Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault has landed a three-race Nationwide Series deal with JR Motorsports.
He will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s race team at Iowa Speedway on May 18, New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12 and Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 20.
The two, full-time Nationwide Series drivers for JR Motorsports, Chase Elliott and Regan Smith, are running 1-2 in the points standings.
Sprint Cup regular Kevin Harvick is driving the No. 5 car in at least a dozen races.
“This is a dream come true,” said the 20-year-old Theriault. “I’m excited.”
He said he has been fortunate to have built friendships and relationships with people who have been successful since he moved to North Carolina two years ago.
“But this isn’t just about me alone. Just like any team sport, I have people who have helped me out on a day-to-day basis. They have opened doors for me (to meet prominent people),” he said.
Theriault admitted there will be pressure on him, but “there’s always pressure with anything new in life.
“This isn’t going to be any different. I don’t look at it as all-or-nothing,” said Theriault. “With the knowledge and personnel (at JR Motorsports), I know I’m going to be in good hands and the equipment will be capable.
“Like anything else, there is always an adjustment period. You have to get acclimated to something new,” said Theriault. “I’m just going to use what I’ve learned in racing and rely on the crew and the people around me.”
Veteran Ernie Cope will be his crew chief. He has been the crew chief for nine wins in nine seasons.
In a news release, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, the general manager of JR Motorsports, said, “Our company is known for putting young talent in the cars and giving them a shot on one of NASCAR’s biggest stages and that is what we are giving Austin with this three-race opportunity. This keeps our No. 5 car on the track and it gives Austin the chance to show what he’s got with a lot more eyeballs taking notice.”
Theriault drove a Super Late Model car for Brad Keselowski Racing the past two seasons as well as for his own Austin Theriault Racing team.
Last year, he notched three wins, five top-fives and eight top-10s in 25 races between the two teams.
Keselowski dropped his Super Late Model team to concentrate on his Camping World Truck series teams this season.
Theriault will also drive his No. 57 Dodge in SLM races this season and will make his season debut Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Ripley and Fletcher Ford 150 Pro All-Stars Series North race at Oxford Plains Speedway.