Win Three For Maine Racer Theriault

Episode 167

June 25, 2017

Win Number Three Not Easy

Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault celebrates with his crew in Victory Lane at Madison International Speedway. Photo courtesy Matt Weaver

Running in the fifth and sixth positions in the early part of Friday’s ARCA race at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin, Theriault needed a couple excellent pit stops to put him in the right position to grab the lead.

“It was important. It allowed us to be in a position to win,” said Theriault. “We were the first best car on fresh tires which allowed us to play offense and defense at the same time.”

With 15 laps to go it looked like the #15 car of Christian Eckes would get by Theriault, however, a caution flag allowed Theriault to regroup. On the restart Eckes fell back while Zane Smith moved into second to challenge for the lead.

On the last lap, Theriault used lapped traffic to his advantage winning the race by two car lengths over Smith. Riley Herbst finished third, with Shane Lee in fourth and Christian Eckes in fifth. With the win Theriault’s points lead grew to 175 over second place Dalton Sargeant.

“For the next couple weeks we will recharge our batteries from four weeks of racing,” said Theriault. “We have little damage to repair and can concentrate on getting our two cars ready for the next four races, Iowa July 8, Lucas Oil Raceway July 21, Pocono July 28 and Winchester August 6.”

For Theriault the dirt track races at the Illinois Fairgrounds August 20 and at DuQuoin in Illinois will be his first experience on dirt. The team will be preparing the car that won at Elko and Madison for those races.

The road race at Road America, the 4.1 mile 14 turn track in Elkhart, Wisconsin, will see the Ken Schrader Racing team arrive with a special road course car which will be badged as a Ford. The car is under construction now. That race will take place August 27.

As he gets closer to the mid-point in the race season, Theriault reflected on the season so far. ” We’ve come pretty far. Soon we will be at the half-way mark and are leading the points. We are aware of some areas we need to improve and are working on those. We continue to work on the speedway package.”

“We will see where this work leads us up through the season conclusion in October.”

Bangor Racer Prepares for Mount Washington Hillclimb and New England Forest Rally in July.

 

John Cassidy beginning his run up at the Mount Washington Climb to the Clouds Hillclimb, June 2014 HTF Motorsports photo

Since I met Bangor’s John Cassidy over a dozen years ago, his Last Ditch Racing (LDR) team continues to be the only privateer Open Class race team from Maine. When I met him in the early 2000’s he was racing a 1994 Subaru Imprezza with about 180 horsepower. Cassidy has since raced in 18 continuous rally seasons.

I had heard about rally racing and had an interest about cars going fast off-road. When I was a teenager in the 1960’s, I drove my dad’s 1950 Ford pickup on our farm’s field roads way too fast pretending to be a rally driver after I had heard about that type of racing probably in Hot Rod Magazine.

When I met Cassidy, a real rally driver, I was suitably impressed that he could drive at speeds through Maine’s woods during rally races only inches away from trees, rocks, and what appeared to be certain destruction. Through my connection with him I have gone on to meet many famous and some not-so-famous rally drivers and teams.

Cassidy got his start in rally racing in the late 1990’s after watching The Maine Forest Rally (now called the New England Forest Rally) on ESPN. Without attending a rally he front wheel drive Honda and set about converting it into a race car.

The car was nicknamed “Fireball” after it caught fire upon its initial fire up at Cassidy’s Bangor garage. The car never made it to the first stage of the Maine Forest Rally due to electrical problems. The car was sold and at last check had met its untimely demise at a lava field in Iceland at a rally race.

Cassidy describes his rally experience this way, ” 2017 marks the 18th continuous year of rallying for me. This will be my 18th New England Forest Rally (Maine Forest Rally as it used to be called). This will be the third “Climb to the Clouds” for me at Mt. Washington and the second for Dave and I. The first was with co-driver Jennifer Daly. We took second in class that year.” [Note from me, I have been too all the three Climb to the Clouds Hillclimbs that Cassidy raced at plus more]

When asked about preparations for the 2017 “Climb to the Clouds” preparations and predictions, Cassidy replied, ” No predictions this year. Prep has been frantic.”

