With the influx of young talent coming in to Maine’s highly-competitive Super Late Model ranks in 2018, having the skills to truly challenge the veterans allows a select few to rise above the rest.

For 15-year-old Austin Teras, those skills and a laser-sharp focus on success have carried him a long way in a relatively short time. The Gray resident and student at Gray-New Gloucester High School is seeking Rookie-of-the-Year honors at Oxford Plains Speedway, and already has a win to his credit.

“With the rich history Oxford has and the stars who’ve raced there, I’m proud to have earned my first Super Late Model win on that track,” Teras said. “There are so many fast cars and drivers who have years of experience on that oval, beating them at their own game takes that perfect combination.”

Teras has been a quick study in the premier division, with six top-10 finishes in seven starts, highlighted by that first career Super Late Model victory on June 2. He also earned a solid 10th-place finish in the PASS 150 at Oxford on May 20.

“I feel like I’ve adapted to the big car pretty well so far,” he added. “I know there is a whole lot more out there to learn. We need to earn a top-five in a PASS race and eventually get a win, but our program has come a long way in just seven weeks.”

As if learning the ropes of SLM racing wasn’t enough, Teras is also going after the Legends class title on Thursday nights at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway this year. It’s a lot on your plate at 15, but this ambitious and talented driver is undaunted.

“I still love driving the Legends car, it’s just so different,” Teras added. “My Super Late Model is much more relaxed, has way more grip and is just easier to drive. When I climb back into the smaller car, I feel like it’s my first time out. I think learning how to wheel a Legends car helped speed up my SLM learning curve.”

With between nearly 30 wins to his credit in a Legends car, Teras is easily the hottest thing to hit those cars here in Maine during the last five years. He won the 2017 NELCAR Legends championship in convincing fashion. So for 2018, it was time for a new challenge.

“The Super Late Model class at Oxford is super-competitive, but if you race clean, you can earn respect and fit in,” he said. “We work hard to prepare a fast car, race our rivals clean and go for the best finish, just like most of the others. It’s a tough place to win, butt when you do, you’ve outgunned some of Maine’s very best.”

Teras drives for, and is the son of, respected car owner Jay Cushman. He’s a hands-on driver, working alongside his father in the shop on a daily basis. A driver who understands how his car works and what’s involved in weekly maintenance always outperforms one who simply shows up on race day.

“My father keeps me pretty busy in the shop, but I love it,” Teras said. “There is no better place to find out what makes the car you drive tick than in the shop where it’s built and maintained. Dad makes sure I know the technical aspects of the car, because he knows it helps my driving. I’m lucky to have his guidance.”

Steve Perry is the owner of Mainely Motorsports TV, a local program covering all forms of racing here in Maine. Perry has followed Teras since he started his career and says the young man has paid his dues.

“Austin has worked hard to get this opportunity and treats his team with respect,” Perry said. “His father has done a great job at grooming him for this level, making him work hard in the shop and respect other racers. Austin has loads of talent and has a ton of racing knowledge for his age.”

Like his weekly rivals at Oxford and at tracks across the country, Teras has a core group of dependable supporters who keep his program moving forward. 

“My father is the driving force behind my racing, and I couldn’t do it without him,” Teras said. “I also have to thank crew members Kevin Nobley, Joe Cushman, Charlie Buxton, Lj Moulton, Corey Sanborn, Trevor Sanborn, Mario Ercolani, Chris Nelson and Chase Pistone for all they do for my race team.” 

Teras is fortunate to have a fine group of marketing partners support his Cushman Competition Ford squad throughout 2018. 

“We couldn’t do this without great companies like John Bisnette Yard Works, By the Board Lumber and Moulton Motors,” he said. “I appreciate their support of our efforts.”

As the summer heat ramps up in July and August, so does the intensity in Oxford’s Super Late Model pit area. For a young rookie like Teras, keeping his cool and staying focused on the big picture is a top priority. 

“Last January I set a few goals for myself in the big cars,” he said. “I wanted to take home a trophy with a top-three finish. We knocked that off with the win on June 2, which was awesome. Now I want to improve our consistency and earn better finishes in any PASS race we run. It’s a work in progress.”

In a sport where experience counts even more than unbridled enthusiasm, teenage racers like Teras know that visits to the podium will become more frequent with time.

“I’m not afraid of the work it will take to achieve our goals on the track,” Teras said. “I know if we stay focused during the heat of summer, keep the setup right and stay out of trouble, we should be able to earn a respectable spot in the final points rundown. That would make it a solid rookie season.”

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Super Late Model rookie Austin Teras drives his Cushman Competition Ford off Turn 4 at Oxford on Saturday, June 30. Teras has already won a feature in Oxford’s premier class and is honing his skills against seasoned veterans. 

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