Theriault wins the Corrigan Oil 200
Austin Theriault had a lot of firsts Friday afternoon. He was racing in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards for the first time, racing on a track larger than one mile for the first time and made his first green flag pit stop.
Oh, and he won the Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway, becoming the first ARCA Racing Series driver since 2011 to win in his series debut.
“This race and the way I approached this race was very different,” Theriault said after the race. “I had never raced at a track bigger than a mile before. I was very conservative, yet we still finished second in qualifying. That told me we would be okay for the race.”
Mitchell, who led 65 laps, led the cars to the green flag on the final restart with 17 laps to go. That’s when Theriault made his move.
“Billy Venturni (crew chief) came on the radio and said ‘let’s go for it,’” Theriault said.
Theriault and Mitchell’s cars glanced off each other down the backstretch and Theriault grabbed the lead for good, sliding in front of Mitchell’s car.
“The side draft gave me a good run going into turn three,” Theriault said. “From there on, the car was awesome. I think it was all about clean air.”
Justin Allison finished third for his best career finish in the No. 88 HaVaCoSales.com Ford. John Wes Townley started in the back after going to a back-up No. 15 Zaxby’s Toyota car, but still finished fourth. Spencer Gallagher was fifth in the Allegiant Travel Chevrolet, Will Kimmel sixth in the Messinas-Ingersoll Rand Ford and Frank Kimmel seventh and the final car on the lead lap in the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Toyota.
Grant Enfinger entered the race with the championship points lead, but Mitchell used the Menards Pole Award, leading the most laps and his third second-place finish of the season to take over the point lead after eight races on the season. Enfinger finished eighth in the Motor Honey-Casite-Advance Auto Parts Ford.
“We have to look at the big picture,” Mitchell said. “I am coming out of here with the point lead. We are just going to stay positive. That first win will come.”
Mitchell led the first 46 laps of the race, sometimes having a lead of five seconds or more.
“Once his (Theriault) car hit mine, my day was finished,” he said. “It caved in the whole right side. I felt like we had the car to beat. We had the dominant car all day.”
Allison had his best finish for the second race in a row.
“I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning,” Allison said. “We struggled a little bit in qualifying. But, at the start of the race our car was good. After we ran about five or 10 laps, it would just take off.”
Austin Wayne Self rebounded from an early scrape against the wall and a pit road penalty to finish ninth. Josh Williams finished 10th.
Veteran drivers Ken Schrader and Tom Hessert finished 11th and 12th, both two laps down.
Theriault, 20, was making his first start in the No. 66 Cometic Gasket-Renton Coil Spring Toyota. He also won the SCOTT Rookie of the Race award in the Venturini Motorsports car.
“You don’t come by a car that good very often,” he said.
He is the first driver since 2011 to win in his first ARCA start. Brennan Poole, Andrew Ranger and Alex Bowman all did it in 2011.
Theriault has a long history of racing late models and super late models. The Maine native is under contract with JR Motorsports to run a handful of NASCAR Nationwide Series races this season. He made his Nationwide Series debut with a top 15 finish at Iowa Speedway and will race at Loudon and Kentucky later this year.
“I’m going to keep learning and get more experience,” he said.