Hometown: Fort Kent, ME
Current Level: Without a Ride
Last Year’s Pick: 9th
When there is a consensus number-one pick in the NFL Draft, much of the spotlight shines on the prospects who might potentially be drafted with the second pick. The same can be said for the 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes, where Harrison Burton secured the top pick by a substantial margin.
With Burton’s name being called on Thursday night, it’s now time to find out who the number-two pick will be in this year’s Short Track Draft.
The driver tabbed as the second pick hails from the small town of Fort Kent, ME. He began his racing career at Spud Speedway, progressed through the Late Model ranks, made a handful of starts at NASCAR’s highest levels and is now an ARCA Racing Series champion.
The second pick in the 2018 Short Track Draft is 2017 ARCA Racing Series champion Austin Theriault.
Theriault, who has now been selected as a Short Track Draft pick on six occasions, received six first-place votes and 29 top-five votes among the 45 short track experts who listed his name on their ballot. This is the highest selection ever for Theriault in the Short Track Draft, following a previous high of eighth in 2013.
“A championship certainly goes a long way,” Theriault told Speed51.com. “Wins and championships go a long way when it comes to moving the needle about how somebody views you. It’s important to be a personality and have good character, but at the end of the day you have to be successful. It means a lot for the success we had last year to sort of be recognized for that.”
Theriault enjoyed a dream season racing for Ken Schrader full-time in the ARCA Racing Series in 2017. In addition to winning the championship, Theriault scored seven victories and made ARCA history by becoming the first driver to win at every type of race track that the series visits. He won on a superspeedway, a short track, a road course and a dirt track last season.
After mixing in a handful of NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts in the years prior to 2017, Theriault was given a shot to race full-time for the first time since his Late Model days. He believes that in itself helped gave him the opportunity to raise his stock in this year’s Short Track Draft.
“I think that was really an unknown for a lot of people from my standpoint when they were looking and sort of grading me. Hey, how’s Austin doing? Well, he’s run some XFINTY races and he’s run some Truck races and he got hurt. I was getting a lot of feedback from people saying they wanted to see me behind the wheel for a full season. I think what we were able to accomplish last year silenced a lot of people on that front. It feels good coming from the challenges a few years before that and recovering from that stronger than ever.”
Although Theriault had a very successful season last year, he has been left on the sidelines so far in 2018. Because of that, some experts in this year’s draft may have overlooked him.
While he ultimately wants to get back behind the wheel, Theriault is confident that patience and hard work will help him land another great opportunity.
“There’s a certain standpoint of that, but at the end of the day there are some people who don’t leave but are still around and have proven to be successful,” Theriault began. “Look at Ryan Preece. He raced, sort of took a break to go back to some short track racing and comes back. That really opened up his career. As drivers, we have to feel confident that when you show what you got you don’t really lose it. It’s like riding a bicycle; once you figure out you can do it, you can hone in when you race more and get a little bit better.”
Theriault his hoping that his selection as the number-two pick in this year’s draft will catch the eyes of those who may be able to have an influence on him getting back behind the wheel.
“As a driver you hope that other people are paying attention to it,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s good to see your name up there. But it’s also important for the influencers, owners and sponsors to see your name up there because if somebody is making a decision they’d be smart to take the Harrison Burton’s, Ryan Preece’s and Austin Theriault’s and give them a chance to be successful. Like I said, I feel like the results speak for themselves but I’m just hopeful that the people that can make a difference are ultimately the ones that can look at something like this and make a decision.”
One of the areas in which Theriault has improved on over the years is his off-track persona. His confidence and personality have started to shine through compared to the early years of his career.
“I remember back when I was racing ACT, it seemed some people who didn’t know me thought I was a little shy and hadn’t come out of my shell. It’s been interesting watching and being around other people over the past couple years and kind of growing with them. I feel like I’ve kind of come out of my shell in a certain sense. I don’t really like the terminology coming out of your shell, but sort of just establishing yourself as a confident person and the personality that comes with that. I’m not all glitz and glamour and out in the camera, but I like talking to people and I like meeting people. I like being a part of teams and growing with people and watching them succeed.”
Despite not currently having a full-time ride, Theriault is staying very busy within the sport of racing. In addition to trying to put together plans to get back behind the wheel, he is currently working as a consultant, driver coach and spotter for some of racing’s up-and-coming drivers.
When asked where he’d like to see himself at some point during the 2018 season, Theriault said that he’s keeping his plans open but that he’d like to eventually return to the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
“Now that the season has started, full-time is not going to happen in any series in particular but XFINITY is probably where I need to be right now,” he stated. “I’m open to other opportunities in any other series, but I’m really putting a lot of my focus in XFINITY. Some of the sponsors we’re going after, we’re telling them that’s where I want to be and that’s where they need to be to get the exposure.”
Now that Theriault has been announced as the second pick in the 2018 Short Track Draft, it’s time to look forward to the rest of the top 10 picks. The remainder of the top 10 will be announced at 5 p.m. ET Friday on Speed51.com.
After a weekend to analyze the top 10 picks, picks 11 through 25 will be revealed at 5 p.m. ET on Monday. The remainder of the top 51 picks in the 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes will be announced Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.
For more information on the 2018 Short Track Draft, follow #51Draft on Twitter.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51