BKR Development Driver 5th At Pensacola; Posts Top-10 In ACT Race
Planes, trains and automobiles. That’s what it felt like for Austin Theriault this weekend.
The 18-year-old Brad Keselowski Racing development driver hit opposite ends of the East Coast in a three-day span, posting a career-best Super Late Model finish of 5th in Florida less than 48 hours before returning to New England to post a Top-10 run in ACT Late Model Tour action at Thunder Road International Speedbowl.
“It was a long weekend, a lot of miles and a lot of racing, but I had a lot of fun, too,” Theriault said after finishing ninth Sunday in the Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road. “The Late Model, the Super Late Model – they both have four tires, but they really drive a lot different. At first, honestly, I don’t think I even realized how different they can be. But getting out here (at Thunder Road) and jumping into the Late Model and launching off into that first turn this weekend, it was like, ‘Whoa.’”
Theriault started his week on Friday with the Papa John’s 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. After starting 18th in the 30-car field – the second round of the Buddy’s Blizzard Series – Theriault put together a consistent start-to-finish effort to finish fifth in the BKR No. 29 Checkered Flag Foundation Dodge.
It was his first career Top-5 in his fifth Super Late Model start for BKR.
“Pensacola’s a great track, a great driver’s track. There’s not a lot of grip there, it’s hard on tires, so you’ve really got to be easy on the equipment and easy on the tires,” Theriault said. “We were using it as a test for the Snowball Derby, because we’re going to run there in December.
“The race exceeded my expectations, and I think it exceeded (crew chief Gary Crooks’) expectations. We outlasted the (other cars). The car didn’t drop off over the long run like everybody else did. We were fighting, and we could have gotten another two positions if we had stayed green in a longer race.”
Theriault then flew to Vermont on Saturday to return to ACT competition. After having one of the fastest cars on practice on both Saturday and Sunday, contact with another car during qualifying at Thunder Road sent his race day spinning.
A broken trailing arm bracket in the left rear suspension had to be fixed in time for the consolation rounds. Though the team did get the No. 57 Pelletier Ford Ford Fusion fixed up and into the main event, a transmission problem surfaced in the Merchants Bank 150.
Theriault had only third gear throughout the race, but he did claw his way to ninth at the checkered flag for his eighth straight Top-10 finish in ACT competition dating back to last July.
“Big picture, as far as the ACT racing side, I’m disappointed in the weekend,” Theriault said. “I think we could have gotten better (results) if we wouldn’t have had the troubles we had.
“We need to perform better. This race is not an example of how good we are, and it’s not going to win championships. But on the other hand, we overcame a lot. So if this is what we make out of a bad day, then maybe we’re going to be fine. I’m not sure what this means going down the road, but we’ll find out at Devil’s Bowl Speedway (next weekend). I’m looking forward to that race.”
Theriault plans to return to the BKR seat later this season with the Rowdy 251 in Berlin, Mich., in June. On the ACT Late Model Tour, he sits in the Top-5 in the standings through two events heading into the Spring Green 112 at Devil’s Bowl.
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