Episode 191

December 10, 2017

The banner on display at Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in Indianapolis says it all, “CHAMPION”. AT Racing photo

Rewards for all that hard work found at PRI

Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1860’s work entitled “Worship” said, “He who has acquired the ability, may wait securely the occasion of making it felt and appreciated, and know that it will not loiter. Men talk as if victory were something fortunate. Work is victory. Wherever work is done victory is obtained. There is no chance, and no blanks. You want but one verdict:if you have your own, you are secure of the rest.”

When Austin Theriault set out to do his level best to pursue a career in motorsports, his pathway was one strewn with obstacles, twists, and turns. Many set backs lay ahead for the teenager who had just won the Spud 150 in September 2009.

Austin Theriault and father Steve celebrate 2009 Spud 150 win at Spud Speedway, Caribou, Maine. HTF Motorsports photo

The Aroostook County native used those set-backs, as difficult as they were, to build character. He sought good advice, prayed, and picked himself back up moving forward with his dream

The 2016 season looked like a disaster as he went through loss of a K & N East ride and took a back-marker drive in one race in the Xfinity series. Yet as Emerson mentioned in “Worship”, Theriault worked, knowing he had the ability, at securing a ride for 2017. As we all know it paid off with an ARCA Championship with Ken Schrader Racing.

Theriault had this to say in the official press release from ARCA Racing, “”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.”

Does an ARCA championship mean that the 23 year-old is at the zenith of his career? I think not. The behind-the-scenes work needed to secure a ride for the 2018 race season continues. We await an answer sometime in the future. Regardless, I am sure I join with many fans, friends, and family to wish the young man from Fort Kent all the best.


The champion’s car on display at ARCA booth at PRI Show in Indianapolis, Indian. Ken Schrader Racing photo

Featured driver at PRI Safety Seminar

PRI Safety seminar featuring ARCA 2017 Champion. AT Racing photo

While at the PRI Show, Austin Theriault took part in the “Crash Preparation Education & Awareness” safety seminar on Saturday morning. Theriault spoke about two of his hardest crashes, one in super late models and the NASCAR Camping World Truck race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He stressed that the driver needs to take personal responsibility for his safety equipment including fit and type. He mentioned that sometimes this may require passing up a race due to sub-standard safety equipment on a race car. Skipping a single race opportunity will not be career ending, however participating in that race may end your career if using safety equipment that fails.

He told about the late-model crash when he hit a telephone pole while traveling backwards at a high rate of speed after being spun off the track. He hit the pole so hard it bent his seat backward.

The crash at Vegas required he be flown by helicopter to nearby medical facility after hitting a non-SAFER barrier portion of the track. The impact caused compression damage to a couple of vertebrae. The Hans device, though not failing, was damaged. The next year the Hans device was strengthened because of what was learned in that crash.

When asked what he would recommend to the safety equipment manufacturers, he replied that he utilized high density foam on the bottom side of the shoulder harness to allow him to maintain tight belts, yet not have the belts dig into his neck and shoulders. Discomfort during long races will sometimes lead to loosening of the belts by drivers simply to reduce discomfort of their restraint system.

Theriault was also used by Stand 21 Safety personnel to demonstrate the “Lid-Lifter” balaclava which allows safety workers to remove a crash victims helmet without causing damage to the spine. The “Lid-Lifter” retails for $129 and was recommended for every type of motorsports racing. Theriault was given a “Lid-Lifter” after the demonstration.

Lid-Lifter from Stand21.

Swanson Champ in USAC

Swanson family at USAC “Night of Champions” Awards Ceremony. L to r Mike & Darla Swanson, Kody, Trevor, and Jordan Swanson, with grandparents Glenda & Jim Oliver. Photo by Jordan Swanson

I have followed this young man from Kingsburg, California for the past several years since he moved east to Indianapolis to further his driving career. He has made quite an impression in the world of USAC Silver Crown Racing by winning 3 of the last 4 years championships.

One needs to remember that Silver Crown is where many greats spent a portion of their careers including Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Mario Andretti, Dave Darland, JJ Yeley, and many more. Swanson currently is number two on the all-time win list with 19 trailing leader Jack Hewitt, who has 23 Silver Crown wins.

Despite losing the driver championship to Chris Windom by a mere 5 points in 2016, Swanson garnered enough points to allow DePalma Motorsports to win the team championship. The ever humble Swanson was pleased with this year’s fourth title in a row for DePalma Motorsports.

“I might be more proud and excited to be a part of that record than I am anything else,” Swanson said regarding the team that tied East/Stewart Racing’s four title run from 2002-05.  “I’ve always taken my role as a driver to help my team succeed.  To have been part of an incredible last four seasons and accomplish what we have together is very special to me.”

Swanson was the recipient of the Jason Leffler Award recognizing him for his professionalism and appreciation for the significance of the sport’s history. It was noted that Swanson is an excellent ambassador for the sport much like the late Leffler for whom the award was named.

If you follow UpNorth Motorsports this past racing season, you probably have seen photos of these three at racetracks across the nation. They dress up rather nicely I must say. l to r Kody, Jordan & Trevor Swanson at 62nd USAC “Night of Champions” Awards ceremony. Jordan Swanson photo

No announcement was made by Swanson in regards to his plans for the 2018 racing season. The next event for him will be the Chili Bowl in January at Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Cold Hard Art on the prowl at PRI

One advantage to being located at Brownsburg, Indiana is the ability to attend what could arguably be one of the best motorsports shows in America, the PRI. Tom Patsis and wife Amanda were able to spend some time at the show meeting with vendors, friends, and clients.

One thing you can be guaranteed with Patsis is his ability to seek out the unconventional often including photos. A couple of photos in particular caught my eye since I had posted the dramatic video of the triple turbocharged Cummings engine disintegrating on the Marlatt Engines & Dyno in Rushville, Indiana.

This is the bottom portion of the engine featured in Episode 189. I believe the engine was owned by Lavon Miller and was used in his pulling tuck. The internal parts were built by D & J Precision Machine, Cambridge, Ohio. Tom Patsis photo

Custom built Cummings diesel block built by D & J Precision Machine. It truly is a work of art designed to take the abuse of over 1000 horsepower diesel truck pullers. Tom Patsis photo

Bill Craig on far right with my son Mike in the middle and Bill’s wife Darlene on left. HTF Motorsports photo

One of my dear friends dies

I cannot end this week’s UpNorth Motorsports without mentioning a great friend of mine, Bill Craig. Bill died early in the morning this past Sunday December 10th after battling a re-occurrence of cancer.

Bill was not much of a race fan yet he would listen intently to me as I talked about a variety of motorsports exploits. He was an engineer and had the curiosity that matched his occupation.

We spent many an hour at Madawaska Lake cooking for the group or playing Sequence©  against the wives. I might add that our victory hoots were storied.

Most of all I miss his kind spirit which reflected his deep faith in Jesus Christ. He went places, did things, and gave of his finances to further the cause of Christ. One would need to look hard to match this man’s humble, giving nature.

He never sought the limelight, fame, or fortune yet was rich in ways that we on earth sometimes cannot comprehend. I will miss my dear friend especially when we gather to play Sequence©,  BBQ scallops for the Fourth of July, or attend Men’s Conferences.

My hope is the same as Bill’s, that of the saving grace afforded by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is on that basis that I will not say good-bye to Bill at his funeral this week rather, “See you later my friend”!

I will close this week by using a statement used right up until the end of his earthly sojourn,

“God is good”,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

A post script this week for all you vintage racecar fans, this is Dan Gurney’s Ford warming up:

On stage at ARCA Awards ceremony. Photo courtesy AT Racing


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