By Kentucky Speedway
Experience taught Austin Theriault that he could make four-wide on a restart work at Kentucky Speedway but the timing had to be perfect.
In the closing laps of the Crosley Brands 150 on Friday, the ARCA Racing Series points leader waited until reaching the start/finish line on a restart before making a move to the bottom line and passing three cars ahead of him as they raced side-by-side to his outside.
Theriault's daring pass with 14 laps remaining positioned him for the victory, and the 23-year-old from Fort Kent, Maine held off his competition over two subsequent restarts to close out his series-leading seventh victory of the season.
"I made the mistake in other series of pulling down too soon but I timed it just right," Theriault said. "I think that really, probably won us the race."
Zane Smith overcame an brush with the wall early in the race and passed Sheldon Creed for second in the final corner. He finished 0.166 of a second behind Theriault.
"The final lap there, that was the best we ran," Smith said. "The (car) was so good. All we needed was one more lap to be one spot better."
Creed finished third after starting from the pole and leading 68 of the 100 laps. A slow pit stop with less than 20 laps remaining dropped him to fifth place but he followed Theriault to the front with 14 laps to go.
With Theriault picking the bottom lane on the final two restarts - the last one set up a green-white-checkered flag finish - Creed faced an almost impossible situation to overcome.
"I didn't want to be on the outside, that was for sure," Creed said. "I don't know how many restarts we had (during the race) but I was fortunate enough to be on the inside on most of them to where I could get to the bottom. That's where you wanted to be because the groove was on the bottom. The way the air works, that's where you wanted to be."
Theriault started 12th in the No. 52 Ken Schrader Racing Ford and got helpful pushes from behind him on the final two restarts.
"The 22 car (Shane Lee) gave us a good push almost like Daytona style," he said. "He definitely got us going on those couple of restarts."
Before Friday, Theriault's only other start at Kentucky Speedway came in 2014 in a NASCAR XFINITY Series race.
"Three years is a long time in racing," he said. "A lot of different cars and variations of rules and all of that. My last time here was in an XFINITY car. That was before the repave. Drivers always like to be able to slide around a little bit more and with the new pavement you really have to be smart about where you put your car because the grip is there then all of a sudden it's not.
"On an older track, you can slide around a little bit more. It will be like that here in a few years. I'm looking forward to it. It was still fun tonight. It makes you work a little bit harder."
Friday's race marked the 24th visit to Kentucky Speedway by the ARCA Racing Series. Theriault left with the ARCA season championship all but locked up. The series' season finale is next month at Kansas Speedway.