Richmond’s personal for Daniel Knost, Kurt Busch’s crew chief

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It sounds like Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Daniel Knost still feels that Richmond International Raceway owes him one.

Before taking on his current role atop Kurt Busch’s pit box for 2014, Knost was the lead race engineer for Ryan Newman (now at Richard Childress Racing) and last fall at RIR, it looked like Newman was set to win and make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But Clint Bowyer’s controversial spin with seven laps to go brought out the caution and sent all the leaders to pit road. Newman lost the lead in the final round of stops and while he claimed a third-place result, he lost out on a Chase bid via tie-breaker to Martin Truex Jr.

Newman was eventually elevated into the Chase after Truex was booted out as part of NASCAR’s penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing for attempting to manipulate the race’s finish.

But in the immediate aftermath, Knost and the rest of his team were forced to watch as the Chase contenders celebrated their post-season berths. The bad taste in his mouth hasn’t appeared to have gone away.

“Once we got into the position we needed to be in, we told Ryan, ‘Hey man, we think we can win.’ So he went out there and got it done and put us in front,” Knost recalled recently. “We played all the right cards at all the right times, but then we felt like it got taken away from us.

“It was really disappointing to know we were on the verge of completing this big, season-long goal that we had and done all the right things, but then have it get away from us the way it did. It was very disappointing emotionally to walk out of the track that night and see the celebration going on and know that you should be a part of that and you’re not.”

This time around, Knost returns to Richmond with the knowledge that his No. 41 team is effectively in the Chase thanks to Busch’s victory at Martinsville.

But a second victory would just about seal the deal as it has for SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, who earned his second win of 2014 two weekends ago at Darlington.

And to do such a thing with Busch on Saturday night at Richmond would probably be very sweet indeed for Knost considering what he and his crewmates went through last fall.

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.”