It seems like the people gathering to work on LDR’s race car at Cassidy’s new race shop on the right in Bangor are also Subaru enthusiasts. Last Ditch Racing photo

“We have a new shop to work in and the lift is a great help in that regard. The shop isn’t done, however, so work is inefficient.

Last Ditch Racing Subaru nicknamed T4 by the team on the lift inside John Cassidy’s race shop in Bangor. LDR photo

“The center differential in the transmission was found to be damaged and the rush is on to find a replacement within 2-3 days. It’s an expensive part and we’re hoping to find one by the end of the weekend. Thank goodness for the internet.”

The team has a great deal of rally experience lead by team owner and driver Cassidy along with his co-driver Dave Getchell and Duncan Matlock both from Camden. ” Dave and I have experience on our side. It doesn’t make things less stressful, but we have the skill to adapt in lateral ways when we can’t move forward. When we encountered the issue with the differential, we knew the transmission wasn’t going back into the car, so we worked on some of the other 100’s of things on the to-do list.”

Last Ditch Racing’s co-driver Dave Getchell on left with crew chief Duncan Matlack, both from Camden, at work on the team Subaru getting it ready for the Mt. Washington Hill Climb July 7-9 and the New England Forest Rally July 21 & 22 at Sunday River Resort. LDR photo

Rally racing, like almost any motorsports, requires a team of individuals to get the car ready, haul it to the venue, wrench on it at the event, and bring it back home.

Cassidy credits his team for making their adventure possible, ” Duncan Matlack from Camden remains crew chief. Other crew include John Cassidy V, Rob Sockalexis, Chris Boone, Zach Van Dyne and Jake Davee. Both Zach and Jake are newcomers to the team and sport and are checking it out to see if it’s something they’ll want to do again. We’ve warned them that rally will, ‘ruin’ them for life.”

Rally racing is expensive and requires help from multiple sponsors who provide parts, time, or services for race teams. LDR is no different. Cassidy said, “We’re pleased to be working with Synaptic-3 Performance in New Hampshire for 2017.”

“Owner Dana Salb reached out to us and they will be assisting with the all important dyno-tuning of the car. With the new turbo and other systems upgrades, proper tuning ensures we get the most out of the new set up with a decreased risk of damage to the engine or other components. We’re hoping that their experience can help us go faster.”

Co-driver Dave Getchell on left with driver/owner John Cassidy on right. LDR photo

Cassidy said, “I currently work for the Neurosurgery and Spine practice at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor as a Physician Assistant. I’ve been there for 4 years. I’ve been a Physician Assistant for 25 years.”

For more information about the 2017 “Climb to the Clouds” at Mt. Washington go to http://mtwashingtonautoroad.com/events/climb-to-the-clouds

Information about the New England Forest Rally can be found at http://www.newenglandforestrally.com/

Cassidy and his team will be posting stories at their Facebook page Last Ditch Racing at both events. https://www.facebook.com/LDRME/

Noteworthy County Connected Race Results

Wyatt Alexander placed 8th in the Granite State Stock Car Series (GSSCS) race at Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, Massachusetts. The team heads to New Hampshire International Motor Speedway in Loudon for the next GSSCS race next weekend July 1.

County kart racers were successful Saturday at Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans, Damian Theriault, Caribou,  placed first in the Senior Cage Kart class while Bryan Searles of Presque Isle placed second in the Junior Cage Kart class.

All Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) racers will be back in action at Spud Speedway Friday June 30 for a double-header to make up for rain dates. The races that evening will be presented by JRT Customs and Backus Racing. Racing gets underway at 6:30 pm.

I hope to catch up with a couple of County stock car racers who are competing at Speedway 95 this season in the Street Stock division as well as feature a story about a County man racing in the Wicked Good Vintage Tour.

Don’t forget Land Speed Racing will take place at Loring July 7-9 featuring some of the fastest racers on the planet. You would not want to miss it.

I want to finish this week with a video from Porsche which I hope you find inspirational not only in your motorsports ventures but in life. “Never Give Up” is the story about the Porsche LMP1 car that came back from ten laps down at Le Mans and last placed (52)  and still became the overall winner! Great motivational video from Porsche.

https://youtu.be/cJRBiMUdrWE

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.