From staff reports
Several months ago, HWK Racing team owner Bobby Hawkins made a commitment to Michelle Theriault, a former driver in Thursday Thunder, Atlanta Motor Speedway's summer racing series.
He told the 19-year-old that if she qualified for the USAR Hooters ProCup Championship Series, he would provide her with a first class car to compete with. Theriault accepted the challenge, but without proper funding, she faced an uphill battle.
Through an arrangement with Nesbitt Racing, she's made six starts in 2005 and is currently in 28th position in the championship standings. Hawkins was so impressed with Theriaut's determination that he offered to field a car for her in Saturday's Greased Lightning 250 at the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia. It marks the first time in 2005 that Theriault has the financial backing to race a complete event.
"It's been a struggle this season," said Theriault, who will drive the No. 86 Titan Industrial Ford. "I really appreciate the opportunities the Nesbitt family has given me, but frankly all my races have been made with the sole intention of starting and securing points. It's not how I want to race, but I'm determined to reach the championship rounds."
Titan Industrial is the nation's leading producer of light industrial gas & diesel powered equipment.
"I can't thank Bobby Hawkins enough for giving me this opportunity," said Theriault. "He runs a top notch organization and it is an honor to join his team. I'm looking forward to being able to race again."
HWK Racing, based in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, also fields entries for Toby Porter, Matt Carter and Randy Hawkins.
"Michelle has shown that she is a dedicated racer," said Hawkins. "She's doing everything in her power to race and that has impressed me. I believe she can get the job done."
Theriault hopes to secure the necessary funding to compete in the remaining ProCup Series events in 2005.
"I've been working hard on aligning myself with corporate partners who understand the value of working with a competitive female driver," said Theriault.
"Danica Patrick has proven to the world that female drivers can be successful. I hope to follow her lead."
Theriault's eventual goal is to compete full-time in NASCAR.
Growing up in Bristol, Connecticut, Theriault launched her racing career by competing in Quarter Midgets. Over the next seven seasons, she scored more than 200 wins in 13 states. Five times she was a runner up in the Quarter Midgets of America National Championship.
In 1999, her family relocated to Alpharetta, Georgia to further nurture her budding career.
She graduated from Quarter Midgets to Legends Cars and once again proved her abilities. She won Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thunder Racing Legends Championship in the Young Lions Division in 2001 and earned the distinction of becoming the first female Legends Car Champion.
She backed up her success with two more championships and more than 20 wins. After three years of Legends Car success, Theriault moved up to the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, Pro-Late Model Division at Lanier National Speedway. Before she made the jump, she attended Finish Line Racing School, one of America's best short track racing schools, to get a professional opinion on her skill and talent.
In 2003, Theriault completed a full season in Late Model competition. She finished 20 of 20 events, sixth in the series point championship and runner up in the Rookie of the Year battle. She also competed in two NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, Super Late Model Division races (Lanier National Speedway and Music City Motorplex).
Last season, Theriault competed in the USAR Hooters ProCup Series and became the first female competitor to qualify for the season ending National Championship.