December 31, 2017
Aroostook County man becomes first from Maine to win major series title
2017 was a season to remember not only for Austin Theriault. His followers from the most northeast state were treated to what could happen when hard work is coupled with the right team making the right decisions throughout a race season.
What began with a conversation at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) hallway at the Indiana Convention Center in December 2016, culminated with a title for Ken Schrader Racing and Austin Theriault. Seven wins in a 20 race series is an accomplishment in itself. Wins at each type of track; short, intermediate, super speedway, road course, and dirt gives one an indication of how magical the #52 team’s season played out.
What type of statistics did Theriault put up? Incredible, the type of season that most race car drivers would love to have. Here they are:
7 wins (35%) Average start 7
Top 5 16 (80%) Average finish 4.2
Top 10 19 (95%) Did Not Finish (DNF) 1
Laps completed (98.2%) Laps led 280
Austin’s season highlights video. Includes Spud Speedway shots also.
What will this mean for Austin Theriault in 2018? I wish I could say that he will land a paying contract with a major race team. Maybe throw in a major sponsor who will pay the bills. There are hundreds of young men and young ladies who have that same dream.
Theriault could look at his situation in a couple of ways. He could look at the statistics and say “Who am I? I guess I did all I could do. Now I must give up my dream.”
I think I know Theriault well enough that he will do the opposite. I suspect he has made the phone calls, listened to some proposals, and continues to look at the big picture and how he might fit into that scene.
The next few days and weeks will be critical times for the young man from Fort Kent. Many are hoping and wishing for the best for Austin.
The Flying Frenchman in the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame
One of the most rewarding moments in 2017 was spending time with Erny “The Flying Frenchman” Levesque. Erny was selected to the Maine Motorsports “Class of 2017” in October 2016. While visiting him several times at Forest Hill Manor in Fort Kent, I was privileged to hear not only Erny’s racing exploits but his personal story as well. I met many of his family and friends, all who seemed to have their favorite “Flying Frenchman” story.
I also found out that Austin Theriault is a man of compassion when he arranged time to visit Erny at Forest Hills. The two St. John Valley men shared some memories and mutual admiration for each other despite the age differential.
You may recall that Erny died a couple of weeks before his induction in April. Fortunately, Joe Chamberlain and Erny’s son Chet had the insight to record him rehearsing what he would say when accepting his award. This occured several weeks prior. You could hear a pin drop as Erny’s distinctly French voice crackled from the speakers at the Augusta Civic Center. Dry eyes were in short supply after the acceptance speech and posthumous presentation.
Kody Swanson wins third USAC Silver Crown title
When Kody Swanson hit the wall in the infield at Gateway Motorsports Park just outside St. Louis, Missouri in 2016, he totaled his DePalma Racing Silver Crown car. It was his worst race of the season for the Kingsburg, California driver now living in Zionsville, Indiana. That race coupled with bent suspension parts in the season finale at Eldora gave the 2016 Championship to Chris Windom by only five points.
Had Swanson finished only a position or two better,he would have clinched his third title in a row, a feat yet to be accomplished in USAC. His record in 2016 did allow the team to clinch the owner’s championship. With this year’s championship the DePalma team has four in a row and Swanson’s third in four years.
Swanson has 19 wins, placing him second on the all-time list of USAC Silver Crown winners. Jack Hewitt with 23 wins tops the list. Hewitt also drove the #63 during his era in Silver Crown.
Swanson busy with racing now
In what most consider the “off-season” Kody Swanson is in demand for indoor racing. This past weekend he was a “rookie” at the Rumble in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Rumble took place in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and utilized a 1/7 mile track on the concrete hockey rink.
The event took place Saturday evening with the midget race feature as the finale. The midgets are powered by VW modified air-cooled engines.
Swanson finished the feature in third place only a few lengths behind second place Kyle O’Gara. The race was won by Nick Hamilton, the younger brother of Kyle Hamilton. You remember Kyle was the winner of the Little 500 at Anderson Speedway the night before the Indy 500.
