Austin Theriault in ARCA and Kody Swanson in USAC Place Second at Illinois State Fairgrounds

Episode 175

August 20, 2017

Theriault and Swanson Finish Second at Same Track In Illinois

Kody Swanson and Austin Theriault had the opportunity to meet at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois. They talked about dirt track racing before the ARCA race Sunday.  Both are leading their respective race series in the points championship, Swanson in USAC Silver Crown and Theriault in the ARCA Series.

On Saturday Swanson qualified an uncharacteristic eleventh for the Bettenhausen 100. The field featured thirty-four Silver Crown cars on the one mile dirt track. Swanson quickly made his way to the front and led a few laps, however, fellow California driver, Justin Grant was the class of the field winning his first Silver Crown race.

Justin Grant #91 leading the #63 driven by Kody Swanson in the USAC Bettenhausen 100 at Illinois State Fairfgrounds. Grant went on to win his first Silver Crown race. photo courtesy Left Turn Media-Racing News

First time USAC Silver Crown Winner Justin Grant, center second place Kody Swanson on left and Jeff Swindell on right. Jordan Swanson photo

Swanson’s #63 car was a handful yet he muscled the car to as second place finish followed closely by Jeff Swindell in third. Swanson’s closest threat in the points race, Chris Windom placed 25th and was relegated to third in points after Jerry Coons Junior’s fourth place. Swanson leads Coons by 96 points while Coons has a 19 point advantage over last year’s champion Windom.

Swanson and Theriault race at the same venue, the DuQuoin Fairgrounds in DuQuoin, Illinois Labor Day weekend. Swanson races Sunday in the USAC Ted Horn 100 and Theriault in the ARCA General Tire Grabber 100 on Labor Day Monday.

The link below has highlights from Saturday’s USAC race.

Theriault Surprises Many With a Pole and Second Place…On Dirt

Austin Theriault’s first ARCA pole position earned at his first dirt track race. Photo courtesy Austin Theriault

If you asked a number of people how they thought Fort Kent native, Austin Theriault might do at his first dirt track race, I suspect very few would have predicted not only a second place finish but a pole position. Theriault was in that group as well expressing some surprise with his good fortune. Typically he expressed gratitude to his crew and team owner Ken Schrader for their assistance in gaining the pole.

Post race interview after a second place finish at the ARCA Herr’s Potato Chips 100 at Illinois State Fairgrounds. Theriault’s post race comment on Facebook seemed appropriate “dirt racing = awesome” Photo courtesy Austin Theriault

The Ken Schrader Racing team converted their Elko Speedway winning Toyota for use on the one-mile clay track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The car seemed to work well as Theriault led a few laps then worked his way to the front after dropping back at the beginning of the race.

Race winner, Grant Enfinger, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular, took advantage of an off weekend and drove to a hard-fought victory holding off Theriault who was tapping his rear bumper the last several laps.

Theriault could have spun Enfinger, however, he chose not to. The finish put him 225 points ahead of Dalton Sargeant who placed 10th. Tyler Dippel finished third, Sheldon creed fourth and Shane Lee rounded out the top five.

A new car designed specifically for road courses awaits Theriault in Wisconsin for the Road America 100 at the 4 plus mile long iconic road course. This will be Theriault’s third road race having competed at Virginia International Raceway and Watkins Glen last year in the K & N East Series.

Theriault commented that with such a long road course, ” I am going after it and be aggressive yet still stay on the track. It is tough to get back to the front if one goes off course yet I do not want to get caught up in points racing.”

Next weeks race will begin at Sunday August 27 at 1:15 Eastern.

Messer Rookie of the Year in Pro Stocks at Speedway 660

Robb and Ryan Messer father-son duet at RYAN Motorsports at the Best of the Best 150 race at Speedway 660 in New Brunswick. Ryan Motorsports photo

Left to right Robb, Penny and their son Ryan Messer celebrate in Victory Lane at Speedway 660. RYAN Motorsports photo

Robb Messer, father of Ryan Messer, was pleased with the announcement that his son had earned the award and had this to say, “Pro Stock ROOKIE OF THE YEAR! Really proud to bring home the ROTY award this year. This was the goal we set at the beginning of the season and on the strength of 1 feature win and 3 additional podium finishes, mission accomplished.”

Messer went on to say, “But, being the competitive family that we are, it feels a little sour tonight. We really struggled again this week throughout the entire day. These cars can really leave you feeling helpless at times!”

“We’ll start back at it tomorrow and we have 2 weeks to try to find out why we’ve lost the handle on this car. Looking forward to our first 250!”

The race he is referring to is the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250 September 3 at Speedway 660 in Geary Woods, New Brunswick. Sunday’s 250 lap race, which pays $15,000 to the winner plus lap money, will be the capstone on a race weekend which begins on Friday with a corn roast and race action in four divisions at 6:30 pm Atlantic time on Saturday the 2nd.

Maine’s Greenlaw in Runner-Up Position at Speedway 660

Eastport’s Drew Greenlaw, despite his win last weekend, was unable to win the Late Model Sportsman title. His dad Gerald described the effort this way, ” A great race that just ended bad. Drew gave it everything we had.”

