Austin Theriault is our guest on Fan4Racing NASCAR & Race Talk, Monday, February 20, 2017 at 8:40 pm ET. Call 929-477-1790 or tweet @Fan4RacingSite or @Sal_Sigala with any questions or comments during our LIVE broadcast.
It’s been more than 20 years since Ken Schrader set foot in Daytona’s coveted Gatorade Victory Lane; but that all changed Saturday when his new wheelman Austin Theriault won the 54th running of the Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 Driven by General Tire in the team’s iconic No. 52 car.
“Daytona victory lane is special…I don’t care what you’re in there for,” said Schrader, who watched the race from his sponsor’s suite.
It was 1995 when ARCA car owner Schrader’s 52 car last went to Daytona victory lane with Andy Hillenburg in the driver’s seat. Schrader’s 52 car had also won the year before in ’94 with Mike Wallace behind the wheel.
After back-to-back wins at the “World Center of Racing” it took a full 22 years to get back inside victory lane. Schrader likes what he sees in Theriault, and it started long before the Ken Schrader Racing team “parked it.”
“We all got very excited when we found out we had the opportunity to race with him (Theriault). He’s just flat sharp…very smart. Once he got the lead I was sure he was going to keep it. That’s our best finish out of there when we knew we were going to run the full season. We’re five percent in the good…19 more to go.”
While Schrader had “been there, done that,” his crew chief Donnie Richeson, after years of service with KSR, celebrated in Daytona’s victory lane for the first time.
“I’ve been coming here since 1985, but this is the first time I got to stand here…it’s pretty cool,” said Richeson.
Richeson knew he was working with a good piece. Theriault was driving the same speedway car that Cole Custer won the pole with and led 42 laps at Daytona in 2016.
“That’s the one thing about that car…it leads better than it follows.”
Richeson also knows he’s got a really good race car driver in the saddle.
“He’s (Theriault) real calculating…always thinking three steps ahead. He’s so focused all the way down to the last detail. I don’t want to label him a perfectionist, but he’s that focused. He reminds me so much of Alan Kulwicki…very serious about his job. I haven’t seen anyone like Kulwicki since…until now.”
If victory lane was a blur Saturday night, Richeson had plenty of time to reflect on what had just happened on the drive home back to Concord (N.C.).
“Winning at Daytona was way more than I could have imagined. I was reflecting on the way home. Just the effort of what it takes to get there…the countless hours of work and thought…the sleepless nights. You just keep running things over in your mind…what can I do to make it better. It doesn’t let you rest…it just burns inside you. It doesn’t matter what division either. If you’re racing stock cars, you want to win at Daytona. If it’s open wheel, it’s Indy.”
Richeson also said he won’t reflect very long…there’s too much to be done in time for the next event on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards tour at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville April 8.
“Right back to work. We have three new cars we’re trying to build. In fact our Nashville car just got painted…came out of the body shop today. We just finished our Pocono car…we have another chassis we’re working on…that’s our road course car. No breather here.
“We’re still learning these new composite bodies. What we learned last year, we incorporate into the new cars we’re building. Our new composites are copies of what we built last year, with new twists as we learn more.”
Richeson is also excited about what new opportunities may come as a result of the win at Daytona.
“We’re race to race on sponsorships. Winning at Daytona should make those conversations easier to have when you’re approaching people about other races.”