Austin Theriault, with flag, celebrates with his car crew after winning the Corrigan Oil 200. Blade/Lori King
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Austin Theriault drove in his first race at a track longer than a mile. He had his first experience with a green-flag pit stop. He made his first start in the ARCA Racing Series.
By the end of Friday afternoon, Theriault notched his first ARCA win.
The 20-year-old driver passed race leader and pole winner Mason Mitchell with 17 laps left to win the Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from the ARCA race
“How I approached this weekend is different than what I’m normally used to,” said Theriault, who drives for Venturini Motorsports. “I usually go into a race expecting to win … but this is totally different for me. I played a conservative game in practice and qualifying. That told me we were in good shape.”
Mitchell dominated through the bulk of the race, leading 65 laps before the restart on the 84th lap. Theriault overtook Mitchell on the backstretch on the 2-mile superspeedway, nicking Mitchell’s car in the process.
“He got a pretty good restart,” Theriault said of Mitchell. “I was on his door in Turn 1 and 2. I told myself, ‘if I can at least stay on his right rear coming out of Turn 2, I can get a really good side draft.’ I’d never side-drafted before. I was a little aggressive. We touched a little bit but we were going straight. It wasn’t in the corner. I was pretty considerate about not taking air off the right rear corner.”
Mitchell dominated through the bulk of the race, but the damage to his car in the final laps kept him from taking over the lead.
“We got knocked,” Mitchell said. “It was a hit I’d never felt before. It didn’t look like that much damage. In these places you’re going so fast, and aero is so important. It caved in the whole right side, and it hurts bad. I’m not sure how it’s possible to go down the straightaway and get wrecked.”
Even with the second-place finish, Mitchell took over the points lead in the ARCA Racing Series. ARCA releases its official points standings following each race weekend.
FORGOTTEN MAN: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., departed Friday morning for MIS but made one faux pas: He forgot that he was going to give Ryan Newman a lift to the track.
"This is what happened, and this is the honest truth," Earnhardt said. "On Tuesday, he asked me if he could take a ride to the race track, which is common for guys to do that. We were leaving at 8:30. That's what it said on my calendar."
But, Earnhardt said, since Tuesday he and his camp have compiled more media appearances on their calendar, which came in the wake of his win Sunday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. Earnhardt said his publicist moved takeoff time to 8 a.m. — a detail that Earnhardt was unaware of.
"I forgot about Ryan," Earnhardt said. "Even if we were taking off at 8:30 and he wasn't there, I would have left him. He should have texted last night."
After he was initially asked about the breakdown in communication, Earnhardt looked down at his smartphone.
"He said, 'I should have texted last night,' " Earnhardt said. "But I still don't know where he's at."
Newman hitched a ride with Dale Jarrett’s plane Friday morning and landed in Adrian, Mich.
“That's probably the closest I've been to not making a practice,” Newman quipped.
EXTENDED: Kasey Kahne got some good news this weekend: He received a three-year contract extension from Farmers Insurance, his car sponsor.
“It feels good when you know you have some sponsorship,” said Kahne, who had Friday’s fastest practice time of 203.332 miles an hour. “They’re such a big part of what makes us able to race each weekend.”
Kahne still has a year and a half on his contract with Hendrick Motorsports.
“Getting to work with three teammates that I get to work with each week is better than anything I’ve done, and they’re three of the best in racing. Mr. Hendrick is always trying to help me as a driver and a person, and he gives us every opportunity. I want to be there for a long time.”