“He started 15th in the feature and John Rankin, who we [were] chasing, started on the pole.  With twelve to go, Drew caught him. With two to go, Drew got under him off of turn four. John pinched Drew going into turn one and John spun. It is no-fault racing so they both had to go to the rear and John beat us at the end.”

“I have no idea where they finished yet but a great battle by two great drivers.”

Greenlaw will be back in action at Speedway 660 on September 2 in the Late Model Sportsman Martin Home Heating 150. The race pays $5000 to win. Greenlaw will be back at the University of Maine at Orono next weekend to resume his studies in Survey Engineering.

“If you stayed home,” said Moncton’s Mike Francis,”man did you ever miss a great show. That Sportsman race was something else to watch.”

Saint John, New Brunswick’s Ron Conley added, “Sure was a barn burner! A nail-biter right down to the last lap.”

What Did You Get For Your Birthday????

I was very happy with what I received for my birthday last month, however, I will admit a little covetousness when I heard what Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR) crew chief Bob Alexander was given by his son Brett. Alexander got a ride in an authentic B-17 bomber from the World War II era.

Bob Alexander, center, holds grand-daughter Quinn’s hand as they examine the vintage B-17 at Bar Harbor airfield. Brett Alexander on the right wanted to surprise his Dad with an early birthday gift. Jenn Alexander photo

The Confederate Air Force volunteer flight crew based out of Arizona flew the B-17 aptly named “Sentimental Journey”. Jenn Alexander photo

Let Bob Alexander explain his experience, “After a pre-flight briefing, we took off for a half hour flight around the Mt. Desert Island area.”

“I was seated in the waist gunner’s section which had very minimal seating, no insulation and only the bare necessities needed to accommodate the passengers and crew on board.”

“Loud, uncomfortable, and awesome are a few of the words I can think of to describe the experience. The four 1200 horsepower radial engines shook and belched smoke and flames as the crew coaxed them to life in preparation for take off.”

“The aged fuselage creaked and groaned in response to the thrust and torque of the massive props. Take-off g’s we’re very similar to current aircraft but with much slower climb rate.”

I think one of the reasons that racers enjoy aircraft is the similar type of adrenaline rush that is found in racing applies to flight. The thrill of doing what seems daring and non-achievable by the average person, may be part of the love affair for planes often found in drivers and crew.

“The experience left me with renewed respect and awe for the ten-man air crews, most in their early 20’s or late teens, who would fly missions lasting up to 8 hours in -40 degree Fahrenheit conditions,” said Alexander . “The lack of pressurization and cabin heat required the use of heated flight suits which were plugged into power receptacles located along the fuselage.”

“A large percentage were lost to enemy fire and those that did return to base would often require major repairs by the ground crews.” Alexander’s grandfather worked on fighter and bomber aircraft in World War II.

Of course I needed an update on how his grandson Wyatt was doing at Charlotte, North Carolina. Bob said Wyatt was starting school [University of North Carolina, Charlotte majoring in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in motorsports] next week.

The Ellsworth native is currently involved with Kyle Beattie Racing (KBR) helping them transition to their new shop which is near Alexander’s townhouse. He may be helping KBR with some new driver coaching.

Race To Read

Maine race tracks might want to imitate a successful program at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont called Race to Read. Justin St. Louis and Alan Maynard, both mentioned in last week’s episode, gave me the basic information about the program which encourages youngsters to read books from a vast selection.

Once they have met their goal they get to sign race cars, introduce drivers prior to events, and those who race karts get to make a few laps around the 1/4 mile track in front of the typical 2500 or so race fans.

This is one relatively easy way to connect schools, home schools, and charter schools to their nearby race track. Youngsters who may never set foot onto a race track are given incentives which bring them to the track often times to witness for the first time what stock car racing is like.

For more information about Thunder Road’s program go to

One person who is an avid supporter of this program is Professor Alan Maynard driver of the #10 Street Stock Mustang described in last week’s episode. If you get a close-up view of his race car you will notice many signatures of kids who have met their reading goal and were able to sign the deck lid. Several other drivers also support the program which has a booth at the track open whenever racing takes place.

Riley Bean with his favorite driver, Professor Al Maynard, after the Thursday night races at Thunder Road. Note the rear quarter panel saying “In Support of Riley” who is autistic. VooDoo Motorsports photo

Maynard explains how he was inspired by Riley’s brother Keegan, ” Riley is a young boy with autism. His brother Keegan wanted to sponsor my car and gave me an envelope with a sticker and a little money. I did what I do and went way past his expectations and gave them the whole quarter panel.”

Folks that is one of many ways to help make your race track relevant and accessible to the next generations of race fans, crew members, and drivers.

No Oxford 250 for Me This Year

I am unable to fit the Oxford 250 into my schedule this year due to financial and time constraints. This will be the first one I have missed in the last couple years. I will be thinking of the activity that always surrounds Maine’s biggest motorsports event.

I will not be completely out of the loop since my researcher Gary Saucier and able assistant Derek Jepson will be spectating. They will get me some post-race photos and comments about the race action.

