Maine’s Austin Theriault wins ARCA Championship

Episode 184

October 22, 2017

First from Maine to win an ARCA Title

Many of Austin Theriault’s family and friends were at Kansas Speedway to witness the final race of the 2017 season. Pictured here with sister Brittany on left and mother Terry on right. Despite a crash on lap 54 the fans were not denied their chance to celebrate. AT Racing photo

Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is not technically a nationwide series, however, if the United States Auto Club (USAC) can call their various series “National Champions” I am also going to call the Maine man a National Champion!  Austin Theriault now is the only person from Maine to win the driver’s championship in the 65 year history of the Ohio headquartered series.

This was also the only time in ARCA history where the champion won at every type of race track in the same year. Theriault won at super speedway, short track, road course, intermediate, and dirt track. If you look who has raced in ARCA, one cannot help but be impressed with that feat alone.

Theriault had the largest contingent of fans on the ARCA live feed at each of the series events. The Fort Kent native was not only a hometown favorite, but a State of Maine favorite.

In the post race track interview Theriault said, “There’s roughly a million people in Maine. I’ve been very fortunate to have a huge number of people follow me.”

“When you race at the national level, it takes everything to a new level. I’m proud of all our support from back home.”

“I’m proud to be from Maine, it’s helped shape the person I am. That sort of small town respect helped me be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be here without the amazing support I get from back home. I wouldn’t be here without them. This is their championship too.”

Theriault’s team owner, Ken Schrader, was asked about the future for the young man from Maine, “If I could have any favorite scenario, it would be to have one of the those really good teams call him from over there (NASCAR). If that doesn’t happen, hell yeah I want him back.”

I asked Austin how did that meeting at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in Indianapolis, Indiana December 2016 come about?  I wanted to know if he had done research into the Ken Schrader Racing team or other teams?

“I did not have any idea what was going on in regards to Ken’s schedule at PRI,” said Theriault. There are a lot of people at the show and it is not easy to network. Most of the vendors are there to sell you their products.”

“I met Ken in the hallway where I introduced myself and we talked about the upcoming 2017 season and I said I would be in touch. That is how it started.”

It turns out that Schrader’s wife, Ann, wondered about this likable young man and was he any good? “I just told her that he was someone who can make it happen for us this year.” said Ken.

Theriault said one thing he was most pleased about was getting to run for a championship. It had been several years, dating back to his ACT days when he could dedicate himself to pursuit of a title in one series.

“2017 was an honor and a big accomplishment at the same time,” said Theriault. I was excited to race full-time. I was very happy for Donnie Richeson since this was his first championship as well as mine. He has been around a long time and deserved to win.”

“Donnie and I had our opinions, as do most drivers and crew chiefs.  We tried to find the best in our ideas. We were successful since we decided not to be stuck in old ideas and ways of doing things. We work well together.”

So what does Monday bring for the series champion? “I will go to the shop to work on some things that need to be done and tie up loose ends. I will then take the time to get ready for 2018 and whatever that entails.

One thing for sure, Theriault will more than likely have one of the larger contingents at the ARCA Awards Banquet downtown Indianapolis on December 9, 2017 at the Sagamore Ballroom in the Indiana State Convention Center next to the PRI 2017 Show. Details about the awards ceremony are forthcoming.

The Theriault/Swanson parallel track in 2017

Kody Swanson, USAC Silver Crown future champion, confers with future ARCA points champion,Austin Theriault on left prior to Theriault’s second place finish at the Illinois State Fairgrounds August 20. Swanson finished second in his race at the same track the day before. ARCA Racing Series photo

As the 2017 racing season began, I followed the stories of Austin Theriault in ARCA and Kody Swanson in USAC Silver Crown. I mentioned their exploits in a number of episodes in UpNorth Motorsports.

Week after week I noted that both racers seemed to be experiencing similar races and results. Let me show you some of the common ground shared by these two drivers.

Theriault led the points championship from race one at Daytona until the finale at Kansas. Swanson took the USAC points lead after race two in Phoenix and never relinquished it.

Swanson and Theriault raced at Toledo Speedway, Salem Speedway, Springfield’s Illinois State Fairgrounds, DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, and Lucas Oil Raceway in their respective series. Both had wins at DuQuoin, and Salem. Both finished fourth at Lucas Oil Raceway. Each placed second at Springfield’s Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Theriault beat second place Dalton Sargeant by 300 points in the 20 race series. Kody Swanson was 88 points ahead of second place Jerry Coons Jr. in the 10 race series. (USAC’s eleventh race at Indiana State Fairgrounds was rained out and not re-scheduled.)

Swanson’s average finishing position was 3.7 including his worst finish of the year in the season finale at Eldora Speedway. At the Rossburg, Ohio track he crashed on lap 32 netting him 20th place. Note that Theriault’s worst finish of the year was ARCA’s season finale where he crashed on lap 54 and finished 25th. His season finishing record was 4.2. Note the closeness of Swanson and Theriault’s average finish.

The awards ceremony for both champions will coincide with the PRI Show at Indianapolis. As previously mentioned the ARCA Series will recognize their champions Saturday December 9. The USAC Night of Champions is typically held Friday evening in Downtown Indianapolis.

Glimpse of where it started in the County

Aroostook County is not the hotbed of racing champions, although Olympic Biathlon star, Russell Currier of Stockholm has had success on the international circuit. Other folks have been highly successful in their special way as mentioned in previous episodes.

With the help of several photographers, I would like to show you where Theriault got his start at Spud Speedway in Caribou.

Richard Theriault bought Austin his first race car, a Pontiac Grand Am which the 13 year-old raced in the Young Guns class at Spud Speedway. The car was used by its previous owner to race at Lakeview Restaurant’s dirt track during a few of the years that Spud was not open. Austin said that car was loud! Theriault family photo

Austin wore #74 in Young Guns class for the simple reason that was the number that his second car, a Dodge Neon, had when they purchased it. Lynn Martin photo

Theriault’s third race car was this Ford Mustang shown in turn three action with fellow St. John Valley resident Curtis Picard of St. Agatha. Picard raced the #77 VW. Both raced in the Young Guns class at Spud Speedway. Lynn Martin photo

Post race in Young Guns feature won by Curtis Picard, center, Austin Theriault on left placed second, and Nate Haney third. Sabrina Haney photo

One of the first opportunities I had to talk with Austin was at a wrestling match at the Caribou High School gym though not this particular event. I must admit in all my visits to Spud Speedway to that point I had not interviewed the young man. Theriault family photo

Purchasing the number 57 ACT Late Model owned by Doug Coombs was the first step in Theriault’s move up the racing ladder. His name was thrust center stage when at age 15 he won the inaugural Spud 150 September 2009. This was one week after purchasing the car. Pictured here with his father, Steve. HTF Motorsports photo

Theriault made time in his ACT schedule to return to Spud Speedway to defend his Spud 150 title in 2010. A blown tire put him a couple of laps down. Frenchville native, Shawn Martin, won the race. This turned out to be the final race at Spud Speedway for Theriault. HTF Motorsports photo

What is next for Austin Theriault

No one is absolutely certain what is on tap for the young man from Maine. Theriualt mentioned that he is answering phone every time he does not see a 1-800 number. He has however, made an impression on thousands of people this championship season. Stay tuned for announcements about what those plans may be. Thank you for setting a good example AT. God bless.

I thought it might be a good way to end this special episode by supplying a link to a video from his former race team Brad Keselowski Racing. As you may know, BKR is getting out of the truck racing series which is my lead into the video.

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

Psalm 115:15

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