As with so many drivers, talent alone is not a guarantee for a premium ride in the sport of racing. The competition for sponsorship dollars is at an all-time high with a slew of new drivers balancing in the wings in hopes of advancing their careers. But driving is only one way of using talent within the sport and Austin Theriault is finding that his talent is helpful to one of those up-and-coming new drivers in the ARCA Racing Series.
Last season, the team to beat in the ARCA Racing Series was the No. 52 for Ken Schrader Racing driven by Austin Theriault. Taking the series by storm, Theriault earned seven victories, 16 top-five, and 19 top-ten finishes in 20 starts. An impressive season for the 24-year-old driver from Fort Kent, Maine.
Theriault admits he had a blast throughout his championship campaign last year but with sponsors choosing a different direction he was left without a ride. As disappointing as that is, Theriault says the relationships he’s developed helped him to stay in racing and given him a new perspective of the sport. He’s taking his disappointment and making something happen for the better.
One of Theriault’s friendships is with Dylan Smith – a fellow New Englander – who works at MDM Motorsports, it was through Smith that Theriault met Chase Purdy and the people working with him. Through some conversations, they decided to work together with Purdy transitioning from the K&N Pro Series into ARCA competition.
“We all know the ARCA Series, is really competitive this year and has been the past several years,” says Theriault. “Chase (Purdy) wanted to accelerate his learning curve through some of the things that might have taken him an extra year to learn. And I tried to put myself in a position to help in doing that.”
Although their driving styles may differ in some ways, the idea is that Theriault can offer an option or a perspective for Purdy to choose what might work for him. Working together since the race at Michigan in June, Purdy is fourth in the series point standings with six top-five and eight top-ten finishes in 13 starts.
“He has so much more experience than I do,” says Purdy about working with Theriault. “When we go to these places that I’ve never been he’s very beneficial in telling me how the line works, how you should be on the throttle, where you need to be in the race, and stuff like that. I think we’re going to be pretty good this year and he’s going to be beneficial with race strategy and where I need to be during a race run and he’s going to be coaching me…the mindset I need to be in, just the whole nine yards.”
Looking at this from another direction, MDM Motorsports team owner, manager and crew chief Mark McFarland feels that Theriault’s involvement is helping…a lot.
“Austin’s proved himself many times over the last couple of years,” says McFarland about Theriault. “His talent…I mean it’s just part of the sport that he’s sitting out on the sideline, it kind of sucks really, as good of a driver as he is to not have anything. I don’t think there’s anybody else out there better. He knows the series, he knows these cars, he knows all these tracks. Instead of learning it with Chase, he already knows it. And he knows what to tell Chase. He knows what the track is going to do later, he knows just every little nook and cranny that there is to know. Having him we feel lucky.”
“It’s helped Chase a lot and it’s helped the team get better. He brings a lot to the table.”
McFarland says the biggest change for Purdy since bringing on Theriault, is Purdy’s feedback is better for what they need to do to improve his car.
“Austin seems to get that out of him,” continues McFarland. “What it’s doing and what direction we need to go to try and fix it and help him (Purdy) go faster.
Off the track, Purdy is more focused and ready when he shows up to race on weekends. So Theriault’s coaching is helping both on and off the track.
Chase Purdy is a member of the NASCAR Next 2018 class as one of the up-and-coming drivers to watch. With ARCA Champion Austin Theriault as his coach, Purdy may have just accelerated his potential for the future.
For Theriault, this gig is temporary as he’s still working hard for his chances to race within NASCAR. Sponsors should take note that Austin Theriault not only has talent and a lot of fans, he has the right mindset to make something happen for the better.