It’s been a long time since Austin Theriault sat behind the wheel of a Super Late Model race car. 242 days to be exact. It’s been 48 day since he last strapped into any type of race car. The Fort Kent, Maine driver who drives for Brad Keselowski Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will end both of those droughts on Labor Day weekend when he competes in the Irving Blending & Packaging 250 at Speedway 660 in New Brunswick, Canada.
Theriault confirmed with Speed51.com powered by JEGS on Wednesday afternoon that he will be driving his family-owned No. 57 nicknamed “T-Rex” in the $15,000-to-win race.
“I’m looking forward to ending the dry streak as far as racing,” said Theriault as he prepared to fly to his home state of Maine from his current residence in North Carolina. “It’s going to be good to get back into a car. Flying out tonight, work on the car and set it up tomorrow and Friday and then we’ll leave for Canada.”
Theriault, who has completed five of his 13 planned NCWTS races with Brad Keselowski Racing, has not raced a Super Late Model since the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway on December 7. He has not raced the particular car he’ll be racing this weekend since a Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North race at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) last October.
Getting the chance to finally get back behind the wheel of one of his favorite cars is something that has the 20-year-old excited to come home.
“I feel like anytime there is an opening, it really kills me that I can’t race a Super as much as I’ve done in the past,” Theriault stated. “Even with my schedule now, there’s openings but it just takes the full effort to be successful in any series, especially NASCAR, but even in the other series that you find in Super Late Model racing throughout the country. I feel like I’m not going to go somewhere without knowing that I can win, so that’s kind of put me on the backburner a little bit the past year, year-and-a-half focusing on the NASCAR stuff. But I’m really excited to get back into a Super Late Model.”
A third-place finish in last year’s Irving Blending and Packaging 250 has Theriault confident that his team will have what it takes to win in their first start of the year.
“I’ve been to that track before and I’ve raced this particular car at the track and had success last year,” Theriault explained. “It’s just a really good car. We finished third last year and had a pretty good car, maybe not quite enough to win, but we had a spark plug wire come off or break so we kind of rode around on seven cylinders. We were definitely in contention there last year.”
Heading into one of the biggest weekends of the year in Eastern Canada, Theriault’s sole focus is on one thing: bringing home the big trophy.
“I feel like right now it’s all about the trophy,” said Theriault. “We’ll gladly accept a check to pay for the tires, fuel and transportation but it’s all about the trophy. I don’t look at it as something that career wise makes me want to run any harder or not want to run as hard. It’s just about having fun, getting the trophy and getting the bragging rights. It’s safe to say that’s how you approach the majority of the races that you run.”
For Theriault, the opportunity to compete in the race also gives him seat time behind the wheel of a race car. Even though it may not be a truck like he races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, it’s still valuable seat time for a driver that hasn’t raced since June.
“Being in something every week is like practicing every day if you’re in any other professional sport,” Theriault said. “You want to practice as much as possible. With NASCAR and professional motorsports, sometimes it is more limited with what we can do. Basically right now the only testing that young drivers have is that they have to race as much as possible.”
Despite the race being one of his limited starts in a Super Late Model this season, Theriault explained that he plans to approach the race just like any other big SLM race he’s competed in.
“The way we approach it isn’t any different than any other big race like the Oxford 250, Beech Ridge 300 or Snowball Derby because there’s going to be good cars up there,” Theriault explained.
“You really can’t afford to approach it any differently thinking you aren’t going to have to work as hard, because you are. You are going to have to work as hard as any other race.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com