January 7, 2018
Tuition cost of motorsports is very high
This week I intended to share some stories about County folks doing great things with tractor restorations, antique tractor pulling, and loving the camaraderie resulting from those adventures. However, a post by Beth Griggs Richeson today has changed this episode to one that will require bumping the tractor folks to next week. Don’t miss episode 195, I think you will enjoy it.
Before I tell about Beth’s post, I must emphasize that from a young age I knew that my motorsports activities were going to be limited by my lack of spendable dollars. I knew that when I used a brush to paint my single speed pedal bike “Petty Blue” and gave it the number 43. It did not take a great deal of searching to discover other kids who could afford much better equipment.
My cousins and I raced our pedal bikes for hours around my neighbor Uncle Jim’s house on Grimes Mill Road because it had a circular driveway which included a dirt track element (his driveway) and a paved portion (the actual road). We had spotters in those early days not for race traffic rather to warn of approaching cars which threw our pedal bike race under a red flag condition.
Later forays into the world of racing cars (stock cars, ice racers, and autocross), purpose-built electric-powered racers, modified pulling tractors and karts taught me that I would not have the money to compete at the highest levels of motorsports. I lacked talent, time, and money. I did compete in the top class at Spud Speedway in the mid 70’s and won four feature races and 10 heat races in my three-year “career”.
To this day in fact, I know that I cannot spend the money I would need to get a win at Spud Speedway in the Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) Senior Cage Kart division. It appears my only chance of winning as it stands now is if the top karts have mechanical failures. I have been winless in three seasons. I must evaluate why I am there and if that is what I want to do prior to each season.
I have excellent sponsors who have helped me along the way. Their unwavering support allowed me to race. At the same time, I hope I gave them some exposure for their business.
I give you some of my background so that you know I have some idea what competing in motorsports entails cost-wise. It does take money to compete at each level with top-level competition requiring sometimes unimaginable costs.
As mentioned earlier, Beth Griggs Richeson posted something on Facebook which caught my eye. Beth is the wife of Donnie Richeson, the crew chief for Austin Theriault in the 2017 ARCA Series. She and her husband grew to love this young man from Northern Maine, who was almost like a son to them. In addition they grew to know Austin’s family and developed a healthy respect for them as well.
This is what she posted which I am using with her permission: “I thought about not sharing this because it makes me cry, but then I thought that maybe someone could help share in hopes that someone just may want to help. ”
“This is a picture of Austin, our Champion driver from last season, that I picked up at the airport last night. He was returning home from visiting his family in Maine for Christmas. We went to the race shop and as you can see, the first thing he did was start checking the cars out that our new drivers for this race season will be racing.”
“As most of you know, we love Austin like a son. Reality has started setting in because believe it or not, Austin, at this point will not be racing this year because he does not have a sponsor. It is so hard to wrap your mind around how is it possible for a driver that led an entire season in points, won 7 races, broke records never broken, walked away with almost every award given at the banquet and won the championship, can not have people pounding at the door for him to drive?”
“Reality is, this day and time it is not talent that gets you a ride, it is money and that is why you see so many good drivers leaving the sport or moving to other teams that cost less money to race with.”
“We are still praying that something will come along for him because he definitely has talent and he doesn’t tear up race cars. We even told him to start a go-fund me and let all of his fans pitch in to help but because he is such a humble young man he just will not ask.”
“I even had a dream that we got fans and Christian people to donate and we put a bible verse on the car each week instead of a sponsor name.”
“If there is any of you that would like to share in hopes to find sponsors that would like to help, not necessarily do the entire sponsorship, but maybe even just put something to get their name on a truck or car, please go on his page Austin Theriault and send a message.”
Wyatt Alexander of Ellsworth posted, “So frustrating. Someone can go out and dominate the ARCA series, lead the points from race #1 and win 7 races on a dirt oval, road course, asphalt short track, intermediate, and super speedway in route to being the champion… and so far still not have a ride for next season in anything, let alone one of the “top 3” series.”
This situation is not only noticed by folks in Maine or by those close to the Aroostook County aspiring racer. Justin St. Louis, promoter and motorsports writer from Vermont said,
“Hometowns used to be SO important in big league sports, but they aren’t marketed like they used to be. Ken Squier was so good with that.”
“We still hope to see a company/race team step up and chose talent over money. With the right talent the team that takes a chance on him might see a bigger return in the end.”
Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona here I come
From all appearances I will be covering the 56th Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with my sidekick Bill Hale. We plan to be at the track on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to cover large portions of the race and seeking out stories of interest.
While in Florida, we plan to go to the Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum in Ocala on Thursday. I suspect there will be plenty of photo opportunities as we view the historical pieces that Garlits has put together in five separate facilities. No way we will be able to see all in one visit.
One person we hope to meet with is Daytona’s Head of Grounds, Jason Griffeth who is a County native. We will unveil the front-stretch logo he has been working on since November of 2017.
The race will feature three classes, prototypes (DPi and LMP2), GT Le Mans (GTLM), and GT Daytona (GTD). The new Acura Prototype campaigned by Penske and the revised Mazda Prototype now run by Joest Racing will be must see teams as well as the veteran teams.
Fastest of the prototypes in the “Roar Before the 24” last weekend was the Action Express Racing #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac driven by Filipe Nasr. There are 20 entries in the prototype class.
Miko Bortolotti in the Grasser Racing Team Lamborgini Huracan GT3 set the pace in GTD class. This class features several rich owner drivers who also hire pro-drivers to work with them. There will be about 20 GTD entries in the field.
Reminder to look for a story about the Northern Maine Antique Tractor Club in Episode #195 next week.
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria