MADISON, Wis. (June 23, 2017) -- Austin Theriault didn't have the best car in the beginning, but his Ken Schrader Racing crew got it right for the most important part. Theriault, in the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Toyota, held off a hard charge from Zane Smith in the end to win the Montgomery Ward 200 Friday night at Madison Int'l Speedway. Theriault also increased his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship points lead and added his third win of the season, and fourth of his career.
"We don't always have the fastest car at the beginning, but this team races smart," said Theriault. "We were good when it counted."
Theriault hovered in the top-five for most of the race but got the car adjusted to his liking just in time to lead the final 35 laps and fend off whoever took a run at the eventual winner.
"You gotta take what the car gives you. We lost positions in the beginning but we stayed consistent and we didn't drive over our heads. We kept ourselves in position the whole race and went when we could. Whoever had the track position was going to win this. Really proud of all these guys on this Ken Schrader Racing team…they race really smart."
Theriault wasn't the only one with a good handling race car. After fending off Christian Eckes in the closing laps, Theriault then had to deal with Smith who stayed right with Theriault after the final restart inside 10 laps to go. Smith, in the No. 55 LaPaz Margarita Mix-Icon Vehicle Dynamics Toyota, got to Theriault's rear bumper but fell back two lengths coming to checkered flag as the leaders sliced their way through lapped traffic.
"So close," said Smith. "I had a lot of fun out there…be just that more fun if we were over there where the 52 is. Hats off to Venturini Motorsports…we were up front all day. I'm just lucky to be a part of the team. Lapped traffic was a handful tonight. We caught the left-front corner in traffic coming to the checkered flag…racing for the win. We could have timed that last lap a little better, but other than that, I think we did just about everything we could do."
Riley Herbst finished third in the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink-UFC Gym Toyota.
"We were up and down all day," said Herbst. "We got up to second once, then got shuffled back on a restart. Wish we had 10 more laps…I think we had something for them. As abrasive as this track is, I didn't think the General Tires were going to hold up, but they held up great all day."
Shane Lee finished fourth in the No. 22 Big Tine Ford.
"Feels good…finally finished one," said Lee. "We were just riding around in eighth or ninth, saving our brakes so we'd have good brakes for the end. Overall, I'm happy with how this one ended up."
Eckes finished fifth in the No. 15 New York Bus Sales Toyota. But for a while, inside of 25 laps to go, Eckes looked like it was going to end up way better than that. Eckes caught Theriault in the final laps and was working his rear bumper when the final caution flag stopped his progress. On the restart, Eckes couldn't get going as well and fell back.
"I think that last caution saved us," Theriault said. "The 15 caught us and I missed my line a couple times. I'm not sure if we could have held him off. But the caution allowed our tires to cool down and we got going again."
Twelve lead changes among six drivers kept the race hopping from start to finish while eight cautions for 55 laps continually mixed up the order. General Tire Pole winner Dalton Sargeant led the first 22 laps before Smith took control to the lead the 23rd. Sargeant charged right back and reclaimed the top spot on the 24th circuit. And so the race went…as Sargeant, Smith, Eckes, Dean, Tanner Thorson and Theriault continually swapped the lead back and forth with fantastic two- and three-wide racing all the back through the pack.
Sargeant fell back for most of the race, but came on like gangbusters for the end and finished sixth in the No. 77 Big Tine Ford. Bret Holmes kept himself in the mix all night, coming home seventh in the No. 23 Southern States Bank Chevrolet. Seventeen-year-old Ryan Repko looked good in his ARCA debut, battling from a lap down most of the race to finish a hard-earned eighth in the No. 78 Champion Power Equipment-Eibach Chevrolet. Dean recovered from an early-race spin and looked to be a victory lane threat most of the way before fading in the end. Dean, in the No. 32 GREE Cooling Products Toyota, finished ninth with Thorson, after leading 27 laps, falling back to 10th in the final running order in the No. 25 Musselman's Apple Sauce Toyota. Justin Fontaine, in the No. 33 ProMatic Toyota, finished 11th, the last car on the lead lap.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is headed to Iowa Speedway next for the Fans With Benefits 150 Saturday night, July 8.