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This weekend, the Camping World Truck Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway to close out the 2015 season. Barring a major problem for Erik Jones, he’ll seal up the championsip pretty easily, but more importantly, Austin Theriault will make his return to Brad Keselowski Racing for the first time since his head on crash into a non-SAFER barrier at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last month.
Sidelined for the last four races, knowing more information about the specifics of the crash, thanks to a blog written by team owner Brad Keselowski, Theriault is very fortunate that his only injuries were a few bumps and bruises, along with a 10% compression fracture in his lower back. The front end of the No. 29 Ford collapsed, sending the steering wheel into Theriault’s face, which explains the black eye and bruising on his face. Additionally, one of the clips on his HANS device broke thanks to the impact.
And while he could have been sidelined well into next season, or worse, not gone on to race again, the safety advancements NASCAR has put in place over the last 20 years since I started watching the sport, once again came through and prevented what could have been an incredible tragedy of a young driver whose life was cut short in the blink of an eye.
Instead, after weeks of rehabilitation, monitored by a team of doctors, Theriault will return to finish off the year with the No. 29 team he has made eight starts with this season.
“I’m thrilled at the prospect of getting back behind the wheel of the Cooper Standard F-150 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway,” Theriault said in a team release. “It’s been a busy six weeks working to get back to 100% and I couldn’t have done it without the great team of doctors that were assembled. I’m focused on finishing the season strong and then shifting our focus towards 2016.”
In his absence, BKR tapped Brian Keselowski (Brad’s older brother), Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric to fill the ride while Theriault recovered. The trio of drivers partnered to post a best finish of third (Blaney, Texas), though Keselowski was in line to potentially steal a victory at Talladega until he ran out of gas well before the team’s calculations said he should have.
While Theriault’s future beyond this weekend is undetermined, thanks in large part to a lack of sponsorship, Homestead will provide the perfect opportunity to make an impression before the season ends. Knowing that BKR will field two full-time trucks next season, there’s little room at the inn for Theriault, however four top 10s in just eight series starts means that someone, somewhere should consider picking him up, if they can find the financial backing to support him.
- When the checkered flag flies over Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday night, the Truck Series will crown its youngest champion to date. Both Erik Jones, who needs only a 15th-place finish to clinch the championship, and Tyler Reddick, who would need to win the race while leading the most laps AND have Jones finish 16th or worse, are 19 years old. The previous record for youngest champion in the series was Austin Dillon, who won the 2011 title at the age of 21 years, six months and 22 days.
- NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell confirmed to SiriusXM on Monday that the sanctioning body is discussing a potential Chase format for the Truck Series next season, though no changes have been confirmed yet. “We certainly have talked to a lot of people who would have a keen interest if we were to go that route,” O’Donnell said on SiriusXM. “Getting their feedback, what do they think of the concept, how they think it plays out in the Sprint Cup Series and how that would work both at the Xfinity and Truck level. We’re going to continue to do that in Miami.”
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