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FORT KENT, Maine — The last two months have been full of success for Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault.
He finished third in the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway in July and followed that up with his first American-Canadian Tour victory at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough a week later. He has racked up consistent top finishes since.
Now, he has earned a chance for his first start in a NASCAR race.
Theriault beat out Brad Babb of Windham and Joey Doiron of Berwick to win the Mainely Motorsports Young Guns competition, which was announced on Wednesday evening. The prize was to start the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September with Go Green Racing, based in Old Orchard Beach.
“I’m really happy,” said Theriault. “All three of us were definitely in contention for it. They’re all outstanding drivers. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
The competition started earlier this year when fans were asked to submit names of Maine drivers between the ages of 15 and 21. Mainely Motorsports host Stephen Perry said 90 drivers received votes. That list was narrowed down to 10.
“They all did a great job,” said Perry, adding that the list of 10 was taken down to the top three on July 4. “None of them were causing problems at the track. There wasn’t any negative stuff. But, when it came down to it, you just couldn’t argue [with Theriault winning]. What set Austin apart from the other two was the stats he had from July 4 on.”
Perry said he has been impressed with Theriault since he saw him wheel a car for the first time at Spud Speedway in Caribou in 2009. Theriault won the race in his first start in a Late Model.
“He’s very respectful of the sport,” said Perry. “I was very impressed. It’s not only what he did on the track, but what he did off the track, as well. That’s what you need.”
Archie St. Hilaire’s Go Green Racing has fielded a car full time in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series with a variety of drivers. His team has also started four Sprint Cup Series races this season.
Theriault said he has been cleared by NASCAR to run on the 1-mile oval in Loudon, N.H., on Sept. 22.
“[NASCAR officials] told me they’ll keep an eye on me to stay sure,” said Theriault.
The 18-year-old will also race his No. 57 Pelletier Ford-sponsored Ford in the ACT race on the same day. Theriault has three previous starts at the Magic Mile, with a best finish of second in August 2011.
“It might be a challenge going back and forth,” he said. “I think I have enough laps here to figure it out.”
Theriault said he’ll head to St. Hilaire’s shop next week to get fitted in the car and get acquainted with the team. He’ll likely run some laps at Oxford or Beech Ridge to get comfortable in the car before heading to NHMS, he said.
For now, the one-race deal is just that — one race to showcase his talent in front of NASCAR’s top teams.
“I think [further opportunities] all depend on how the finish turns out and if [the car] comes back all in one piece,” said Theriault.
The K&N Pro Series East race will be televised and aired on Sept. 27 on Speed Channel.
Theriault sits third in ACT points with eight top-10s in eight starts and just 28 points out of the points lead with two points races remaining on the schedule.