Weekend New England racing highlights

Episode 273

July 23, 2019

New Hampshire notes

Austin Theriault’s first pit stop in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut at New Hampshire Motor Speedway July 21, 2019. Theriault finished 35th in the Rick Ware Racing #52 Chevrolet. (Austin Theriault Racing/ Bangor Savings Bank Carrie DiGeorge photo)

Do you remember when you finally arrived with your family at that vacation spot long dreamed about? That once in a lifetime feeling that comes when dreams come true.

Austin Theriault experienced that moment when he arrived at the front gate at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Friday. “I have been so busy preparing for this event, when it finally came, I thought ‘It is finally happening!’” said Theriault with a smile.

The journey began at age 13 in 2007 when the youngster made his first laps in the Young Guns class at Spud Speedway, Caribou, Maine. With success at the track including winning the Spud 150 in a V6 powered late-model the family had owned only a week, he decided to pursue his dream to race in the most prestigious stock car series in the world.

Theriault has developed a reputation for tenacity and perseverance. After winning the ARCA Championship in 2017 with Ken Schrader Racing, the next season did not result in opportunities which many expected to come his way.

The Maine racer, now living in Mooresville, North Carolina, worked with several businesses to help them to expand their market and allow him to achieve his goal. That work came to fruition when Theriault and Bangor Savings Bank announced in June 2019 they would team up as primary sponsor on the #52 Chevrolet in the Rick Ware Racing stable.

The Bangor based bank sponsored Theriault in 2014 for the Nationwide Series car and in 2018 for the Oxford 250.

With a heat index of 91 degrees at the New Hampshire track, Theriault, an avid bike rider, prepared for the extreme conditions by cross-country rides in the North Carolina heat.

Debuting in a Monster Energy Cup car lends itself to comparison with other race cars he has driven. “The Cup car is heavier and responds different than my PASS car. It has more horsepower though.”

The Foxwood Resort Casino 301 is the longest race distance that Theriault has attempted which presented him with a new challenge which was a moot point when he went behind the pit wall and retired from the race on lap 185 when a plate in the rear end sheared off.

Going into the race, Theriault goals were to, “Stay out of trouble, do as many laps as possible, and stay out-of-the-way of faster cars.  I am fortunate to be here I have worked hard for this chance.”

George Balfanz, originally from St. Francis, Minnesota now living in Charlotte, North Carolina was Austin Theriault’s front tire changer. Pictured with Balfanz are twin sisters, Ashley (left) and Brittany Cote (right) from Oakland, Maine. Both ladies work at Genesis Healthcare- Oak Grove in Waterville. They became Theriault fans three years ago after meeting him at Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Theriault is a popular racer in New England. Twin sisters Brittany and Ashley Cote, Oakland, Maine met Theriault at the Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta two years ago. They made the trip to support the Maine driver.

Bob Masse (right) with his son Keanen center, and Keanan’s friend Connor Soucy, all from Woodland, Maine on the front stretch at NHMS during driver introductions. Keanen is a Jimmie Johnson fan and Connor is a Chase Elliot fan.(HTF Motorsports photo)

Gage Theriault, Limestone with Austin Theriault at NHMS after touring #52 Rick Ware Racing hauler.( HTF Motorsports photo)

Limestone’s Gage Theriault, no relation to Austin Theriault, called “Biggest Little Fan” was on hand. He got to tour the team hauler and get some photos. “I couldn’t wait to get to New Hampshire to see Austin race.”

Two time winners of the 150 lap races at the track, Shawn Martin and Austin Theriault will be looking to get a leg up on each other with a Firecracker 200 win. Hal O’Neal from New Brunswick, a multiple feature race winner at Spud Speedway now turned car owner will have Maine Hall of Fame driver Mike Rowe at the wheel. Action starts at 2 pm August 4th.

Two time Spud 150 winner Shawn Martin and son Colby, Auburn with Wyatt Alexander, Ellsworth in the garage area at NHMS. Martin announced he will be racing in the Firecracker 200 on August 4th attempting to win his third 150 at the Caribou track. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Wyatt Alexander in center with Andy Seuss, Hampstead, New Hampshire on left of photo, and Patrick Hutt, Franklin, Massachusetts. All three have raced together in various forms types of race cars (HTF Motorsports photo)

Theriault next race is at Pocono Raceway in the Gander 400 RV Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series July 28. He will be sponsored by Bangor Savings Bank and Trick Shot Lubricants.

The following weekend Theriault will be back in Maine for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) at Spud Speedway August 4th. He will be making a personal appearance at the Caribou Chamber of Commerce’s “Thursdays on Sweden Street” event starting at 6 pm August 1st. He will be located near the bandstand at the post office.

