Austin Theriault, a 19-year-old from Fort Kent, intends to drive in the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway for the third consecutive year Sunday, but first will have to race in Canada against his boss, Brad Keselowski, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.
Theriault, who graduated from Fort Kent High last year, will run Saturday in the IWK 250 at Riverside Speedway in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, as a member of the Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) team.
On Sunday, Theriault will try to qualify for the TD Bank 250 in his family’s converted Super Late Model.
“I’ll race on Saturday night up in Nova Scotia, then fly on a private plane to Portland,” he said. “I should be ready to try to qualify for the 250 on Sunday afternoon.”
Theriault, who finished third in the 250 in 2011 and 2012, said he couldn’t pass up the chance to spend time at a track with Keselowski, who is ninth in the Sprint Cup standings.
“It’s an awesome opportunity,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been waiting for for a while. The (BKR) development program has given me lots of opportunities already.”
Normally, Keselowski and Theriault don’t have a chance to run against each other, but there is a break in the Sprint Cup schedule this weekend.
“It has the potential to be a good learning experience and something I can build off of as a driver,” Theriault said. “For me, I just want to do a lot of listening and watching how he approaches things.”
In his first full season with BKR, Theriault has run in selected races on the CRA Super Series, Southern Super Series and PASS South racing tours.
“We’re not running for points anywhere,” he said. “Instead we’re running in selected races on three tours, big races.”
In his last six Super Late Model starts for BKR, Theriault hasn’t finished outside the top six. His first career win for the team in a SLM came March 9 at Dillon Motor Speedway in South Carolina. On June 22, he won a Pass South race at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, S.C.
Theriault won’t drive Keselowski’s car in the 250. Instead he will drive the car that has enabled him to finish third twice in the prestigious short-track race when the 250 was limited to the Late Model class of cars.
“Once the chassis is welded onto the frame, it’s difficult to make it exactly like a car designed to run as a Super Late Model,” he said, “but we’ve done the best we could.”
Last September, Theriault won a PASS North race at Oxford Plains while driving the car after it had been converted into a Pro Stock, a class of car that is eligible for the 250.
Theriault was ninth at Oxford Plains on April 21 and seventh at Beech Ridge in Scarborough on May 4 while running the car against Super Late Models on the PASS North tour.
“We drove in a couple of PASS North races this spring and we had some trouble with it,” he said. “Since then we’ve made some changes.”
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: