McLaren drivers support postponing decision

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It’s been a difficult weekend in Melbourne for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes thus far. Still, both drivers voiced their support of the decision to postpone qualifying from Saturday to Sunday.

“A stop-start session like today’s is tough for everyone,” said Jenson Button, who scored his third Australian Grand Prix victory in four years to open the 2012 season. “For us drivers, it means we have to build ourselves up for the challenge of qualifying again and again – a bit like asking Usain Bolt to get ready for five 100-meter sprints one after the other and aborting four of them.

“That level of disruption creates quite a lot of mental and psychological stress for any athlete – but it was even worse for the fans, who’d been waiting excitedly for qualifying all day long and who then had to sit in the pouring rain with no on-track action to entertain them,” he added. “So I’m very sorry for them, because the fans are what all sport is ultimately all about, but I hope we can make it up to them tomorrow by putting on a really exciting race. Even so, I believe the FIA had no choice. It was the right call to postpone Q2 and Q3 until tomorrow, for safety reasons.”

Sergio Perez, who had an off-course excursion during his session, decided to praise the team in advance given the tight turnaround.

“We’ll have to follow a really tight schedule tomorrow – including a very short turn-around between qualifying and race – and that’ll be tough for everyone, especially the guys in the garage. Boys, I appreciate all your hard work in advance, okay?!” he said. “Even so, I think the FIA stewards made the right call to postpone Q2 and Q3. The conditions were becoming too dangerous – in terms of low visibility as well as low grip.”

Theriault clinches ARCA title before finale at Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) There is no long, convoluted story about how Austin Theriault came to Ken Schrader Racing, forging a team that so dominated the ARCA Series that it captured the title simply by showing up for the finale.

“We both wanted something to do,” the folksy Schrader said with a smile and shrug before Friday night’s race at Kansas Speedway. “He didn’t have a car to drive and I didn’t have a driver.”

So, they solved each other’s problem.

Theriault hopped into the seat and proceeded to win seven times over the first 19 races, building such a lead on his nearest challenger that he sewed up the title at Kentucky. And that made for a rather enjoyable weekend at Kansas, where all the pressure was off their team.

Along the way, Theriault became the first driver to win at a superspeedway, short track, dirt track and road event in the same season, and he swept the superspeedway and short-track challenges.

If there was something to win, he won it.

“I hoped we’d have a shot at it and it’s proved out this year that we’ve really exceeded anybody’s expectations,” Theriault said. “We had some things to work on early. We kind of dusted off a bit, went back to work. We had some time between Daytona and the mile-and-a-halfs that came up later in the season, and we realized where we were strong and where we had to work.

“But in the end it came back to pure dedication, I think,” he explained. “The amount of time it took behind the scenes to make this happen.”

The 23-year-old driver from Fort Kent, Maine, knows something about dedication. He appeared to be on racing’s fast track, scoring a Truck Series ride a few years ago for Brad Keselowski, when a terrifying crash at Las Vegas left him with a broken back and sitting on the sidelines.

The best ride he could find last year was in the K&N Pro Series.

It was at a trade show in Indianapolis last December that Theriault ran into Schrader, who was busy putting together a team for this season. They had dinner a couple nights later and, Schrader said, it was his wife Ann who came away impressed by the yes-sir, no-sir driver.

“My wife doesn’t go to all the races,” Schrader said. “After we talked she said, `I like that guy. How good is he?’ She doesn’t know. I knew he was racing well in Keselowski’s truck, had an unfortunate wreck, had to sit out a bit. I told her, `That’s somebody who could make us very happy next year.”‘

Theriault delivered on that promise.

They weren’t the only ones happy Friday, either. Zane Smith earned his second pole of the season, beating teammate Sheldon Creed to earn the top spot for the Kansas ARCA 150, while 20-year-old Natalie Decker announced a full-time ride with Venturini Motorsports next season.

“This is obviously a big step in my career,” said Decker, who made six starts as a rookie this season. “I’m confident and ready for this next move. After tonight my focus shifts to next season. We’ll be ready to go at Daytona.”