Andy Seuss, Hampstead, New Hampshire, shows off his yellow rookie stripe on the #51 Ford at NHMS. Seuss, like Theriault was making his debut in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Seuss finished 28th. (HTF Motorsports photo)


Kevin Harvick’s New Hampshire winning team has Maine man on pit crew

Rear tire carrier for the #4 Kevin Harvick Ford, Mike Morneau originally from Oxford, Maine celebrates in Victory Lane with a 22 pound lobster which went to the winning driver. (Mike Morneau photo)

The race was won by Kevin Harvick who held off second place Denny Hamlin in a last lap thriller. Harvick and Hamlin traded paint several times on the race to the checkered flag. Harvick’s pit crew includes Oxford, Maine native Mike Morneau the rear tire changer.

Bangor-based Last Ditch Racing races 20th consecutive New England Forest Rally and finishes second on final day

At speed at the New England Forest Rally based at Sunday River Ski Resort. John Cassidy and co-driver John Cassidy V get air with their rally prepped Subaru. (Joel Sanford photo)

Last Ditch Racing owner/driver John Cassidy, who I met well over a dozen years ago when I wrote a special report about him for the Bangor Daily News, achieved something that few race teams can boast about…20 straight years of competitive rally racing at one of the toughest rallies in the United States.

John wrote about his experience along with co-driver/navigator/son John Cassidy V which I got his permission to share with you. The writing brings us behind the scenes both leading up to, during and after the race. Cassidy finished fourth overall and second in class for Friday. Second overall and first in class Saturday in regional competition.

Part one in Cassidy’s words unedited except to make it fit format:

“After having a great event this weekend at our 20th consecutive New England Forest Rally, I thought I’d share more about the event and the, “behind the scenes,” of a typical rally weekend.

You see all the pics and videos of cars flying through the air and sliding around corners, but the work it takes to make that happen is often not talked about. Frankly, the pictures and videos often, “seem,” cooler. For me though, the work and people are what make it for me. I look at it as my job to do the crew the service of putting the machine they built and work on, on display the best way that I can.

On to the story. After NEFR (New England Forest Rally) 2018, T4 was on the trailer in the driveway. Which is normal. What’s also normal for us is to perform a BDA( battle damage assessment) after each event to identify issues and create a prioritized list of repairs and upgrades.

That didn’t happen last year. There’s been lots going on personally for me. Rally not only takes a substantial financial investment, but an emotional one as well.

A digression: T4’s first rally(after we built her), was at the 2006 Rallye Perce Neige. Little known fact-she has a CARS(Canadian Association of Rally Sport) log book. Not a common thing if you’re a US based rallyist.

Anywho, T4 had no BDA after last year’s event. She sat. And sat. Likely quite unhappy about it. She went to visit our friend Ryan for a look over as he had some time and availability and I did not.

The day before this years’ event, we travelled to his shop and I met my son John to change fluids and replace the ball joints. We finished the ball joints and fluids and called it good. No other option really. We’d run out of time. T4 was filled with 2018 NEFR dust and was in need of a bath. At the very least. The fuel in the tank was a year old…

On the newly re-wired trailer(by me) that didn’t completely work we had no trailer brakes. One turn signal and one brake light. Hole in the trailer deck. I bought metal to weld it up, but ran out of time.

Arrived at Sunday River (Newry, Maine) Wednesday night. Called back home to tell folks coming later to bring things I’d forgotten. We have the luxury of that as this event is so close to us. We’re spoiled in that regard.

Thursday was Recce day, a 12-hour day driving down dirt roads and reviewing notes that describe the road. It requires focus over a long period of time. Something I’m not so great at. We got it done. Even had an ice cream midday at the Andover General Store. Which has a public bathroom decorated with horror movie pics and a couple of skulls.

While we were out, Duncan, our crew chief (this year his 13th NEFR) was taking T4 through technical inspection. She needed a couple small things. Fact: even though your rally car is in the same-EXACT-shape it was in when it passed tech last. There is something the inspectors will take issue with or suggest. Most of these suggestions are safety related and appreciated.

John Cassidy V and father John Cassidy IV New England Forest Rally 2018 (Dana Cassidy photo)

Thursday night after the 12-hour Recce, we start to prep the car for Friday’s Parc Expose. Check all the fluids again. Bleed the brakes. Fill the intercooler spray bottle. Pick out the tires we’ll use. Mount them and torque them. Fill the fuel tank. Make sure all the shoes, helmets and gear is in a place that we all know.

THE RACE Next week! Stay tuned.

NMKA Doubleheader kart racing at Spud Speedway. Should be on of the best attended races on the schedule this season. Pits open at 9:30 am with racing at noon. Pit entry $10 grandstand viewing free. NMKA photo

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)

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