Swanson said, ” The Rumble was my first career (typical) ‘indoor’ race, and there was a lot to learn. We were busy right up until qualifying Friday trying to repair a broken u-joint and damaged driveshaft, but we got it running just in time to have some fun for the weekend.”
“Starting position was really important, it is really tough to pass, but I think with more experience I can get better at it!”
“The bumper portion of racing indoors is something I’m least comfortable with. I don’t like using the front bumper, usually at all costs, but it seems to be a necessary evil racing indoors. Luckily we had a pretty stout rear bumper, because we took quite a few hard shots, but I think that is all part of the deal.”
“Overall, I had a really good time racing with friends, learned a whole lot about racing at the Rumble, and am looking forward to a chance to try it again!”
Swanson will race next at the 32nd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma January 8-13. He will be driving for the Brian Dunlap team. As of December 27, 2017 there were 337 entries for the Chili Bowl making it one of America’s most anticipated indoor races.
Tom Peters newest member of the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame
The October 2017 announcement that Stockholm native Tom Peters, now living in Presque Isle, would become a member of the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame “Class of 2018” definitely makes my highlight list. Peters is the first snowmobile racer to be named to named to the Hall of Fame.
Peters will be recognized at the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center in mid-April 2018. He will also be recognized at the Caribou Snowmobile Club Racing’s drag races January 28 at the Lodge on the Van Buren Road in Caribou.
Travis Pastrana sets record at Mt. Washington Hillclimb
Jason White set record at Loring Timing Association Speed Trials
Loring Timing Association’s Harvest Event produced some fast times despite weather conditions that were not always conducive to racing. My most memorable was the 258.6 mph speed set by Northwood, New Hampshire’s Jason White in his RecMech Motorsports Corvette.
Scott Davis formerly from New Brunswick, now living in Ontario, Canada continued his three years hold on the Bill Warner Award for fastest speed at the event with a 263.190 mph run on his motorcycle.
LTA will be announced their dates for 2018 which will not have a spring date but will include a four-day fall race. The Maine Event will be July 10-15. The Harvest Event will be four days in length for the first time. Dates are August 29 – September 2. Each race will have the first date set aside for technical inspections.
Back to Daytona in 2018?
The 2017 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona was special to me since I needed to be wheeled in a wheelchair at the track. I had hurt my back falling off my roof shoveling snow and herniated one disc. Fortunately my brother Bill was available to assist in the coverage of the race. Without him, I am unsure of what I would have done.
My highlights of the Daytona experience included having a hamburger at the Daytona Brickyard Restaurant with my former student, now head groundskeeper at Daytona International Speedway, Jason Griffeth. Very proud of the work he is doing at the world famous 2.5 mile super speedway.
I hope to return to the 2018 edition of the 24 Hour race which promises to be great. The Mazda Prototypes now will be campaigned by Joest Racing. Joest Racing won Le Mans 15 times, 11 with Audi. With Joest, Mazda gains instant credibility.
I also want to see the Acura prototypes which have teamed up with Penske Racing. Penske has been a long-time favorite of mine dating back to the Mark Donohue days in the late 1960’s. You can be sure that any car prepared by Penske will be competitive despite the new car potential for trouble.
Other highlights in photos
This list is not meant to be exclusive. There are many more stories shared with me in 2017 that hold a special place in my memory. One thing about looking back is the perspective it gives me, knowing the many hours spent writing about you the racing community.
If you have story ideas for 2018, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I am always on the lookout for motorsports stories especially those that may have roots in Northern Maine or Western New Brunswick. Many episodes originate from readers, so do not hesitate to contact me.
I hope your new year will be blessed. We do not know what the future holds but we do know who holds the future in His hands. Trust in Him. God bless.
Let’s Go Racing in 2018
Soli Deo Gloria