Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Theriault Does it Again! Nets 3rd Straight ARCA Win

Austin Theriault added another checkered flag for his trophy case
This is the time of year when champions start to make their charge and I think we are seeing that with Austin Theriault and his Kenny Schrader Racing (KSR) team as Austin snagged a thrilling come from behind win at Salem Speedway last Saturday night. It was his third straight ARCA win on three vastly different types of racetracks in three different states: the the four mile road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, then the one mile dirt track at DuQuoin, Illinois and now the half mile high banks of Salem Speedway in southern Indiana. There's a better than average chance he could make it four in a row this Thursday at Chicagoland Speedway on this very quick turnaround week for the series. With only three races left in the season now, Austin is taking the season championship battle by the throat and it will be fun to watch how the KSR team approaches another different kind of track, the mile-and-a-half superspeedway in Joliet, Illinois.

Austin (52) passed pole winner Zane Smith with less than five laps left to win
I continue to be amazed and impressed by the patience Austin has shown in these races. He led a lot of laps early in the race at Salem but then fell back and bided his time to ultimately make the pass for the lead with a handful of laps left. He seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, preserving his tires and keeping his equipment clean until it is time to pounce. And boy does he ever go after it when he senses it is time. I felt bad for Zane Smith who set fast time and took pole position in qualifying in a new ride with MDM Motorsports as he rose to the top of the charts late in the race and looked to be driving away from the field. But then came Austin, and Zane had no tires left to hold him off when Theriault dove under him in Turn 1 where I was shooting at the time.

The KSR team gave the Jack Bowsher throwback themed 52 some great brakes
A few laps before the big pass, Theriault's brakes were glowing red hot but he saved enough to make the pass stick when he needed to. He is showing veteran savvy which belies his experience in ARCA and while I would love to see him back in the series next year, I can't imagine someone in NASCAR Trucks or Xfinity wouldn't give him a ride. Guys that know how to win races like Austin seems to are in short supply in my opinion. When I sat down to write, I hadn't planned to make this all about Austin but he has just been so damn impressive that it's hard not to say good things about the kid. I know he's a grown man but so many of the current crop of ARCA drivers are in their teens that they all look like kids to me! But then I'm more "experienced" than they are and I have the grey hairs to prove it.

These kids are alright: Christian Eckes, Chase Purdy, Riley Herbst, Zane Smith
Even so, I still got my steps in at Salem last Saturday as my pedometer app registered 16,233 steps for the day which started at 6:00 a.m. when I got up in Indy and drove to Salem. I got home at midnight after shooting all day at the track on an absolutely perfect day in southern Indiana, where the locals call it "God's country", and I know why. I started shooting ARCA races at Salem in earnest in 2006 so I've seen a lot of crazy stuff happen at that rugged old speed plant, but rarely have I seen a more entertaining 200 laps than these guys raced last weekend. It was spectacular under the lights and it wasn't because there were a lot of crashes, which has often been the norm at Salem. It was because they raced so damn hard for the entire 200 laps! The top runners never seemed to falter, plus you had guys like Josh Williams charging through the field to finish fourth (in his first ARCA race of the season). Pole winner Zane Smith had to go to the tail of the field for unapproved adjustments after qualifying, so he flew to the front and passed more cars than anyone it seemed! It was a sight to behold. 

Dalton Sargeant has had a great season but hasn't been able to match Theriault's
I am looking forward to Chicagoland as the entry list is looking quite strong with drivers like Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones and others "dropping in" to race ARCA Thursday. The ARCA Scott's 150 kicks off race action for NASCAR's playoff system weekend, which ARCA does not have, by the way, and I am glad for that. Will Austin Theriault be able to continue his roll or will KSR get conservative? Will a NASCAR interloper steal a win from the ARCA regulars? We shall see and I head to Joliet tomorrow night to work the ARCA race Thursday to document it all in photos for the series. Come on out. It will be a blast. I promise you will not be disappointed. Until then, here's a few more from Salem.

It was good to see Josh Williams (31) back in action again; his throwback colors were great
Up close and personal with Shane Lee of Cunningham Motorsports
Close racing is a hallmark of Salem Speedway
Where else can you shoot through a hole in the wall? AJ Fike zooms by in Turn 4

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