Petty, Get A Grip, MIK Racing, & Austin Theriault

Episode 43

February 15, 2015

Petty memories flood over me

In the pits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the Brickyard 400 with Richard Petty third from left. Windham's Brent Morrill is third from right.

In the pits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the July 2009 Brickyard 400 with Richard Petty third from left. Windham’s Brent Morrill is third from right.

As I was thinking about Episode #43 a couple things came immediately to mind. I have been blessed to be able to share forty three episodes dealing with motorsports events that had connections to Northern Maine or from adventures I have had on this trip called life. Topics have ranged from rally racing, snow sleds, stock car racing, and kart racing.

The number 43 reminds me of my boyhood and young adult years when the “King” Richard Petty was my racer of choice. The first memories I had were from reading about the North Carolina legend’s exploits in Stock Car Racing Magazine or Hot Rod Magazine. My mind wandered to some far away places in the southern parts of the country.

Darlington, North Wilkesboro, Richmond, Atlanta,  Martinsville, the road course at Riverside, California, and of course Daytona International Speedway were the theaters that hosted the greatest show on earth in motorsports. I do remember a  couple times finding a scratchy, barely audible broadcast from the Indy 500 on my transistor radio, however, most thoughts were of stock car racing.

The tall lanky driver in the #43 Plymouth with the mile-wide grin and multiple trips to victory lane provided a ready made hero. Woe to those evil Ford drivers who nipped at the heels of Petty or may even led upon occasion. Cale Yarborough, LeeRoy Yarbrough, David Pearson, Freddie Lorenzon, and Donnie Allison whose only goal it seemed was to beat the good guys at Petty Enterprises. Those rascals were the enemy.

When Petty joined the Ford ranks I was torn. I could not believe my driver would be neglected by Chrysler. I still stuck with buying Chrysler products until the late 70’s. My race cars,all late-model sportsman were Ford Fairlane bodies; 1958 Ford, 1965 Ford, and my best race car a 1963 on a custom-made Bobby Alexander chassis.

I was so enamored with Petty Blue that my bicycle and second race car were painted in the iconic colors of my hero. My only other custom painted bicycle was in the green of Art Arfons Green Monster land speed racer.

As Petty aged, my race interests spread out into Formula One (three F1 races at Watkins Glen), Indy Cars, autocross (University of Maine Motorsports Club member), as well as short track racing in central Maine where I was going to school.

Names like Meserve, Graves, Silva, McCabe, Courtermarsh, Nason, and Darveau were becoming familiar as I either read about their exploits in the Bangor Daily or saw them in action at Unity, Wiscasset, Beech Ridge, or Oxford.

In the early 2000’s I spent several years covering the Brickyard 400 for the Bangor Daily News when Rickie Craven was active in the Sprint Cup Division and even one year when he raced the Truck Series at nearby Lucas Oil Raceway. As an active member of the media I had access to the Chris Economaki Media Room at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The year was 2006 when General Mills was re-upping as the title sponsor on the Petty Enterprises #43 to be driven by newly signed driver Bobby Labonte. After the formal announcements were made at the Economaki Media Center, Richard and Kyle Petty and Labonte were hanging around answering questions individual reporters might have.

I moved up directly next to the “King” as he answered several questions directed toward him. With his characteristic sunglasses and large cowboy hat adorned with an oversized feather, the most recognizable man in NASCAR was right  next to me! I had no questions related to the press conference but I did tell Petty that I appreciated all that he had done to improve the image of stock car racing on the national scene. I think I babbled something about painting my bicycle and one of my race cars Petty blue to honor my child-hood hero. It did not matter to me because I had the honor of meeting one of my icons face-to-face.

I latter would meet Petty on pit-row when I was taking pictures of Windham’s Brent Morrill who was the front tire carrier. Morrill is currently working as Tony Stewart’s front tire carrier.

Get A Grip!

Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR) crew-chief Bobby Alexander on right recently expanded his knowledge base by attending the GRIP Seminar at Dale Earnhardt Inc in Mooresville, North Carolina. Alexander's grandson and driver of the #96 Late Model is Wyatt Alexander on the left. Photo by Hale

Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR) crew-chief Bobby Alexander on right recently expanded his knowledge base by attending the GRIP Seminar at Dale Earnhardt Inc in Mooresville, North Carolina. Alexander’s grandson and driver of the #96 Late Model is Wyatt Alexander on the left. Photo by Hale

In earlier episodes I talked to some of the experts in Maine who provided advice for those wishing to have a career in motorsports. One of the respected names I rely on is Bobby Alexander formerly from Mars Hill now living in Ellsworth. The advice he has given has been relevant and trustworthy.

One of the pieces of advice Alexander put forth is to always be on the lookout for opportunities to educate oneself in the sport. As crew chief for the Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR) team Alexander took his own advice and enrolled in the GRIP Racing Seminar at the Dale Earnhardt shop in Mooresville, North Carolina February 6-8, 2015.

The seminar speaker lineup featured Gary Crooks who some will recognize as crew chief for Austin Theriault when he was in the Brad Keselowski Super Late Model a couple of years back.

Other speakers included Chris Paulsen of C & R Racing based in Indianapolis, Indiana. My FFA students and I had a chance to visit C & R on one of our “Gearhead” tours of Indy a few years back. C & R builds radiators as well as providing a myriad number of racing services.

Kelly Falls of Hyperco Springs and Bob Bolles the Senior Tech Editor at Circle Track Magazine were speakers as well as several other top-notch experts who were part of the three-day event. Let Bobby explain in his own words about his experience at the GRIP Seminar.

Alexander said, “What an awesome experience Tom. These are some of the top guys of the racing world. I didn’t know there was so much I did not know. Money well spent. Was at DEI all day. Got a personal tour from Rex Garrett from Waldoboro who is head of the Earnhardt Technology Group. Good Stuff! ”

“I highly encourage anyone who wants to get the latest in racing info to consider attending. Hard to get any good pics of the facility but there are pics of the seminar presentations on their Facebook page.”

Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault was also a GRIP Seminar participant although I am not sure of the year that he attended.

Austin’s Daytona Debut

For the one person who may not know that Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault  will be making his Daytona International Speedway debut this week in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS). Theriault will be in the # 29 Ford F-150 of Brad Keselowski Racing. His Ford will one of only three in the 36 car field that takes the checkered flag on Friday February 20 at 7:30 pm on FoxSports1.

Practice and qualifying for the NCWTS will also be televised on FoxSports1 Thursday from 1:30 to 2:45 and from 3:30 to 4:55 pm. Qualifying will be Friday at 4:30 pm also on Fox Sports1.

Oh yah there will also be the XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 on Saturday the 21st  at 3:30 on FoxSports1. Sunday of course will be the DAYTONA 500 at 1pm on Fox. I am excited!

I Can Walk (and Drive) 

At Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough with Cumberland Motor Club members. Front left to right Ben Spataforg,Portland, Dan Morency, Freeport, and Rachael Clukey, Portland. Back row left to right Fernando Stelser, Brunswick, Mark Danielle, Pownal, yours truly, Michael from Freeport, Christian Banker, Scarborough, and Scott Guimond, Standish.

At Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough with Cumberland Motor Club members. Front left to right Ben Spataforg,Portland, Dan Morency, Freeport, and Rachael Clukey, Portland. Back row left to right Fernando Stelser, Brunswick, Mark Danielle, Pownal, yours truly, Michael from Freeport, Christian Banker, Scarborough, and Scott Guimond, Standish.

As some of you know I have been unable to walk since Achilles surgery December 4, 2014 from an injury suffered on a Missions trip to Bogotá, Colombia in November. Last week the able crew at County Physical Therapy worked on me to the point where I earned owner Mark Rossignol’s blessing to drive racing karts at Maine Indoor Karting. I noted that several members of the Cumberland Motor Club were rendezvousing at 5 pm on Sunday evening for their weekly “fix” of racing.

Nine of us raced two races last evening. I finished 5th in each race with decent times and no pain. I was a little unsteady getting out of the kart but felt great on the track. I later raced a third event after the folks from Cumberland Motor Club left. I finished second of five in that race.

Keep your eyes on future UpNorth Motorsports episodes as we learn more details about the Cumberland Motor Club’s 6th Annual Autocross at Loring next August. And thanks to all the folks who raced. You made my weekend complete.

Let’s Go Racing

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

 

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing.