ton of respect for Ken Schrader, and so do I. I can’t thank him enough for taking a chance on me.
“What I enjoyed most was seeing everyone growing as a team. Last but not least, we excelled as a team because we had a solid foundation. And the rock that held Ken Schrader Racing together was Donnie Richeson [crew chief] … the way he laid his heart out there. It’s been a great honor working with him this year. He’ll always be a part of my family.”
Richeson received the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year award.
It was the second ARCA car owner championship for Schrader, who earned the title in 1999 with Bill Baird driving.
“What an honor to be here … you raised a hell of a young man,” Schrader said to Theriault’s parents. “[Austin Theriault] made a lot of us happy. You’re a champion and you deserve everything up here tonight. I know our friendship is going to last forever.”
Theriault cleaned up in the Special Award categories, receiving top honors for the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge championship, the General Tire Superspeedway title and the Bill France 4 Crown championship. He also took home bonus checks from numerous ARCA sponsors.
Riley Herbst won the SCOTT Rookie of the Year title while his car owner Coy Gibbs got the University of Northwestern Ohio year-end bonus. MDM Motorsports won the General Tire Pole award. Dalton Sargeant earned the Valvoline Lap Leader of the Year.
The spotlight also shined down on more Special Award recipients, including longtime car owner Wayne Hixson, who received ARCA’s highest Special Award honor, the Marcum Award. Other Special Award honorees included Bill Kimmel as the General Tire Spirit Award recipient. Kimmel’s son Will accepted on his father’s behalf.
Motorsports Marketing Manager for Toyota Motor North America Mike Childs accepted, on behalf of Toyota, the Manufacturer’s championship.
The Series, headed into its 66th consecutive season, turns its focus toward 2018 season and open testing Jan. 12-13 at Daytona. The 55th annual Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire is scheduled Feb. 10.
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