Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault has received an early birthday present.
The race car driver, who will turn 21 on Jan. 23, will be making his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Feb. 20 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
Last season, Theriault landed a three-race deal in the Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series) for JR Motorsports, Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team.
The specifics of the deal have not been released, so Theriault couldn’t divulge the details other than to say it is with an established team and it will be for several races.
And he has been able to secure sponsorship.
“It’s exciting. It’s a good progression for me, experience-wise. It was a huge step from Super Late Models to the Nationwide Series. The Truck Series is a great place to hone my skills and to get used to the tracks and how the series works. And eventually I’ll be able to contend for wins,” said Theriault.
There will be 23 races in the Truck Series, and he said he has a “better than 50-50 chance” that his deal will allow him to run at least 10 races for his new team.
Theriault acknowledged that he would have given serious consideration to any ride, and he feels “fortunate” he has landed with a quality race team.
“I’m pretty confident good things will happen,” he said. “I’ll have a good race team behind me.”
He finished third in points in the American Canadian Tour for Late Models in 2011 and notched his first American Canadian Tour victory.
He landed a 15-race deal as a Super Late Model driver for Brad Keselowski Racing and went to Victory Lane twice. In 2013, Theriault ran 25 races for Keselowski and his own race team and notched three wins, five top-five finishes and eight top 10s.
He also has three career Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model victories and won his ARCA debut last season at the Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
He has four consecutive top four finishes at the Oxford 250, including last year’s runner-up finish to Morrill’s Travis Benjamin.
Theriault’s Nationwide Series venture this past season saw him finish 15th at Iowa Speedway, 21st at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and 18th at Kentucky Speedway.
“Things have kept getting better,” said Theriault, who moved in December 2012 to Charlotte, North Carolina, and worked for a time in the Brad Keselowski Racing team shop.
“I’ve been getting more experience so I can appeal to a different audience. I love going back to race the Oxford 250 and races like that, but when you get on the national stage that NASCAR provides, it opens up a [new] playbook of potential sponsors,” he added.
He’s happy his career is taking another step forward.
“I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve received in my career,” he said.
Theriault said racing at Daytona International Speedway will supply him with a special memory because he remembers how fast the cars traveled and how big the track was when he watched the Daytona 500 as a youngster.
It is a 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway.
“It doesn’t look as big on TV as it does in person. To be a part of that is going to be real cool. Last year, I experienced mile-and-a-half tracks. I learned that end of it. Now I’ll be running a [restrictor] plate race, and that’s completely different. That’s nose-to-tail, bump-drafting,” said Theriault. “But I’ll get used to it.”