I will not predict a winner except to say that this could be the year for an upset. So many have guaranteed starting spots that they will not need to tear up their equipment to get into the race thus giving them what I consider to be a racing advantage over non-guarantee start racers.

My sentimental favorites will be Frenchville native Shawn Martin and the kids at Oxford Hills Middle/High School with their Aspire Higher Super Late Model. A win by an underdog, under funded team would always be a point of conversation following the race.

Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) Points Finale and Season Finale

NMKA members decided this past winner to make their Friday Night Race at Spud Speedway August 25 also their final points race. That would allow racers to relax somewhat for the season finale September 9 which will be the State of Maine Invitational Race.

Current standings:

Blacked Out Window Tint Kid Karts
No points, exhibition only.
Parker Bosse and Kayden Haines.

Aroostook Trusses Junior Cage Division
1. Bryan Searles, Presque Isle 108
2 . Gage Theriault, Limestone 102
3. Hunter Bennett, Prospect 31
4. Ronnie Lynn Kelly, Presque Isle 21

Aroostook Savings & Loan Senior Cage Division
1. Damian Theriault, Caribou 124
2. Jason Theriault, Caribou 83
3. Tom Hale, Westmanland 65
4. Janet Bosse, Caribou  52
5. Marcel Bosse, Caribou  12

This Friday Nights Kart Racing will be Presented by Jellybean Racing and Ray’s Racing Memorabilia. Grandstand is free and pits are $10 per person. Racing gets under way at 6:30 pm.

Information about the NMKA Invitational will be available on their Facebook page later this week. All three classes will have prize money. Kids Karts by Robb’s Pit Stop, Junior Cage Karts by Cowett’s Auto Recycling, and Senior Cage Karts by Mike Cowett’s  Auto.

Baseball??? Yes Baseball!

Baseball continues to be one of my favorite sports. I enjoy Major League Baseball, however, to me a minor league, college, high school or lower level game can be just as enjoyable. I coached baseball for 16 years not including the three summers I worked at the Caribou Recreation Department’s baseball program in the summers of my college days.

While coaching at Caribou High School as a Varsity baseball assistant I noticed this young man who seemed to play baseball with an unbridled compassion. He and his father would be in their front yard playing pass when snow still covered the ground. His Little League years were marked with excellence as were the middle school efforts.

The young man’s name is Matt Curry, son of Scott and Karla Curry of Caribou. When Matt hit the high school varsity level I only coached his freshman year. Other obligations forced me to pull back from the assistant varsity coach.

Curry’s senior year the varsity team went on to become the only Caribou baseball team ever to make it not only beyond the quarter finals but all the way to the state final which they lost to Greeley by a score of 3 to 2.

The key to this effort was the tireless work put in by Matt Curry who inspired his fellow team-mates to believe that maybe we can break this streak of bad luck in baseball.

He spent time in the off-season hitting baseballs in Bub Anderson’s batting cage set up in Bub’s building, the old New Sweden School gym. Curry used it so much Bub gave him a key.

After high school Curry continues his education at the University of Maine at Presque Isle where he majors in Business and Accounting while playing for UMPI baseball. UMPI baseball has been best known as the team with no home games. This is not totally true since they usually get one weekend of home games which are frequently snowed or rained out.

Despite the relatively low-level of baseball played at UMPI, they always seem to develop a comradeship which holds the team together despite long road trips and losing seasons.

Regardless of what may go on around him, Curry can be found most days of the season and off-season working out at County Physical Therapy. Curry does not simply put in the time, he works hard at maintaining fitness and a winning attitude.

The last couple of summers he has played for the Grand Falls Cataracts in the Miramichi Valley Baseball League equivalent to the Portland Wooden Bat League. Though not quite Class A Minor League baseball there are quality players in the system.

Curry wants to be in every game, so when he is not pitching he is either playing first or the outfield. The team wants his bat in the game, in fact he is hitting in the lead off position this year to take advantage of as many at bats as possible.

I say all this to announce that he, at age 21 has been selected as the Miramichi Valley Baseball League Most Valuable Player, batting champion with a .456 average, lowest ERA in the league with a 1.06 and was named to the All Star Team.

The Grand Falls Cataracts are currently involved in the league play-offs with the Miramichi Cardinals. A round robin series will follow with the two best teams in eastern New Brunswick pitted against  Miramichi and Grand Falls representing the west for the provincial title.

Manager of the Grand Falls Cataracts Dan Parent awards his player Matt Curry of Caribou the Miramichi Valley Baseball League Most Valuable Player award. Curry also won the batting title (.456) and had a 1.06 ERA the leagues lowest. He was also selected to the All Star Team. Mariah Lefleur photo

Eye Candy For the GearHead

Honda Performance Development and Penske Racing unveiled their new Acura 05 Daytona Prototype International (DPi) race car. I thought you might like to see it as we close out this week’s episode. Do not forget Loring Timing Association is back in action Labor Day weekend at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine.

Penske ARX05 DPi Photo courtesy Honda Racing

Let’s Go Racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

Romans 16:27

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine