18-Year-Old BKR Development Driver On Quick Learning Curve
FORT KENT, Maine – Austin Theriault hasn't been home since graduating from high school on June 8.
In a span of 14 days, Theriault has traveled from his Fort Kent home to Milwaukee, back to the race shop in western Maine, to the White Mountains of New Hampshire twice, back to the midwest for a race in Michigan and then back to the race shop in the Pine Tree State.
The 18-year-old's racing road trip still isn't over yet with an ACT Late Model Tour race in North Woodstock, N.H., this weekend, but Theriault is holding up just fine. The Brad Keselowski Racing development driver has competed in a pair of marquee midweek Super Late Model events during the busy stretch – and though the final results might not have been what Theriault wanted, he does feel like he's taking steps in the right direction.
“It's about getting better every time. You're learning every time out,” said Theriault, who finished 18th in the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 at Milwaukee Mile on June 12 and then 13th in the Rowdy 251 at Berlin Raceway on June 19. “You're racing against some top-notch teams, and you have to learn how to race with them. You have to learn how to race differently, how to pass differently. I have a good foundation with ACT racing and it's gotten me really far, but right now we're trying to get that extra little bit out.
“That's what I've been getting more comfortable with – trying to get more out of the car, giving better feedback to (crew chief Gary Crooks), and just trying to work better as a team.”
At Milwaukee, Theriault qualified 28th in a field of 72 cars for the ASA Midwest Tour event. He overcame two flat tires in the event and a lengthy pit stop to change an alternator and battery in the BKR No. 29 Checkered Flag Foundation Dodge to finish in the top half of the field.
At Berlin, Theriault was closing in on the Top-10 after starting 20th in the 30-car CRA Super Series field when trouble found him. He was racing on the inside of another car when that car bounced off the wall and into Theriault's No. 29 – knocking the toe out of the car and prompting a broken rear trailing arm a few laps later.
Theriault, who posted Top-10 finishes – including a career-best finish of fifth in the Papa John's 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., in April – in each of his first three Super Late Model starts this season with BKR, is looking at the big picture.
“The results, I guess, have been average – but they haven't been very reflective of what the team is capable of,” Theriault said. “That kind of bugs me a little bit. I came out of (the Rowdy 251 at Berlin Raceway) kind of disappointed. We struggled right off the green flag, and me and Gary both knew when they put the green flag out that we'd kind of ventured off on the wrong path as far as the setup and all of that.
“We haven't reached the potential of what we're capable of. Then again, we haven't had the chance with some of the bad luck we've had.”
Theriault returns to the BKR No. 29 on July 4 for the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga. It's where Theriault made his first career Super Late Model start last November. The event has been moved this year from its traditional late-autumn date.
He's hoping that his familiarity with the track and the cars will serve as a springboard to a strong second half of the 2012 season with BKR.
“Every time we race (with BKR), it's a huge learning experience for me,” Theriault said. “The tracks are different than what we're used to racing on with the ACT Tour. The communication's different because there's so much more you can do on the Super Late Models during the races.
“And there's also so much more competition – it's like we've been racing at the Oxford 250 every week, every time I go down there. They've all been big shows, shows that bring a lot of good cars and teams. I'm just trying to keep getting better every time out.”
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