PHOTO: Austin Theriault had the race of his young career in the TD Bank 250 at Oxford on Sunday. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

OXFORD, Me. — Stepping out of a full-time ride in the biggest race of the season would be out of the question for most drivers. Typically, staying with that full-time ride gives a driver the best chance to win. But after solid runs in his family-owned car preceding the 38th annual TD Bank 250 at the Oxford Plains Speedway, Austin Theriault stepped away from his Rick Paya-owned RPM Motorsports machine he drives on the American-Canadian Tour to drive his family-owned car for the TD Bank 250.

And he succeeded.

The Fort Kent, Me., racer started from the 11th position, rode in the top ten for almost the entire race, and secured an impressive third-place finish in his first start in the TD Bank 250.

“We had a good car here [last Saturday] and it was really one of the best cars I’ve ever had here,” said Theriault of his decision to race his family-owned car. “So why not take [the risk]? And it paid off. I can’t thank my guys enough. Top three here is phenomenal. Last year we didn’t even qualify. We learned a lot of lessons, came back, and here we are now.”

Theriault took advantage of a lap 134 caution to put two new right side tires on his car, after taking on two left side tires on a lap 113 caution. Theriault restarted from the 13th position and, again, quietly worked his way back inside the top ten. Theriault broke into the top five on lap 185, then quickly worked his way past fellow ACT competitor John Donahue. He reeled in race leader and eventual winner Kyle Busch, and Jeff Taylor and Nick Sweet as the three battled for the top spot.

Taylor eventually slipped and faded, allowing Theriault to capitalize, taking third from the veteran racer on lap 228. Theriault reeled in Busch and Sweet as they worked lapped traffic and each other, all while holding off a hard challenge from defending race winner Eddie MacDonald. Theriault credited his spotter for great information on helping hold off MacDonald.

“I had my spotter every second of every lap,” said Theriault. “He told me where he was, like ‘fender, door.’ We raced for five laps, maybe more. He pulled me through the center. But like everyone talked about, if you’re on the high side you can really carry that momentum all the way around the corner. He was probably a little free up off; I found that out when I ran the bottom. But, he ran me clean.”

Without a caution flag with 16 laps to go, Theriault may have been able to challenge Busch and Sweet better.

“On the long runs, the car really came to me. But on the short runs, [the car] really tightened up,” Theriault explained. “We played a different strategy. We came in [on lap 113] and took left [side tires], and were able to hold our own. We came back in and took right [side tires], and we just flew through the field. I think that’s what helped us out at the end.”

Theriault, 17, began his racing career in the four cylinder class at the little known Spud Speedway in Caribou, Me..

“Where’s that?” race winner Kyle Busch asked.


But for the kid who just began his racing career at the little known track a short time ago and competing in only his second full-time season on the American-Canadian Tour, Theriault acts like a seasoned veteran.

“I was confident,” Theriault said on asked if he had any nerves on battling with Eddie MacDonald and reeling in the leaders. “Eddie’s a great driver, but it’s all about track position and where you are on the track. The car was great. You can only be so good as your race car. It was a great night tonight.”